Barnes & Noble refuses to sell Amazon-published books

In the latest salvo in the war between the book giants, Barnes & Noble says it won't sell books published by Amazon in its stores.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos holds up the company's tablet device, the Kindle Fire (l.); Barnes & Noble chief executive officer William Lynch holds up the Nook Tablet (r.).

If Amazon and Barnes & Noble are adversaries then this, proclaimed Bloomberg BusinessWeek writer Brad Stone, is a “declaration of war.”

Barnes & Noble won’t sell books from Amazon’s new print publisher in its brick-and-mortar stores, in an attempt to cut off access for the online books behemoth that it says “undermined the industry” by signing exclusive agreements with publishers, agents, and authors.

“Barnes & Noble has made a decision not to stock Amazon published titles in our store showrooms,” Barnes & Noble’s chief merchandising officer, Jaime Carey, wrote in an email. “Our decision is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent.”

“These exclusives have prohibited us from offering certain eBooks to our customers. Their actions have undermined the industry as a whole and have prevented millions of customers from having access to content,” Carey continued.

“It’s clear to us that Amazon has proven they would not be a good publishing partner to Barnes & Noble as they continue to pull content off the market for their own self interest.”

The battle between the two rivals is heating up on the heels of several strategic developments by Amazon. The online retail giant has been steadily expanding its publishing business by bringing on veteran publishing executive and former agent Laurence Kirshbaum to head a new New York publishing imprint and by signing exclusive deals with bestselling authors like Ian McEwan, Ron Paul, Timothy Ferris, and Stephen Covey.

“Barnes & Noble's announcement comes only a week after Houghton Mifflin Harcourt agreed to publish and distribute the print titles of Amazon Publishing's East Coast Group through a new Houghton Mifflin Harcourt imprint called New Harvest,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Its forthcoming works include titles by Penny Marshall, Deepak Chopra, and James Franco. “By denying Amazon's authors access to its vast network of consumer stores, Barnes & Noble is sending a signal to future authors, agents and publishers who may now be less tempted to sign such agreements,” WSJ wrote.

Barnes & Noble has lost business to Amazon, which customers often turn to for its cheap prices and wide selection. In a fight to stay relevant and not face the fate of Borders, Barnes & Noble has invested heavily in its Nook e-readers and e-books, in a direct competition with Amazon’s Kindle – a strategy outlined in last Sunday’s much-discussed New York Times piece “The Bookstore’s Last Stand.”

Barnes & Noble said it will continue to make Amazon titles available on its website. But thanks to the traditional book retailer’s latest move, Amazon may struggle to get its books into anything but a virtual marketplace.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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