Amazon Exclusivity

Amazon seems to be softening its stance on exclusivity, which I commend.  What’s best for retailers is to have all books available in all formats to all people; anything less than that isn’t fair to the consumer and may very well eat into the bottom line.

A few months back Amazon had a four-month exclusive deal with DC Comics.  Only Amazon would be able to sell digital versions of 100 topselling DC titles.  In protest to this move, Barnes & Noble removed from sale the physical copies of those same titles in their stores.

Fast forward a few months, and now Amazon’s publishing its own line of books in conjunction with Houghton Mifflin.  E-book versions can only be sold through Amazon, however, so again B&N protests and refuses to stock print copies if they can’t sell digital copies as well.  This is a reasonable move; moreover, Books-A-Million joined the boycott and also won’t carry Amazon titles.

Their ploy appears to be working.  A few upcoming Amazon titles will have wider e-book distribution outside the Kindle marketplace.  I expect to hear an announcement from B&N in the near future reversing their initial decision and allowing Amazon titles to be sold in their brick-and-mortar stores.

The only thing that doesn’t make sense to me is why Amazon partnered with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to print their titles.  Amazon has its own printing operations (see Createspace), not to mention editors and everything else needed to bring a book to market.  What value does Houghton Mifflin add?  I could see if Amazon were trying to piggyback on Houghton to get print copies in bookstores.  But since B&N shot down that notion, I see no reason why Houghton should be part of the equation.  They’re unnecessary, a middleman who merely siphons off money — which will no doubt result in higher book prices.

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