Tuesday, August 19, 2008

No Such Thing as Bad Publicity? --or-- Irony: Another Reason I Love this Business

Independent publishing house, Chelse Green, made the trades last week for crashing through a book about Barrack Obama in time for the Democratic National Convention. Publishers Weekly reported that the publisher would make 2000 advance copies available exclusively through Amazon. When I read a short news blurb in a daily e-mail from PW I thought it was an interesting strategy but it struck me more as a publicity gimmick in a crowded field of political books.

Today the story has surfaced again, this time in PW, Publishers Lunch, the AP, and The Wall Street Journal.

From Publishers Weekly:
Barnes & Noble has cancelled its 10,000-copy order of Obama’s Challenge, a book by Robert Kuttner that Chelsea Green is making available early exclusively through Amazon.com. B&N's decision follows in the wake of independent booksellers' outrage over the book being sold early exclusively through Amazon.com. B&N spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating said Chelsea Green's move "effectively takes away sales from all booksellers in the period when the predominate sales of such media related titles typically occur. Our initial order was based on the book being available to all booksellers simultaneously—an even playing field—which is common practice in book publishing." She continued, "We... believe the appropriate perspective is for the publisher to show appreciation to the bookselling community that has supported Chelsea Green for many years. To couch their action as a bold political move is a red herring for unfair business practices."

From Publisher's Lunch:
Chelsea Green president Margo Baldwin insists to the WSJ "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."

I love Barnes & Noble. I love independent booksellers. I love Amazon. They are all great customers for CHP and I shop at all three with about equal frequency. Even more, I love this industry. There is a strong sense of community. We cheer for the little guy and for justice. There is high regard for playing fair and standard practice. We value independence and independents. We like to discuss issues and express opinions. And, most are intelligent enough to quietly appreciate the many ironies of this entire situation.

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