Friday, October 23, 2009

Help David Beat Goliath

After a news blitz about the big boxes' price wars on the hot hardbacks for the season, my friends and associates in the indie book business are talking about final nails in their coffins. The American Booksellers Association has submitted a request to the Justice Department for an investigation into these potentially illegal predatory pricing practices.

Stephen King’s Under The Dome has a list price of $35. Retailers pay at least $17.50. Big box stores are selling this title for as low as 8.98. They are losing $8.50 per book. Imagine being in a business where you lose almost $10 per item on your most popular merchandise.

I’m green in the book business. We bought the store 2 years ago with a full awareness of the dismal future of books. So while the news of Amazilla’s practices make my stomach churn, it is not, perhaps, as devastating to me as it is to those heroic booksellers who have built their lives around finding the best books to bring to their customers. Still, it’s scary.

There’s some talk that these much-deflated prices will make books more accessible to the masses. But the danger is this: the power to decide which books are good enough to sell, which ideas are important enough to disseminate will rest with one or two conglomerates. And once the mega booksellers have driven all others out of the market, they can raise prices willy-nilly.

I’m a believer in capitalism and know we need to compete. I want to hear from our customers how we can serve you better than that faceless corporate giant. Here are some options—what’s your vote?

  1. Specialize in odd niches (does BAM have a section on Eastern European pottery from the years 1200-1600?) and rare books. (This poses some obvious problems in that our main sellers are pop fiction, but could give us a better web market).
  2. Become an idea center. Not sure how this would make money, but I sure do like the idea. Events, classes, resources. Oh wait, that might be called an institute.
  3. Sell more trade paperbacks that aren’t so discounted at the mega-stores and cool gifts that readers like.
  4. Fold.
  5. Develop our own e-reader that’s fully compatible with everything and… engineers? Programmers? Help.


  1. Pretty interesting post about your concerns and how to use the price war to your advantage:

    Just found your blog by the way! I added a link to y'alls from mine. Take care!


  2. Definitely NOT "D"!!! The article I found in the Miami Herald mentions that "A" is a common choice. Given the specialization of other downtown stores, perhaps hunting and related pasttimes would be a good specialty.