Barnes and Noble (B&N) announced on Tuesday that it is banning books published by Amazon from its brick-and-mortar stores.
The reason given is that Amazon is not permitting Amazon-published titles to be available on B&N’s Nook. This, B&N says, limits content distribution in the name of Amazon’s own self-interest. This has somewhat backfired for Amazon Publishing, since B&N is the country’s largest book retailer, with a recent Holiday turnover of $1.2BN. The ban, which more or less kills Amazon’s on-shelf presence, may cause some authors to think twice about whether to use Amazon as their casino online publishing partner.
Though this really just represents a minor dink in Amazon’s far grander publishing plans.
More telling was something else about B&N’s statement: “Barnes & Noble has made a decision not to stock Amazon published titles in our store showrooms.”
The showroom analogy is interesting for two reasons:
Firstly, it states that B&N actually sees its own stores mostly as a showroom for books that will ultimately be bought through B&N”s digital channels. While B&N stores are still the main source of revenue, there is little expectation of growth in this area. This seems to put another nail in the coffin for the traditional bookstore model.
Secondly, it is interesting because it alludes to a new consumer behavior, known as “showrooming.” This involves consumers visiting stores, only to compare online prices on their smartphone, and then buy elsewhere (ahem, Amazon). This is a serious trend according to Pew, involving as many as 25% of smartphone users during the Holiday period, and is quite naturally infuriating many bricks-and-mortar retailers.
In this light, for B&N to stock Amazon books, which would send their customers online to Amazon to get their digital copy – without even the prospect of them being able to visit B&N’s online channels to buy a digital copy for Nook, it is easy to see why Amazon is in B&N’s black books….