Tulsa, OK-based children’s book publisher Educational Development Corporation will no longer sell any of its titles on Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), in a move EDC president Randall White calls “critical” to his company’s growth. However, the company is uniquely positioned to make such a move.
EDC, which had revenues of $27.2 million in 2011, owns two lines of books: Kane/Miller, which publishes children’s books in translation from around the world (yup, including Everyone Poops) and the U.S. branch of educational illustrated Usborne Books (the company is run separately in the UK). The full list is about 1,500 titles. Online sales made up 13 percent of the company’s revenues in 2011. The company says it has not sold Kane/Miller titles on Amazon since 2009 — though I found 457 of them for sale there. Kane/Miller publisher Kira Lynn told me, “We had been selling a few Kane Miller titles to wholesalers, who did then list and sell to Amazon. That’s also stopping now.” As for the 457 titles I saw, Lynn said, “Amazon, I believe, pulls new book info from Bowker, and then lists books, whether they have them — or can get them — or not. Not much we can do about the listing, but they won’t be filling the orders.”
In a press release, White said the decision is in response to Amazon’s attempt to “gain control of publishing and other industries by making it impossible for other retailers to compete effectively.” The release cites Amazon’s removal of IPG Kindle titles last week. “I see this as critical to the long-term growth of EDC, and a way to demonstrate our support of the local booksellers, museum shops, gift stores and others who sell our books to consumers.” EDC says that since pulling Kane/Miller titles from Amazon — again, many of them are still there — net sales increased by over a third.
Will other publishers follow suit? Not necessarily. EDC has an unusual program, “Usborne Books and More,” that allows “independent sales consultants” to sell Usborne titles from home, at parties and on the Internet — think Tupperware or Mary Kay, but independent sellers aren’t required to purchase a certain number of books in advance. This is not a niche program; it makes up the majority of EDC revenues — 64 percent last year, with 6,200 sales reps. White says EDC has “seen how, working together, not only can we survive without Amazon, but we can thrive.”
Also, EDC is a children’s book publisher, and bricks-and-mortar bookstores are still the number-one place where kids’ books are discovered. Online sales make up just 13 percent of EDC’s annual revenues, as mentioned above, and the company does not publish e-books. And with Usborne Books and More, the company already has a robust alternative sales model in place. So the move may be economically feasible for EDC, but it won’t be for many publishers. Many publishers also believe that their books should be available wherever customers want them, including through Amazon.