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Booksellers Angered Over Amazon’s Exclusive Jump on ‘Obama’ Sales

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MAIN NEWS HEADLINES
August 21 – August 28, 2008 Edition

Booksellers Angered

Over Amazon’s Exclusive

Jump on ‘Obama’ Sales

NEW YORK, NY/8/21/08–Chelsea Green Publishing’s deal with Amazon.com, which grants the retailer a two-week exclusive head start to sell Robert Kuttner’s forthcoming book, "Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency," is causing a firestorm of protests from booksellers. Amazon also seems determined to dominate the bookselling market by negotiating with publishers to have their titles published "exclusively" through Kindle’s e-book reader.

Barnes & Noble, Inc., which originally ordered 10,000 copies of the book, has drastically cut its order and will carry the book only online and not as in-store stock. The move is the result of Chelsea’s exclusive agreement with Amazon. A number of independent stores have withdrawn their orders and even threatened to boycott other Chelsea Green books.

Barnes & Noble’s action comes at a time when the superstore chain, and all booksellers, face increasing competition from Amazon.com, which has steadily grown its market share in recent years, while overall book sales have been flat. Amazon recently told The Associated Press that it was talking to publishers about having books sold exclusively through its Kindle e-book reader.

According to the Wall Street Journal (August 19, 2008), Barnes & Noble said in a statement that "Chelsea Green Publishing has taken an unprecedented action to restrict the availability of Robert Kuttner’s ‘Obama’s Challenge’ by giving one company a two-week exclusivity period." A B&N spokesman has told the media that this is the first time they can recall that a major title hasn’t been made available to all booksellers simultaneously.

The small Vermont-based liberal press has an initial print run of 75,000 copies, the largest in the company’s 24-year history.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Chelsea Publisher and President Margo Baldwin, said that she struck the exclusive agreement with Amazon in order to get advanced reading copies to the Democratic National Convention by August 25, the first day of the convention. Baldwin said convention-goers will be offered a coupon with a 25% discount for the title, in addition to the special price of $10.17 offered by Amazon. Other booksellers will not receive the books for sale until September 15 and the sale price will be $14.95.

Barnes & Noble’s action comes at a time when the superstore chain, and all booksellers, face increasing competition from Amazon.com, which has steadily grown its market share in recent years, while overall book sales have been flat. Amazon recently told The Associated Press that it was talking to publishers about having books sold exclusively through its Kindle e-book reader.

Chelsea Green publishes books on "the politics and practice of sustainable living" and has about 400 titles in print.