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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Amazon Obama Book Exclusive Backfires

Publisher Chelsea Green's plan to offer Robert Kuttner's Obama's Challenge exclusively through Amazon for the first two weeks of publication, further driven by coupons for a 25-percent discount to be distributed at the Democratic convention, has backfired in a big way.

Following expressions of concern and anger from independent booksellers--a group Chelsea Green has cultivated carefully in the past through such programs as their green partner stores--Barnes & Noble has substantially cut their order for the book.

BN noted 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." The chain will offer the book through their web site but will not stock it in stores. They originally ordered 10,000 copies (out of an announced first printing of 75,000 copies.) "Our initial order was based on the book being available to all booksellers simultaneously -- an even playing field," spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating said.

When contacted by the Wall Street Journal , Chelsea Green president Margo Baldwin insisted "that she struck an exclusive agreement with Amazon 'because it was the only way we could get advanced reading copies to the Democratic National Convention on time and make the book available on the first day of the convention, Aug. 25'"--which may pass unnoticed by consumers, but will not satisfy anyone in the trade.

More to the point, Baldwin says, "This is part of a strategy to get the buzz going so that demand will escalate and the copies will sell through at all outlets when the main printing arrives."

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