I thought the Great Walmart in the Sky was where rural Republicans went when they died.
But fuck Nancy Pearl, a much loved person in the literary world for using an Amazon service to be an entrepreneur. Fuck her and stop liking her because she is using something that we don't like mostly because we don't understand/use their services and Nancy does.
Also, Paul, before you have an applegasm post again, you should listen to the newest This American Life.

Wow, no wonder independent booksellers are going out of business. They are terrible at business, if this post is any indication.

The bottom line business decision for whether to carry the book is: will it sell any copies? Assuming Amazon has the same remainder policy as other publishers (a reasonable assumption, I think), there is little risk.

If a customer comes in and makes an impulse purchase at the $14.95 price, does it matter what the Kindle edition costs? It does not. By this logic, independent booksellers should not carry any books that are available on Amazon for a lower price, regardless of publisher. Which is to say, they should not carry any books. Boy, that'll show Amazon.

This is terrible business thinking, and seems more like pique than a reasoned decision. And businesses that make emotional decisions tend to go out of business.
It is uneconomical for them to stock and sell printed books published by Amazon... unless their customers expected such books to be available. I've heard rumors of some retail outlets not making a profit on every item they sell. I've also heard rumors of shoppers making purchases at a price that is not the lowest available someplace sometime in some format.
Well from the interview with her yesterday on NPR it sounded like Amazon was the only publisher that would actually re-print these books. She did say that they "got" what she was wanting to do. So there could have been other publishers willing to, but not the way she would want.

The fact that these books are out of print and can't really be found anywhere means that these non-Amazon booksellers would not be selling these books anyway. Thus, they are not loosing ANY money on this deal.

If this goes well, maybe a different publisher would be willing to do some re-printing in the future and the independent booksellers could take advantage of that.
I'm far less worried about Nancy Pearl and far more worried about SOPA, which they are only pretending to withdraw (but aren't) today.

#sopavote is no! - #snowvote is go!
@1: Once again, Republicans don't have a monopoly on this stuff. Jeff Bezos is a D, or at lest supported Gregoire.
Legislation must be passed to not allow publishers to also be retailers! We must save the independent reseller via legislated inefficiencies!
Ya know, it's starting to look like Amazon is a monopoly, in which case the Kindle should be forced to be an open platform.
How does anyone get emotional about this? They're fucking books. Buy them or don't. Sell them or don't. WHO GIVES A SHIT
@10: Ugh. You're about as knowledgeable about monopoly / anti-trust law as Constant is about business. Natural monopolies aren't illegal, even if you want to believe Amazon's 25% market share in printed books and 70% market share in the much younger and more volatile ebook market represent a monopoly.
As I pointed out on their blog, they already sell books published by Amazon - several Max Allan Collins reissues, among others. And those books have the same list price, Amazon price, and even lower Kindle prices.

So they're mad at Nancy Pearl. That's no excuse to shoot themselves in the foot by not carrying books that people who come into their shop want to buy.

The whole "math" argument is silly. They can't compete on price with Amazon, for most books. OK, then should they close their doors now? Or should they continue charging list price and focus their attention on the stuff they have that Amazon doesn't, like a curated selection, friendly service, a fully browsable stock, knowledgeable staff, etc.? Because if they believe their existence depends on selling books for the same price as Amazon, they have no hope.
@6 nails it. Pearl badly wanted her favorite out-of-print books in print. She went to all major publishers and only Amazon agreed to do it. So that somehow makes her a villain? For bringing great forgotten books back from the dead? On the contrary, this seems like one of the better things Amazon has done for the reader in years.
There's simply no way for a bookseller to carry Pearl's books without raising the price for the consumer or losing money to The Great Walmart in the Sky.
Could that not be said about every single book in a independent bookseller's inventory?

I don't understand your gripe, Paul.

I'm no business major, but it seems like the worst thing to do is to stop stocking certain books that could sell, even at a small loss. If shoppers can't count on bookstores to have popular, recommended books, they will come in and browse less often, make fewer impulse buys. There will be a downward spiral for bookstores, and they'll be doomed.

