Posts Tagged ‘books-a-million’

Amazon.com Has Become a Publisher. Don’t Expect to Find Their Books at Your Local Bookstore Any Time Soon

February 3, 2012

There is some interesting news this week about the ongoing struggle within the book business to define the protean changes that are going on, mostly  having to do with  the exponential growth of the ebook market and of Amazon’s  seemingly inexorable march to  dominate book publishing at all levels.

Larry Kirschbaum

Last spring Amazon announced that it was creating a trade publishing division. They hired publishing insider and veteran, Larry Kirschbaum, to head it up. Larry had been for many years the CEO  of Hachette Book group, one of the “big six publishers.” He retired from that position several years ago and became a literary agent. He is about as much of an old school publisher as you could get. Prior to this, Amazon had been dabbling in publishing but they were more involved in the “self-publishing” end of the business.

This new development puts them in direct competition with the New York trade houses. Not to put too fine a point on it, the big publishers are not happy.  Maybe this is  simply sour grapes, maybe  the publishers just don’t want another competitor to split off their business and to steal their best authors. That is certainly a component of it. But Amazon has never been satisfied being a part of a larger whole. Their stategy has always been to be the whole whole.  And they have the money to do that.  Amazon’s market capitalization is moving north of 80 billion dollars. — Res ipsa loquitur. They also have the infrastructure. They pretty much control the retail end of the ebook business and they have surpassed Barnes and Noble as being the largest retailer of print on paper books as well.

And they don’t believe in open platforms. If you are going to buy a Kindle edition, you must buy it from Amazon. They won’t permit their competitors to sell it. And, of course, you can only read Kindle editions on a — Kindle.  In comparison, the iPad and Barnes and Noble’s Nook accept books in the Epub  open format  edition.

It  is true that Amazon over the past few months has been snagging some big name commercial authors and paying big bucks. Tim Ferris, Deepak Chopra, James Franco, and Penny Marshall are frequently mentioned.  And Amazon has announced that they will be bringing out over 100 titles in the fall. And that is just the beginning. Amazon has downplayed their threat to the publishers saying that for them [commercial publishers], “it’s always the end of the world.”

Well, of course Amazon is always savvy at business and they realize that in order to bring in the big authors and get on the best seller lists, they have to have their books available in all venues and in all editions. Since most  other bookstores loathe Amazon as much as  the publishers, one can assume that there might be some reluctance on the part of these stores to order Amazon titles from Amazon. So in January, 2012  Amazon announced that traditional publisher Houghton Mifflin would be distributing Amazon print on paper titles to the trade.

If Amazon really wants to encourage their erstwhile and ongoing competitors to buy Amazon Publishing titles in hardback and paperback, one might think that they would make nice about the e-book editions as well. No. Amazon will not publish their e-books in the Epub format. This means that Barnes and Noble  and pretty much everyone else selling e-books will not be permitted to sell the e-book edition of the Amazon Publishing titles.

This month  Barnes and Noble announced that they would not be carrying  titles by Amazon Publishing in their physical stores. They said that  any publisher who would not make all their editions available to B&N would not  have their books   represented  in their 700 stores. Today the second largest retailer in America, Books-A-Million announced  that they had made the same decision. One can assume that you will have difficulty finding these books in independent bookstore as well, even if the books are carrying the Houghton Mifflin logo, not Amazon’s.

Although it is always troubling to see fewer outlets for any book, most of us in publishing seem to be feeling a kind of exquisite sense of schadenfreude at what appears to  be  Amazon’s overreach. About 70% of all books are still sold in physical bookstores. I think authors are going to think twice about signing a book contract with Amazon Publishing knowing that their books will not be available at most stores nationwide.

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Book Publishing by the Numbers III Bookstores

April 9, 2011

R. R. Bowker  announced its annual  market share analysis  of outlets for trade book sales. Here is the break down by percentages.

Outlet                          2009                2010

Barnes and Noble       22.5%              23%

Amazon.com               12.5%              15.1%

Borders                           14%                 13.1%

Wal-Mart                        7.0%                5.8%   

Warehouse Clubs        3.6%                4.0%

Independents              3.4%                3.5%

Books-a-Million          2.8%                2.7%

Target                             2.0%                1.9%

Supermarkets              2.0%                1.7%

Other                                                      29.2%

There are some interesting and surprising numbers here.  First of all there are quite a few venues that presumably  aren’t broken out. These include but are not limited to: airport stores, libraries, school stores, book fairs, gift stores, other Internet outlets, Christian book stores, book clubs, mail order outlets, special and premium sales and of course self-published titles. That ‘s a lot. I’m sorry they didn’t break these down. It would leave me to question some of these statistics.

Before you ask, I will tell you that these numbers don’t include e-books, which in 2010  became a significant component of  trade book sales.  Some publishers have reported that e-book unit sales in 2010 account for about 10% of their total trade sales.

The most surprising number above is that Barnes and Noble (retail and on-line) continues to be the largest outlet for trade sales in America, far surpassing Amazon.com. On the other hand, these figures indicate that most of the growth in retail is coming from Amazon. I would imagine that given Amazon’s dominance in e-book sales, if e-books had been included, Amazon would show a larger percentage of market share. Of course, Amazon has chosen not to break out their e-book sales. They don’t even break out their book sales. It is treated as part of  sales for their media division. Another reason to question the robustness of these statistics.

The other surprising statistic that should be alarming to all book lovers is that the market share of independent stores is only 3.5%. It’s nice to see that  their share is increasing though. If you ask anyone in publishing, they will tell you that independent stores continue to be the heart and soul of bookselling. But sadly, their role has declined to a small niche. Books that might otherwise have been invisible to book buyers found their audience through the passionate advocacy of independent booksellers. I  would ask: who is replacing them?  Who is providing the passion in this business? I think I know the answer to that question.  And I think that answer is pretty sad.

Borders Books declined slightly. This statistic also leads me to question the robustness of this analysis. Borders is the sick man of the book business. They have been pushed into bankruptcy this year and have already closed several hundred stores. There is a big question whether they will ever emerge from bankruptcy. Publishers seem unwilling to extend credit to them. There is a good chance that they won’t show up on next year’s list at all.

For awhile, Wal-mart was the fastest growing segment of the retail book business. There were a lot of people saying that they expected Wal-mart to be selling 25% of all books in the near future. This didn’t come to pass. Wal-mart’s market share declined substantially, more than any other market segment, more even than Borders.