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ePublish a Book » The ePublishing market » The Publishing War has begun. Amazon vs. Barnes & Nobles affects each and everyone of us.

The Publishing War has begun. Amazon vs. Barnes & Nobles affects each and everyone of us.

The Publishing War has begun. Amazon vs. Barnes & Nobles affects each and everyone of us.

At first glance it looks like a corporate war between giants on the book market that is of little interest to the little people. Yet, the foot soldiers in that war are writers, especially those writers who finally began to believe in their chance to find fame and fortune through self-publishing.

So what are the battle lines?

On one side, we have Amazon, or more specifically, a new department of Amazon’s publishing arm KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), KDP Select that requires exclusivity from its authors. Last week, Barnes & Nobles responded to Amazon’s exclusivity’s policy by declaring it would refuse to distribute any books published by Amazon. B&N was soon followed by Indie Commerce and other smaller publishers, joining the movement to boycott Amazon.

Some aspects of this boycott are still unclear. Does it also cover books published by Smashwords and then distributed to Amazon? Does it affect only print books or also ebooks? These practical sides of the boycott are still being debated as the publishing world is polishing its weapons.

Ironically, in the 70’s, when B&N, then only a retailer, entered the world of publishing, it created an uproar in the publishing world that was ignored by B&N and did nothing to prevent its success.

Early last January, rumors of B&N’s intention to sell its publishing arm Sterling following losses of earning began to fly around. Bought by B&N in 2003 for $115M, it now boasts an estimated 6,000 plus title base of e-books and print books. Its catalog includes more than 500 books in the Barnes & Noble Classics and its Library of Essential Reader series. Sterling reported $6 million losses for the quarter ending last October, less than the $12 million for the previous quarter but losses nevertheless.

It might well be that B&N’s opening salvo against Amazon is a move to raise the value of Sterling prior to selling it rather than a move to define the face of tomorrow’s publishing market, but the growing number of smaller publishers following B&N’s lead are definitely boycotting Amazon in order to fight the exclusivity clause in KDP and the right for authors to have their work available to all and not only though one outlet, even a giant one such as Amazon.

Another reason that might have caused B&N’s retaliatory move against Amazon is the rumor that Amazon intends to open a pilot retail shop in Seattle, a real threat of encroachment in the physical retail dominance that still belongs to B&N.

While the two giants, Amazon and B&N, are defining the lines of battle, authors are not the only ones likely to suffer the consequences of this war. Authors will have to choose a camp, decide where to publish knowing that whatever their decision, it implies loosing exposure from the other camp.

Yet, as ultimately, readers are the customers, they will inevitably be dragged in this conflict. As books are formatted to fit certain ereaders and the next move might be to ban downloading books from the other side on proprietary ereaders, they will have to carefully choose which ereader they purchase, Kindle or Nook, as it might dictate which books they will have access to.

So while the giants are fighting to reap more dollars, it is individual authors and readers that will suffer from this war fallout.

More about the various issues of the Publishing War

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24 Responses to "The Publishing War has begun. Amazon vs. Barnes & Nobles affects each and everyone of us."

  1. Very confounding. I got all the way to the exclusive contract with KDP and I deleted my book files. I was more hopeful with Google Books, but they are selling my book at the default price of 80% of any competitors. So 80% cheaper then smashwords. I’ve gone back and forth with their support team a few times and it seems default, is what I get no matter what buttons I push on their forms. I haven’t gotten to the point where I have reviews or sales. I find this battle being fought over my head before I even get out of the gate very depressing. I honestly don’t know what to do next. Any advice?

  2. Cody Wellard says:

    Interesting read.

  3. Sorry, typo in the last, my book is Nephilim Genesis of Evil :).

  4. I’ve had decent success with KDP Select and with borrowing. My novel Nephlim Genesis of Evil was borrowed 50+ times in January, not as much in February, but it and my other books do get borrowed. Since I wasn’t selling hardly at all through Smashwords, it didn’t bother me be exclusive to Amazon, although it it were easier to sell through B&N (if they had the same kind of platform as Amazon, I’d be there). My ultimate goal is to keep selling books :).