Granted, I don't know what the correct business-model for a bookstore is these days, if there is any, but this approach/attitude would spell suicide.
Paul, ebooks cost less to make. They cost very little to duplicate, cost almost nothing to distribute, cost fractional pennies to warehouse. Amazon sells ebooks for less because it can make money for less.

The publishers who've forced ebook prices above hardcover prices, and the bookstores who have benefited by this artificial price inflation, are happy because it protects their business model. But it is not competitive for ebooks to cost more than physical books.

If physical books win out, they will win out because their advantages (freely transferable, low power requirements, look & feel) justify the difference in price. Arguing that physical books should cost what ebooks cost is anticompetitive BS of the same sort you're complaining about.
@ also, before you go ripping on anyone for not knowing business, make sure you DO know business. Whatever business you do know, what you don't know is the book business.

Amazon gets to buy books from publishers at a HUGE discount - probably somewhere around 70%, estimating conservatively. Independent bookstores are lucky if they get 45%, and never more than that for new titles. Because they're terrible at business? No, because 800 lb gorillas get their way and no one else does.
@15, the point is that they don't have to take a loss. They ALREADY SELL books published by Amazon. Seattle Mystery sells them at full list price (and Amazon sells them for 40% off), just like tons of other books they sell, whether published by Amazon or not.

The "math" argument is just plain wrong. If Penguin publishes a mystery book at $15, Seattle Mystery Bookshop will buy it from Penguin for $9, and sell it for $15, and make a $6 profit. If Amazon publishes a mystery book at $15, Seattle Mystery can buy from Amazon for $9 and sell it for $15 and make a $6 profit. In fact, they already do buy books from Amazon.

Look up Max Allan Collins's book Chicago Confidential on the Seattle Mystery Bookshop web site. Note that Seattle Mystery sells it for $15 (full list price). It is published by AmazonEncore (which is Amazon's publishing wing). Amazon sells it for $9.

There's an argument to be made, I suppose, that they shouldn't sell books published by Amazon, period, because they shouldn't put money in their competitor's pocket. That seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face to me. If a customer wants to buy a book published by Amazon, and they can make a profit on that sale (which they can), they should sell that customer the book. What's the alternative? Tell them to go to
@ 18, really? That entire markup is profit? NONE of it goes toward overhead? You sure about that?

Here's the reality - almost ALL of that $6 goes toward overhead. Profit margins for independent booksellers are razor thin, and many stay in business because the proprietors have a real love for it. As opposed to the fat profits you seem to believe they're reaping. And it's that love which brings them the one advantage they have over Amazon - expertise and enthusiasm for the product they sell.

Independent shops buy the books at the prices they do because they have little choice. Big chains like B&N and the defunct Borders had leverage to demand greater discounts, and Amazon has even more. Basically saying that they're all on a level playing field is astonishing in its ignorance.
I want to type on a typewriter, not a fucking word processor. Fuck IBM, Wordperfect, and MS.

I want to get around on a horse, not a fucking automobile. Fuck Henry Ford, that cocksucker.
Don has made a mistake on whether we stock the book he cites (a Max Allan Collins book from Amazon's mystery line). The explanation is simple but long: our website is through IndieBound and the American Booksellers Association. They're paired with Ingram, one of the big, national wholesalers. When you search for a book on our website, both our stock (what we have on hand) and Ingram's stock are searched and posted. One of the pitfalls of the Indie/Ing system is that it does not clearly state who has books where or, a bigger problem, if the book is actually still in print.

So when Don searched for Chicago Confidential, the Amazon edition DOES show up, true. But it does not say "On Our Shelves Now" as it would if we actually had the book in the shop. What it says is "Usually Ships in 1-5 Days", which means "we don't have it but we can order it for you". It does not tell you if we're simply out of it and expect it back in stock in a coupla days, or we don't stock it at all but can get you one. It would be the same thing as if you looked for a biography or history or for the "Idiots Guide to Tattoo Removal".

