Life without Amazon? Barefoot Books is the David that cut ties to Goliath

Massachusetts-based publisher Barefoot Books had previously cut ties with Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Mary Knox Merrill
Barefoot Books co-founder and CEO Nancy Traversy said the company faced 'challenges' in their business relationship with Amazon.

The lion and the mouse, the underdog and the bully, David and Goliath. However you frame it, it’s big news when a publisher decides to cut ties with Amazon. 

Barefoot Books, a small children’s publishing house in Cambridge, Mass., announced this week that it has decided to stop selling its books on Amazon.

“The challenges we have faced doing business with Amazon over the years are similar to those we experienced selling to the big box retail chains,” Barefoot Books’ co-founder and CEO Nancy Traversy said in a news release. “Personal relationships with buyers are rare, particularly when you’re a small publisher. Our books become commodities that are usually heavily discounted and Amazon often starts selling them before we have even received our advance copies from the printer.”

Since its founding in 1993, Barefoot Books has published more than 500 multicultural children’s books to “help children on their journey to become happy, engaged members of the global community” and to “create a worldwide network of story-lovers who believe in the importance of imagination in children’s lives.”

This isn’t the first time Barefoot Books has walked away from a large distributing partner. In 2006, it stopped selling books to Barnes and Noble and Borders, citing its commitment to its core values, among which is providing “an authentic alternative to the commercialization of childhood.”

If they’ve cut ties with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the now-defunct Borders, where is Barefoot selling its books?

As Publishers Weekly writes, the children’s publisher will “focus on selling direct through its bookstore/studios in Concord, Mass., and Oxford, England, and its boutique in FAO Schwarz in New York City.” It will also offer its books on its website, and expand its “Ambassador” network of home-based sellers.

It’s a bold move, to say the least, and one that has us wondering: Might this be the beginning of an exodus from Amazon?

In fact, it’s unlikely many publishers will follow suit, but it’s sure to give other publishers ideas of an existence without Amazon.

Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.

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