    1. Congrats Renee,

      I’m impressed. You’re the first person I’ve seen that can say they’ve had actual borrows. Do you have a pretty aggressive marketing plan? Or did you primarily use the Select Programs five promotion days?

      1. Thanks. I never thought to ask people how many borrows they have, but have heard of a few people (seen on their blogs) that they’ve had some. My marketing along with KDP has been all free, but I’m planning a new campaign here soon to do some paid along with the free.
        I’ve seen people in sci-fi and fantasy do much better with downloads than me (horror and mystery)…but I don’t know how much any of it translates into sales. Mine sell, but not like hundreds of copies a day or anything like that.

        1. Thanks for the information. I’m trying to get a better idea of what the real numbers are for other authors. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about high promo numbers, but never hear of borrows or actual sales figures.

          I only have two short stories right now, but once I get an anthology put together I’ll start to have a better idea. Right now I’m finding single short stories don’t do very well. I think.

          1. Sure – I have one short story that I’ve offered for free, it sells a dozen or so each month, but since it’s part of a series, my hope is that people read it and then want to read the books in the series.
            Short stories won’t make you rich but they can get people interested in your other works :). Good luck to you.

  5. Andy Frazier says:

    I have just registered a few of my titles on Google’s Book Partner program. This then includes them in google’s book search. Ultimately, these guys are big players too, and are already dabbling in this market. Dont rule out them buying their way into the fray. Incidentally, the register allows you to put an link to your book online but will not allow an Amazon one. To be listed, you need to send them the whole ebook file…Scary.

  6. I have recent experience of the free promo on KDP Select. Over a three-day period, I had 1328 downloads. How this will convert eventually into sales is very hard to tell, but at least I’ve increased my readership!
    I haven’t had any borrows yet, but sales continue to putter along in small numbers. My own view is that, for most of us Indie authors, we have to be in it for the long haul. If we have a sale-able product and we keep writing books, then there’s a good chance that we will eventually make an impact.

    1. 1328 downloads is very impressive. May I ask what section the book was placed in? Also, of those 1328 downloads, how many people left a review?

      I’m also watching how the KDP Select program has affected my sales and these are the metrics I’m starting to really pay attention to. My downloads aren’t anywhere near yours, but they are also in the SciFi/Fantasy section. So I’m up against a slew of others.

      Good luck with your future sales.

  7. Jack says:

    The B&N boycott has NOTHING to do with Amazon’s KDP self publishing program. B&N never mentioned those books. They are talking about the books Amazon publishes through their traditional imprints like Amazonencore, Thomas & Mercer, 47 North, and Montlake. Those imprints distribute paper versions of their books and up until recently were shelved in B&N and all the others, and were in the ABA database.

  8. Rick G says:

    As far as I an concerned, this is a two front war. Smashwords and Lulu (the latter of which I’ve pretty much given up on) don’t have the reach to fight this war. iBooks has potential but so far they haven’t shown themselves to be indie author friendly in the least. These other players can do a “me too” in joining B&N’s blockade but ultimately I think only B&N has the clout here. That being said, I find B&N’s strategy to be completely boneheaded. As an indepedent, KDP Select definitely has its downsides. However, Amazon has sweetened the pot with incentives. That makes it worthwhile to me (at least for 90 days). Amazon also offers other perks such as Author Central. Rather than try to match Amazon’s embracing the self-published crowd, B&N has responded with threats…no additional perks, functionality, or otherwise…just threats. In thr world of writing I am but a fly. That being said, if you want to catch me try honey instead of vinegar.

    Ultimately in this battle, if I am forced to choose sides, I choose Amazon. Until B&N can come back with some reason to do otherwise, it’s an easy decision for me. My only regret is in disappointing those few Nook owning fans I have made.

    1. I just can’t see Amazon’s KDP Select as a sweet deal yet. Out of curiosity, are you enrolled? How many borrows have you had? I’m not trying to be condescending. I just haven’t run across anyone who has had any borrows. Loads of people have made headway with free downloads, but very little have been making money off the borrowing.