So Don was mistaken in his understanding of what our website says about the availability of the Collins book.

My apologies for the confusion. Seriously - the kind of confusion is a pain to us all, booksellers and book buyers.

Let me close by saying that I am HEARTBROKEN to find out that Collins' Nate Heller series is available through Amazon. I love that series, I recommend that series - whenever publishers would ask what books should be reprinted I'd include those in my list... but I will not stock these new editions.

~JB, Seattle Mystery Bookshop
NON-TROLL ALERT: @ 21 is JB from Seattle Mystery Shop, and it's an answer for Don Munsil. Anyone still interested in this thread, and Don in particular, should read it if they have unregistered comments hidden.
@19, I'm not suggesting they're making fat profits. I'm well aware that independent booksellers have significant overhead. I love independent bookshops and shop in them as much as I can.

All I'm saying their gross profit on that book is the same gross profit as any other similarly priced book, from Penguin, or Random House, or anyone else. The same "math" that means they can't stock these new Nancy Pearl selections would suggest that they can't stock *any* book that Amazon discounts heavily, which is just about every hardcover and trade paperback. I'm really unclear about what makes these new books so much different from any other trade paperbacks.
@21, OK, my mistake. But why wouldn't you stock that book? Surely you want to stock a good selection of Max Allan Collins books, right? It's totally in your wheelhouse.

Is it that it's from Amazon, and they're jerks? No argument from me on that - their whole "take our app and scan stuff in other people's stores" move was unbelieveable.

Or is it that there's some specific difference about the discount rate or something? It seems to me that those Max Allan Collins books are priced about the same as other trade paperbacks, and I assume you can order them from Ingram with the same discount as other trade paperbacks.

What am I missing?
FWIW, I'm a massive bibliophile, and a mystery fan, and a huge fan of independent bookstores. My wife worked for an independent bookstore (Beks books, downtown) for several years and worked for a local publisher before that. She is now a children's librarian. We used to go out of our way to buy all our childrens' books from Secret Garden when they still existed, and bought tons of books from local independent booksellers, many of which have gone under.

I do buy some things from Amazon, including books, because I have limited time to go to bookstores, and Amazon is so damn convenient. I still buy books in just about every bookstore I visit. And yes, I understand that independent bookstores *must* charge more than big chains or internet sellers like Amazon in order to stay in business.

So given all of that, I'm confused as to how it would help a bookseller who specializes in mysteries to refuse to stock a mystery book that would otherwise meet their stocking criteria, even if it's impossible to price it similarly to Amazon. An independent bookseller *can't* win a price war with Amazon; we've established that. So stock the book, price it normally (i.e. with a normal markup) and continue.

Again, there may be something I'm missing. I'm happy to learn.
It's the unwillingness of brick and mortar stores to stock their god damn shelves that makes me not even bother setting foot in their store any more. Stock your shelves, assholes. What is this Soviet Russia? Don't show me empty shelves. I don't drive across town to see empty shelves.

Why should I waste time and gas driving around town to stop into a store that is highly unlikely to have what I need in stock? (Especially when I can't help making a few impulse purchases while I'm there, you dumb, dumb motherfuckers.) All these morons think about is cost, never profit. They sacrifice every opportunity to profit because they aren't willing to pay the cost.

And that's my fault for not "supporting" them? I'm so sick of the guilt trip. Give me a reason to put on my boots and my hat and coat, pack the kids in the car, fight traffic, find parking, and come in your store. I'm not going to do all that shit because I feel fucking sorry for you. Do I look like Mother Theresa?

No. I most certainly do not. If I've made 3 trips to your store looking for the thing I need and I always come up empty handed, I'm going to give up trying to do business with you, and make my first and my last shopping trip online. Boo hoo, suckers. I've been trying to do business with local stores but you have to meet me halfway, OK?

Paul Constant is going to get punched in the nose if he ever come face to face with a bookseller who's not a business ignoramus like he is.
I'm a little confused. Why do booksellers not use terms like cost, retail, msrp? I've been working retail for 20+ years and I've never seen a cost of goods discussion presented quite that way "40% discount".

