Canada’s Indigo Books and Music has joined forces with U.S. bookstore chain Barnes & Noble in refusing to stock or sell any books published by online rival Amazon.com – including upcoming titles by James Franco and Deepak Chopra – with both chains now accusing the online giant of using predatory tactics that weaken an already struggling book industry.
“In our view Amazon's actions are not in the long-term interests of the reading public or the publishing and book retailing industry, globally,” Indigo vice-president Janet Eger said in an e-mail, adding, “Indigo Founder and CEO Heather Reisman has congratulated Barnes & Noble for taking a leadership stance on the matter, and offers kudos.”
The money-losing U.S. chain stunned and cheered the publishing industry by announcing its Amazon ban earlier this week, citing the online company’s policy of reserving exclusive rights to sell e-books produced by its new publishing arm. By week’s end, both Indigo and Books-A-Million, the second largest chain with more than 200 stores, had joined the ban.
The three-chain defensive front is the first setback Amazon has experienced since it began its aggressive and highly publicized move into the business of producing as well as selling books last year. Among the other authors whose upcoming work will become inaccessible to the majority of North American book buyers as a result of the ban are actor/director Penny Marshall, self-help writer Timothy Ferris and politician Ron Paul.
“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,” the Wall Street Journal wrote.
Although Barnes & Noble claims to sell 300 million books a year, Amazon surpassed the traditional chain’s share of book, e-book and media sales in North America five years ago. The online retailer’s current annual revenue of almost $50-billion dwarfs the $7-billion in sales made by Barnes & Noble, which continues to lose money despite the collapse last year of the Borders chain, formerly its main competitor.
Indigo’s decision to join the Amazon ban comes three months after the company sold its controlling interest in Kobo, an online retailer that had followed Amazon’s lead by announcing plans to publish its own line of books as well. The company is now owned by Japanese company Rakuten.
The simmering feud that began with Amazon’s plan to “cut out the middleman” by moving into publishing heated up over the Christmas shopping season when the company ran a promotion encouraging customers to scan products they want in physical stores and automatically buy them from it at a lower price. With the chain stores’ response this week, it erupted into full-scale war.
Note to readers This story has been modified to reflect the following correction: Ian McEwan is not published by Amazon. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version.