In December, Amazon acquired the rights to around 450 children’s books from the U.S. division of publisher Marshall Cavendish. Amazon will continue to publish the books in print and is also publishing digital editions for the first time. The acquisition allowed Amazon to beef up its children’s book offerings for the Kindle Fire quickly.
Apparently, when Amazon announced the acquisition of the Marshall Cavendish titles, Barnes & Noble removed them all from its physical stores. The retailer’s policy is not to carry Amazon Publishing print titles in its stores, because it cannot sell the digital versions in the Nook store.
“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,” B&N’s Jaime Carey said in January. “These exclusives have prohibited us from offering certain e-books to our customers.”
Authors complain, and B&N backs down?
Today Digital Book World has a letter from the Authors Guild. The Guild says “exclusive content agreements have begun balkanizing the book marketplace,” and it’s “very concerned with Amazon’s rapidly growing dominance of bookselling. Exclusive content is a big part of that story.”
But, the Guild goes on to say:
Still, it’s essential that authors and readers not become collateral damage. The authors and illustrators who signed contracts with Marshall Cavendish had no way of anticipating that the publisher would assign their contracts to Amazon. For these authors to lose their vital showroom presence in Barnes & Noble stores was clearly unfair and harmful. Children’s books, especially picture books, need to be seen to be appreciated by readers.
So B&N has “agreed to our request to bring Marshall Cavendish children’s books back to their stores’ shelves.”
B&N: No, we’re not technically backing down
However, the Guild says,
Barnes & Noble isn’t backing down. Its executives made clear to us that it is making this exception because it announced the policy after Amazon announced its purchase of the Marshall Cavendish titles. For any new Amazon acquisitions, Barnes & Noble’s policy is to ban the books from their shelves.
Barnes & Noble actually announced its policy before the Marshall Cavendish acquisition. Back in August 2011, B&N CEO William Lynch told Publishers Weekly, “We will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format….Given Amazon’s recent push for exclusivity with agents and the authors they represent, we feel it important to be very clear about our position on content going forward.”
Seems there’s some wiggle room here, though, if you count Jaime Carey’s January statement as the first “official” one. And since physical bookstores are still the #1 source of discovery for children’s books, it’s in Barnes & Noble’s best interest to be seen as a friend to children’s book authors.