I am also stunned by a bookseller saying "i love that series" ... "but I will not stock these".

I also wonder @21, if Don had chosen to purchase that book through your store online, with the knowledge that you would have to order it, would you have fulfilled his order?
@ Don, I see what you're saying now, and yes, that's a good point. The more you look at it, the more it looks like something's being left unsaid.

@ 27, I worked for a bookstore long ago, and that terminology was used then, and probably always has. I think the explanation is that books, unlike nearly any other retail category, have a price permanently written on them and set by the publisher. Consumers see that price and know that that is what it's selling for. They know they'll never pay a higher price than that. That price is set by the publisher, and that is that.*

"Discount" therefore refers to how much off that price a bookseller can get it from a publisher or retailer. It used to be that each store was on their own in that regard, and most of those books came at around 40% less. So a $20 hardback (an average price in the 90s) cost the bookstore $12, with most of the $8 markup going to the store's overhead. (This does not apply to "remaindered" books, which usually were discontinued editions and/or titles, and often called "bargain books" in the stores.)

* Chain bookstores, like B. Dalton and Waldenbooks in the past, B&N and Borders more recently, and of course Amazon, could buy much greater quantities, get greater discounts, and pass that along to the customer. While almost every Amazon title is discounted (they're kind of the Walmart of bookselling in that respect), most of the chains did that only with bestsellers, as the remaining stock was purchased in smaller quantities. (Having NOT worked for a chain or shopped at them much, I'll say that I'm only aware of discounted bestsellers.)
People expect boutiques to compete on price?
Really? Have they ever?
@28 Thank you for the explanation!

I was thinking about this last night and I was trying to figure out how the prestige beauty category figured out to fix their prices flat in the market places. Those manufacturers tell stores that they can not charge less than $xx.xx. Doesn't matter if you are Sephora,, Nordstroms,, you all in essence are forced to charge the same price. Sephora is Queen of the hill in this world and the prestige vendors do not give them special pricing or vendor funding. What they do offer is exclusives. First for new products, products only found on Sephora, special samples, stuff like that. It's been a very interesting business to learn about, because so much of your retail 101 is price incentives, and in the beauty prestige industry, that is pretty much gone.

Anyway, so how can one retail industry "price fix" as a badge of honor and level the playing field, but the Dept of Justice investigate Apple and the publishers for "price fixing" ebooks? That is now my new question.
what gets me about the repeated anti-Pearl ranting is that it's all about Seattle's independent bookstores. we live in a fucking cultural wonderland. it's why i live here and why i make an effort to shop in brick and mortar bookstores. we are highly privileged in this regard.

Amazon serves the *entire country*, and let me tell you, there are a hell of a lot of places in the United States that had NO BOOKSTORE before Amazon existed. we shop at Amazon because we're cheap, lazy, or the thing we wanted was out of stock. there are millions of people who shop there because they have no choice. the "betrayal" sounds a lot like whining in this context.
@31, nicely put. Our jumped-up pantry boy of a town is lovely, but it is a bubble. Thanks for the broader perspective.
I went to a number of publishers to get the Nathan Heller books back in print -- two of the twelve novels won the PWA Best Novel Shamus, most of the others were nominated. Two smaller publishers offered to try out one or two of the backlist books and "see how they do." Amazon offered to bring out all 12, but two new short story collections, the first 12 all at once, and in tandem with the first new Heller in almost ten years, BYE BYE, BABY from Forge (who had declined to publish the backlist). I jumped at it. I am in this for two reasons: for my books to be read (which means available) and to make a living (outrageous, I know).

Amazon and booksellers -- both of whom have done some misbehaving, let's be honest -- need to make nice and figure out how to make money for each other. We are in publishing at the same kind of crossroads Hollywood has faced periodically (always initially botching it), as when TV came in and threatened radio and movies, and when home video came along and scared the pants off TV and movie executives. The rule is adapt or die.

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