Oil and water...The general pattern, of course, has been simple: many bookshops, objecting to Amazon’s effects on the industry, have declined to carry books from Amazon Publishing imprints.
A kind of major-player blessing on independent stores has been provided by Barnes & Noble’s corporate stance, announced January 2012, against Amazon Publishing books. So frustrated with the situation was Amazon author Tim Ferriss that he resorted to a special promotion with Bit Torrent to try to compensate for what he called B&N’s “retail stonewall.” Gave us a good phrase, if nothing else.
Typically, authors signing a contract with one of Amazon Publishing’s growing family of imprints have had to accept a bookstore blackout. They’ve known they’d likely give up physical store sales, in exchange for the quality of production and online marketing support of an Amazon imprint.
Behind the noise and nerves of an industry at war with itself, however, an author’s Amazon-produced book might, in fact, be spotted on a local store’s shelf.
So we learned last week when The Bookseller’s Sarah Shaffi reported that books by Mel Sherratt, Mark Edwards, and Helen Smith from Amazon’s Thomas & Mercer line (“Your Home For Killer Writing”) were showing up at WHSmith stores “in Manchester Piccadilly, London Victoria, and London Paddington stations”:
It is thought to be the first time that a bricks and mortar retailer in the UK has stocked physical books from Amazon, although a spokesperson for the publisher said “many physical bookstores” in the UK and US carry Amazon Publishing titles. The spokesperson has yet to confirm other named retailers in the UK. WHSmith has yet to comment on the stocking decision.
There’s lots of no-comment around this one, you bet. And guarded reactions. Agent Sam Copeland (for Mark Edwards) placed on the table that most delicate phrase for us: “An interesting turn of events.” Lovely. And telling. By not telling.
Sources near Seattle say to me, in fact, that Amazon Publishing print copies in the US as well as in the UK actually are stocked by many authors’ hometown shopkeepers who are proud of their communities’ writers and eager to fulfill their customers’ desire to read the author-next-door.
Waterstones in Hanley is carrying Sherratt’s titles, Shaffi went on to report in a follow-up. And the company’s publisher liaison manager Eva von Reuss said this:
Our policy remains unchanged. Buying decisions are based on each individual book’s merit. All titles available in the UK are available for our customers to order.
That last bit reflects the case almost everywhere, it seems. Even at Barnes & Noble, there’s no guarantee that they won’t look at you funny, but if you ask for an Amazon Publishing book, they’ll order it.
Sherratt told The Bookseller that her Amazon/Thomas & Mercer books are in her nearby Webberley’s Bookshop in Stoke-on-Trent, as well as in Waterstones Hanley, “and that they may be stocked by Waterstones regionally too.
“It’s great to see them out there,” she said, “especially now that I have another book deal with two further books set in my city, due to come out next year.”
Wherever you come down on the Amazon Opinion Scale, it’s hard not to feel glad for Sherratt, no?
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By Porter Anderson | @Porter_Anderson
The FutureBook: ‘Retail stonewalling’ and Amazon sightings in bookstores
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