It’s no real secret that Barnes & Noble has quickly come to depend on their Nook eReader line, which by extension means it isn’t really too surprising that they might overreact when that is threatened. A recent spat with DC Comics over a limited term of Kindle Fire eComic distribution exclusivity for a segment of the publisher’s current titles has resulted in just such an overreaction, though, and their failure to see the mistake may well provide difficulties going forward.
The underlying complaint on the part of Barnes & Noble is that DC has had the audacity to offer eReader exclusivity on 100 or so titles to Amazon as a temporary means for Amazon to promote the Kindle Fire. While there is no information yet, to the best of my knowledge, as to how long this deal will remain in place, both DC and Amazon have acknowledged that it is not intended to necessarily be a long term arrangement.
As a result, Barnes & Noble has pulled all DC titles from their stores. This includes every physical copy of the Amazon digital exclusives from DC Comics. No notice was given to customers initially, simply a blanket email to all stores requiring them to remove the books. To pull the gist of the eventual published statement from the Brick & Mortar book giant: “Regardless of the publisher, we will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format.[…]To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms, and not have the eBook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime.”
On the surface, one has to applaud the effort. Maybe this was an instance of Amazon throwing their weight around that required a significant response from a major retailer to help publishers see that such behavior is unacceptable. That sentiment lasts right up until the realization that at this time Barnes & Noble does not in any way offer electronic comic publications.
The chain has decided that they are so dedicated to the principal on this issue that they are willing to turn away customers at the door rather than allow Amazon’s Kindle Fire access to something the Nook Color has not even tried to exploit after a year on the market. Now not only with B&N customers not be able to download their comics, they can’t get physical copies except through the B&N website. Stores have even been instructed to turn away special orders. No copy will be allowed to enter the store, no matter how much you want to give your money to Barnes & Noble.
In the end, I see this hurting nobody but B&N, their customers, and the creators of the works in question. Nobody wins but Amazon and customers have one more reason to avoid dealing with anybody else. While this could have been quickly remedied with a quiet apology for initial overreaction, there is no excuse for letting it continue and treating customers this poorly, especially at a time when they are faced with a superior competing product.