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Books-A-Million looks to exploit Amazon's publishing dispute

May 27, 2014

Looking to take advantage of the increasingly public dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group, Books-A-Million has launched a number of promotions and media callouts in an attempt to exploit the fallout.

As reported, as part of its contentious e-book pricing negotiations, Amazon since early May has been delaying shipments of many of Hachette's popular books from two to five weeks, reducing discounts that often drive sales and suggesting alternatives for popular Hachette titles.

Late last week, another round of headlines came with reports Amazon was removing pre-order buttons from some Hachette titles and listing the books as "currently unavailable." It was also said to be delisting product pages for some Hachette books.

In a press release dated May 12, Books-A-Million assured readers that the company has Hachette titles ready to ship. Terrance Finley, president and CEO, said, "Books-A-Million values our partnership with Hachette Book Group and has been selling their books throughout our history, and we will continue to do so, both online at www.booksamillion.com and in our more than 258 retail locations."

In a press release three days later, Books-A-Million indicated that six out of its top 10 most popular titles belonged to Hachette. It also promised savings up to 40 percent off Hachette's most recent release. Said Mary Gallagher, Books-A-Million's SVP of merchandising, "I'm delighted our customers have responded so positively to our efforts to keep Hachette titles readily available at great prices."

With Amazon's new move to prevent pre-orders, Books-A-Million's website now includes a banner ad promoting "30 percent off Hachette pre-orders."

More subtly, Barnes & Noble's website features a banner ad under the headline "New Releases" that features only Hachette authors. Its front page also features many Hachette titles and its Featured Author is James Patterson, an outspoken critic of Amazon.

On a smaller scale, Chicago's Unabridged bookstore tweeted in mid-May, "We sell Hachette titles! No line, no waiting, as they say at the supermarket."

The dispute is being played out in a largely one-sided argument in the media since Amazon, known for being reticent about talking to the media, has declined to comment.

Some authors have also taken to social media to encourage customers to pre-order through Barnes & Noble or independent booksellers.


Discussion Questions:

What do you think of Books-A-Million's campaign targeting the Amazon/Hachette dispute? Should Barnes & Noble and others exploit the rift to a greater degree?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How should stores respond to their competitors' vendor contract negotiation disputes?


This is retailer competition at its finest. When a retailer takes one road, its competition takes another, looking for an advantage. If Amazon is not going to carry titles consumers want, B&N and Books-A-Million should exploit their point of difference.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

Good for Books-A-Million and the other small chains and independents! This is a rare opportunity indeed for competitor booksellers to take advantage of an Amazon misstep. I'm sure it won't hurt Amazon much in the long run, but it is a self-inflicted black eye and highlights how market leaders can become so self-absorbed they forget about their customers.

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

Simple answer: YES!

Great move and as the noise gets louder there is going to be more backlash. This was not a smart move by Amazon, but a smart move by Books-A-Million and the other independent book sellers.

It will be interesting to see if Amazon backs down and if this blows over.

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Mel Kleiman, President, Humetrics

Strike while there is an opportunity. And this is a golden one.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

BAM should absolutely exploit this opportunity. They have something a competitor does not - it is job one to let the consumer know it. They should be doing more to fill the void!

If they succeed in taking share and the overall sales volume doesn't decline significantly, Hachette will have less pressure to negotiate.

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Robert DiPietro, SVP Energy Services and New Ventures, Homeserve

Of course!!! Full speed ahead. Amazon is using its clout and taking on the role of bully. It's good business and fair game for competitors to take advantage of it.

Amazon may lose more than Hachette sales. Once a customer gets a taste of another supplier, they may not return.

It's a risky game Amazon is playing.

Lewis Olishansky, Principal, Retailmatics

I placed an Amazon order for a couple of books last week and was surprised to see that, even though Amazon quoted its usual speedy delivery for both, the tracking on one of them now shows it moved out to mid-June. Unheard-of from Amazon. Further research showed that it is a Hachette book. I just cancelled it and will place the order with Books-A-Million. Play this scenario out thousands of times and Amazon doesn't come out a winner.

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Carol Spieckerman, President, Spieckerman Retail

Looks like Amazon has a chink in its armor. Congratulations to Books-A-Million for racing into battle. May Barnes & Nobel and others join the fray.


Congratulations to BAM. In the several years I've been reading RW, this is the first time (that I can remember) that a retailer's actions have polled 100%.


Selfishly, as an avid Kindle user, I hope Amazon backs down or the issue is resolved. I favor the ease of instantly downloading titles from Amazon to my device. I have no idea how to do that from other suppliers. I especially like Amazon's ability to notify me if I start to double-order a title, and their cloud management services. I just don't want to change.

M. Jericho Banks PhD, President, CEO, Forensic Marketing LLC

The best retailers exploit their competitors' weaknesses.

Having written that, there are a lot of assumptions being made here. Do consumers care or is this a book industry issue? Is it long term or resolved tomorrow? Are there enough readers following the authors? What percent of the market does Hachette own?

BAM can make lots of noise. But the issue is whether they can compete with a sustainable distinction. Tactics are fun, but BAM may need a big idea.

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Christopher P. Ramey, President, Affluent Insights

Great! This is everyone' s chance to exploit this opportunity and sell more books! Keep the public informed that there are more options in this world and places to purchase their favorite books.

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Kai Clarke, CEO, American Retail Consultants

Go ahead and exploit it, but it doesn't move the needle. In the long run, it means nothing.

Ron May, President, RTL Consulting, LLC

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