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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.