Amazon vs B&N Conflict May Mean More Kindle Exclusives

In what is just the latest point of conflict between Amazon and Barnes & Noble over their relative positions in book sales, B&N has announced that they are unwilling to stock any Amazon published works in their stores.  It is clearly an informed decision that responds to multiple pressures coming from and online retailers in general, but it also raises the question of whether the Brick & Mortar chain can make such a bold move without drawing customer attention to the value of owning a Kindle.

The stated reason behind this decision is that Amazon has been increasingly successful in arranging exclusivity agreements with major publishers and authors that have prevented the competition from being able to provide the best possible service to their Nook customers.  A fair point, and not one that many people would disagree with.  Amazon is definitely fond of throwing their weight around.  At the same time, however, it is a general admission that the Nook is unable to manage to compete on equal terms against the Kindle as things stand right now and possibly not the best way to reassure customers and investors of the long term viability of the product line.

This also relates to the extremely controversial practice of “showrooming” that has made headlines regularly ever since Amazon released their price check app for iOS and Android smartphones.  Since Amazon’s structure allows them to save a great deal of money on things like local stores, they can offer lower prices on a wide variety of things.  This is especially the case with paper books, where it is extremely unusual to fail to catch a deal compared to any local retailer.  A company that relies on their overt physical presence as much as Barnes & Noble does will obviously be negatively affected by such instant access to price comparisons since it deters impulse buying and turns their stores into profitless showcases for another company.  By refusing to carry the physical copies of Amazon’s new publications, they clearly hope to demonstrate to those lured into exclusivity agreements that the Brick & Mortar is still vital to success.

Again, I can’t help but feel that this is a big gamble.  If Amazon were not already well ahead in book sales then this would not be a problem in the first place.  The Kindle has, thanks to their huge investments and the very exclusivity arrangements that B&N is unhappy with, built up the most substantial library and user base in the eReading world.  It will take something drastic to knock them back down to a manageable level, but the idea that Barnes & Noble showrooms can have that kind of influence is questionable.

This feels like something that will end up turning major authors into Kindle exclusives whether they intended to be or not, further devaluing the selection at Barnes & Noble.  While they have also declared that these books would still be available through web services, it will take a lot of customer loyalty for that to be a viable purchasing option compared to

2 thoughts on “Amazon vs B&N Conflict May Mean More Kindle Exclusives”

  1. Even though I was a regular B&N shoppers, this has always been the case for me. I never even considered another device because I knew Amazon as a company is a successful one and will be around for a long time. B&N will not.

    The price comparison apps just make what good shoppers do anyway much easier. Even before the Internet people did price comparisons, what do you think all those Sunday newspaper ads were for? With Amazon, and other online stores, we just have another store to compare to instead of just local physical ones.

  2. The showrooming must kill them. In essence, Amazon is poaching their physical store and using it to sell stuff on Which is brilliant, though Amazon didn’t invent that by any means.

    I’m wonder if Barnes & Noble will start trying to kill cellphone reception in their stores. And put filters on their own wifi so that sort of thing won’t work. They’d be justified in doing so, but that sort of heavy-handedness would drive away customers so it’s a lose-lose.

    It doesn’t matter. B&N is going to have to move away from their current physical bookstore model anyway. The future is in ebooks with paper being a much more niche market (with lots of print-on-demand). Eventually they’ll have to lose the stores or figure out something else to do with them.

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