Tag Archives: Price Wars

What Puts the Indie in Independent Bookseller?

With all the talk about the Price Wars of ’09 and Border’s closing of 200 Waldenbooks stores in the new year, it seems about time to take a closer look at those quaint little retailers known as the indies.

Like Godzilla on his rampage, the major chains seem to be taking over the book world as we know it, especially the online market moguls like Amazon. So do who really needs the Independent booksellers anymore?

We do.

It’s not the fantasy-land, glass-half-full ideal that indies care about the book as a book, not as a means of profit; nor is it the intangible, feel-good loyalty and trust that the 1998 chick flick “You’ve Got Mail” was dead set on encapsulating.

No, it’s a much more corporate concept: Indie’s sell the unsellable book.

Anyone can push a unit of Stephen Kings, James Pattersons, and Stephanie Meyers. But it takes the skill and tenacity of an Independent to apply the right debut author to the right niche market. With hundreds of books coming out each season of each year, it’s a wonder readers don’t have the NYT Bestseller list memorized. How else can you get in and out of the mammoth bookstore with a guaranteed good-read, and NOT spend hours scouring the shelves?

Enter the Independent. Like the Caped Crusader, these stores swoop in unexpectedly, saving us from the shallow, trashy $7 paperbacks and the $30 bricks of predictable plot-lines. Instead we discover the next Garth Stein, Greg Mortenson, and Michael Pollan. Why does it work? Because Indies have a target audience, and know, it isn’t anyone who can read. They know their books like they know their alphabet; and when it comes time to buy from the publisher, their numbers are small, but they can play a huge roll in making or breaking your book.

Let me put it this way, when buying your vegetables, who do you trust more: the Stop & Shop CEO, or the gentleman at the Farmer’s Market? (I’ve always been a bit of a farmgirl myself.)

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Consumers and Publishers Beware…ABA & the DOJ v. Amazon, Target, and Wal-Mart?

As if these three sellers don’t offer enough threat of mark-downs and discounts, now there’s suspicion of a Price War?

The American Booksellers Association issued a request for investigation to the Department of Justice yesterday, concerning the predatory price slashing that Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and Target have been battling over. Here are the essentials:

“[I]n the consumer and trade press this past week, Amazon.com, WalMart.com, and Target.com have engaged in a price war in the pre-sale of new hardcover bestsellers, including books from John Grisham, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, Sarah Palin, and James Patterson. These books typically retail for between $25 and $35. As of writing of this letter, all three competitors are selling these and other titles for between $8.98 and $9.00.” (for the full letter, click here).

As noted in the letter, books are a special kind of product. Their prices are printed right on the book by the publisher. Not to mention book units are already sold at a discount to the retailer.  This means retailers only have a limit to how much they can earn.

Why are these three retailing moguls doing this? From the looks of it, they’re fighting to claim as much market share as possible. Why worry about this? Because not only are smaller, less capable booksellers’ businesses threatened, but publishers need the diversity to remain in some control over how much of a discount they need to sell their products at.

This is definitely a story to keep an eye on.

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