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Barnes & Noble reportedly instructs local stores to pull Amazon titles

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Yesterday, shoppers discovered that Barnes & Noble (s BKS) is carrying books from Amazon Publishing’s New York imprint in stores around the country, despite the company’s insistence that it wouldn’t do so.

Following our story’s publication yesterday, I learned that Barnes & Noble headquarters sent an email to its branches around the country telling them to pull the Amazon titles (which are being published and distributed in print by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt under an imprint called New Harvest). This morning, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman told me, “Our policy has not changed. We are not carrying Amazon titles.”

Without further clarification from Barnes & Noble (though I’ve asked the company for it), it appears that local Barnes & Noble branches ordered and stocked copies of Penny Marshall’s My Mother Was Nuts and Jessica Valenti’s Why Have Kids?, possibly because the company hadn’t stated its policy clearly enough to the stores and because local branches have always had a fair amount of latitude in choosing the titles they want to stock.

Moby Lives, a blog operated by independent publisher Melville House, first saw My Mother Was Nuts on a display table in a Manhattan Barnes & Noble. I turned up other copies in stores around Manhattan (and they are still there this morning). paidContent readers reported seeing the book in Barnes & Noble stores in Chicago, Indiana and New Hampshire. Melville House executive editor Kelly Burdick found it in Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Louisville, Washington DC, and Boston.

Barnes & Noble said in February that it would not stock Amazon Publishing titles in its “store showrooms” and that readers could only buy them online at That appeared to be a stricter statement than CEO William Lynch’s comment to Publishers Weekly in August 2011 that “we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format.” Amazon is making its New York imprint titles available to other ebook retailers, but (at least so far) Barnes & Noble isn’t selling Nook versions of the books.

11 Responses to “Barnes & Noble reportedly instructs local stores to pull Amazon titles”

  1. jackdharma

    I used to root for the independent bookstores, hoping that B. Dalton, Waldenbooks, Barnes and Noble, etc., would go out of business. Now I find myself rooting for the last of these to succeed. Times are pretty bad for book stores, publishers, and readers, and I’m afraid things are about to get worse.

  2. Amy Carpenter

    For a “brick & mortar” store, selling Amazon titles is giving profits to a behemoth whose entire business model is based on PUTTING US OUT OF BUSINESS. I have more Good Stuff than I can afford to stock, so boycotting Amazon’s isn’t much loss.

    With luck, the AUTHORS will realize that giving Amazon “exclusive” deals on their works shuts them out of a significant market, and will look at other P.o.D. and e-publishing options. I have several friends who’ve chosen to self-publish, and most of their books are in non-proprietary e-formats (meaning they can be sold and used for non-Amazon devices, and sold by other vendors besides Amazon). I don’t think ANY of the authors I know use Amazon to publish the paper versions, in part because they know that “indy” booksellers like me don’t want to deal with Amazon.

    Amazon’s just as evil as WalMart, and between these two 900-lb. gorillas, retailing in the U.S. is in a “race to the bottom” as far as living-wage jobs and benefits go… Boycott Amazon & WalMart: the jobs you save could be your own!

  3. B&N might sell more books, but the majority of fiction in this country is sold through Amazon. Amazon Publishing authors are selling tens to hundreds of thousands of copies of their books through Amazon and forward thinking independent stores while B&N is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. I fail to see why this matters in the least.

  4. It appears that the books will be available from, just not in the b&m stores. Considering that there are thousands of books published each year that are not available in the b&m stores except via special order, I see this as no big deal.

    As for when Amazon releases a blockbuster — it will be interesting to see how much of a blockbuster (outside of ebooks which AMAZON refuses to sell to its competitors) in the print version any of Amazon’s titles will be in the absence of b&m stores. Of course, that would require Amazon to disclose real data, which isn’t likely to occur. We are more likely to simply be told by Amazon that sales are phenomenol and be expected to swallow that.

    I agree with the stance B&N is taking and think that ultimately it will be a wise move. That day will come when Amazon is forced by investors to truly make a profit and provide dividend returns that bear some relationship to its stock price.

  5. msinsheimer

    Wonder if this is a wise policy. If these are viewed as good titles, BN is not giving its customers a full and compelling selection. Obviously a competitive move, but if not customer centric, it is just a big risk.

  6. Mondayn

    “local branches have always had a fair amount of latitude in choosing the titles they want to stock.”
    This is not correct. I worked at 4 different Barnes and Nobles, working for them for over 6 years and I can assure you that we had very little wiggle room for what we did and did not want to stock. Most of it is modeled, handed down by corporate. They would send us 50+ paperbacks that would sit and collect dust on our shelf, even after attempting to send them back, the computer will automatically refill you back to the amount that corporate sets for you. Shortlisting titles only grants you the liberty of ordering 5-7 copies before you get questioned by management.