Book Wars: Retail Giants Are Joining Forces Against Amazon

Just about everyone knows how successful Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has been at selling books. It has literally reshaped the landscape of reading – for better or for worse, depending on whom you ask.

But what about actually publishing books? That is a whole different story.

Amazon has found its foray into book publishing, which began without much pomp in 2009, to be a rather difficult undertaking. The retail-giant-turned-aspiring-publisher is facing resistance from booksellers who are anything but eager to line their shelves with titles published by the very company that has so gravely threatened their livelihoods in recent years.

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The country’s largest bookstore chain Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) is leading a rather formidable coalition of bookstores and retailers who have not stocked recent Amazon titles, such as the memoir of actress and director Penny Marshall, “My Mother Was Nuts.” For its part, Barnes & Noble has declared an all-out boycott of Amazon books, angered by Amazon’s decision to make books by certain authors it has signed exclusively available to Amazon customers. However, Marshall’s book is available to all retailers, and heavyweights like Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) and Target (NYSE:TGT) have also declined to carry it. Furthermore, the electronic version of the memoir is not being offered in digital bookstores operated by Sony (NYSE:SNE), Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG).

While Walmart and Target have not adopted total boycotts, they certainly seem to have taken sides with Barnes & Noble in the heated book industry war against Amazon, which has also recently had trouble inking new authors to publishing deals. Both retailers have removed the Amazon Kindle e-reader from their stores, while keeping Barnes & Noble’s rival Nook product on shelves.

Both companies were coy about the decision to halt Kindle sales – with Walmart saying only that it was “consistent with our overall merchandising strategy,” and Target saying even less, simply that the move was “appropriate for us.” However, in this case, actions speak louder than words.

Amazon now faces an uphill battle if it is to achieve and maintain success in publishing. A huge determining factor will be how it now responds to Barnes & Noble’s boycott, and how it adapts to attract more big-name authors.

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