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Summary:

About half an hour before Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) announced Q4 earnings this afternoon, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) released a new statement sayi…

Barnes & Noble store
photo: Flickr / keone

About half an hour before Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) announced Q4 earnings this afternoon, Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) released a new statement saying it will not carry titles published by Amazon — including the Amazon titles that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is selling in print — in its “store showrooms.”

Barnes & Noble has said repeatedly that it will not carry print books in its stores if it cannot sell the digital versions. This is the first statement Barnes & Noble has made about the matter since Amazon announced that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s “New Harvest” imprint will publish the print versions of titles from Larry Kirshbaum’s division. So I was wrong when I suggested New Harvest was a workaround that Barnes & Noble would accept without some other capitulation from Amazon.

Businessweek reporter Brad Stone, who is working on a book about Amazon and recently published an article on Amazon Publishing, first posted Barnes & Noble’s statement to his Google+ account this afternoon. He told me that Barnes & Noble spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating sent it to him at 3:15 PM this afternoon. He asked if the statement was on Barnes & Noble’s website and Keating told him that it was not and that it was being sent to reporters who had asked the question.

The statement is attributed to B&N chief merchandising officer Jaime Carey. Here it is:

Barnes & Noble has made a decision not to stock Amazon published titles in our store showrooms. 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. 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. We don’t get many requests for Amazon titles, but If customers wish to buy Amazon titles from us, we will make them available only online at bn.com.

B&N’s statement is a little snarky (“We don’t get many requests for Amazon titles,” etc.) and also dramatic (“undermined the industry as a whole”) and I think should be treated as an opening volley: The company won’t capitulate unless it’s also allowed to sell Amazon titles as e-books. By calling Barnes & Noble bricks-and-mortar stores “store showrooms,” the company likely hopes to send a little reminder that physical stores are still a major source of book discovery.

Keating said there’s no comment beyond this statement.

  1. B&N made the move they had to do. Amazon may dominate on-line and ebook sales, but they have zero exposure in bricks & mortar. It is one area where B&N has a huge edge. Although some would say physical bookstores don’t matter, most knowledgable people know its very important.

    Another volley in the ever increasing book-selling and publishing battles.

    2012 is going to be a fun year.

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  2. Amazon has pushed for exclusivity in the e-book world by refusing to support epub, the internationally-recognized open book file format, which is ratified by the IETF and the European Union, to name a few.  If Amazon chooses to enter e-publishing, let them distribute epubs, and then the choice of ereader would be an open one — the readers would win on their merits, not on their access to proprietary files.  I have been exposed to the “open systems” wars since the early 80’s, and, believe me, Open Systems/standards have won every battle for the consumer’s hearts and minds.  Amazon should realize that it has no more chance of bucking that trend than IBM, Microsoft, and hosts of others have before them.

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  3. Really not such a ‘snarky’ or surprising response from Barnes and Noble if you stop and remember what happened to Border’s Books and how Amazon.com did them.

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  4. The only part I don’t buy in the B&N statement is the whining about Amazon acting its self-interest. Businesses should act in their self-interest, that’s what they do (by selling products to you and me), and people should not use it as a synonym for something that is bad or don’t like. Honestly it’s pathetic to hear another business try to guilt Amazon.

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  5. Well put Jaime. Your words are truthful…not as Ms. Owen puts it, snarky and dramatic. Amazon has been crossing the line as of late not just with publishers, but also with consumers. The power seems to be something they’d rather monopolize rather than share competitively.

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  6. [...] only via Amazon’s Kindle e-book store.” That means that Barnes & Noble will likely refuse to carry the print [...]

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