      For new authors, I just can’t see the benefit of limiting your audience by being Amazon only.

      1. Rick G says:

        Of my four books, 2 are enrolled in KDP select. Of those 1 is an older short story book that I don’t really push. It was available only on Amazon to begin with so I didn’t see the harm in turning on Select. We can forget that one for now. My latest novel is purposeful. I’m doing it mostly as an experiment. My sales via B&N, Smashwords, etc are typically dwarfed by my Amazon sales so my thought process was that it wasn’t a particularly risky experiment for me. No borrows yet, however, the book has been out for less than a month. The big test will be next week. I’m going to try my first “free” promo with it. That and it’s aftermath should start to give me some idea of whether or not KDP is worth it.

        I will admit to one intangible benefit so far. Worrying about one market and format for the book launch has resulted in less formatting work for more and a more concentrated effort in my marketing.

        1. I’m definitely interested in hearing your results with the promo. So far I haven’t seen a drastic increase in sales from my two short stories. I’ve made $7.35 between the two and they’ve been up since mid to late January. No borrows.

          And that is why I’m growing more skeptical of the Select program. If I don’t actually have any borrows, what does it benefit me to keep them exclusively to Amazon?

          Only the future will tell.

          1. Rick G says:

            Hey I had my first borrow today. Of course I also had a return today too. Wondering if someone hit buy and then remembered they had Amazon Prime. 🙂

      2. Eileen Robertson Hamer says:

        I decided to join KDP Select for the 5 promo days. I doubt my sales on allthe other outlets combined owuld have equalled the 650 I got from 2 days of Amazon promos. As a debut author I wasn’t selling much until the promos, so I’m very happy with the program. B&N is cutting off their noses to spite their face. How stupid to come out spittibng when backed into a marketing corner. Now they’ve lost potential inventory and sales. Not to mention authors. Duh.

        1. Eileen,

          Congratulations. Just so I understand correctly. Are you saying that during the promo days 650 free copies were downloaded? Or are you saying that the 650 copies were sold above and beyond the free downloaded ones? If the later, how many total copies were moved?

          Thanks for the input.

  9. Bob clarified the Select issue, thank you Bob. What I don’t like about the Select program is that you’re cutting off other markets for your book. Smashwords reaches Nook and iPad users. Sure, iPad users can download the Kindle App, but how many do?

    I also have an issue with the fact that Select gives me only five days over a ninety day period to promote my book. Smashwords allows me to generate coupons for when I want to run a promotion. Why the arbitrary cut off Amazon?

    1. Rick G says:

      obviously I don’t represent everyone but I will say that every person I know who owns an iPad or an iPhone (a not small number) has the Kindle app installed. Putting it out there as an app before anyone else did (and long before ibooks) was a brilliant move by Amazon because suddenly they made Kindle purchases open to a huge market that did not own kindles. Don’t discount it.

    2. I wanted to answer your question about the ipad Kindle app. I don’t have a Kindle, but I love my Kindle app on my ipad. I still read some print books, but if I have a choice, I go with the Kindle version.

      I also wrote my latest book, entirely on my ipad, with a blue tooth keyboard, but that is another story.

      Great discussion and comments.

      FTR…I haven’t enrolled either of my books in the lending program.

  10. Bob made all my points before I could post (and said it very eloquently!). One more thing: Smashwords doesn’t (yet) distribute to Amazon.

  11. Bob Mayer says:

    KDP doesn’t require exclusivity. KDP Select does. This is a three month choice the author makes, usually in return for the ability to post a book FREE for five days during that period.
    So far, authors can choose where their books are published and at what price, which is a lot more freedom than they had relying on the Big 6 to do it. We had no control over whether we would get published, how we would get published, how we would get distributed, what the price would be, how long the book would be available, how it would be promoted.
    The Big 6 focused on distributing to consignment outlets. Now authors can focus on selling direct to readers through Amazon, PubIt (B&Ns e-publishing arm), Kobo and other platforms. I think that’s good for authors and good for readers.

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