The B&N vs. Amazon Feud: A Reader’s Perspective

posted in: Books, Reading, Writing | 28

I’m a writer. But I was a reader first. I’m actually a voracious reader. I consume 3-5 books a week. I have hundreds of books on my shelves and over 600 on my kindle app. (Many of those were free as I really enjoy finding new authors and what better way to sample them than by getting something free?) That does not include all the ones borrowed from libraries or friends, donated or sold. I could not even begin to guess the number of books I’ve read. Thousands anyway.

I’m not yet published so as a writer I don’t have a stake in this. Yet. I will. But here’s what I think of the Barnes & Noble feud with Amazon as a reader.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s some background:

Recently, Amazon decided to offer writers another option — their Kindle Select Program. Basically, if they agree for at least 3 months to make a book exclusive to Amazon, Amazon would put their book into the Prime Lending Library and the author would get part of a large pot of money they’d earmarked for that month depending on the percentage of downloads per author. The authors could then make their book “free” a certain number of times during that exclusivity period. For those not selling many copies elsewhere this could be a good deal. However, there’s an inherit monopoly there that doesn’t seem exactly kosher. I’m not saying I agree or disagree. I haven’t really decided myself yet. But that’s a topic for another day. In the meantime if you want to see the growing concerns about some of Amazon’s manipulations, check out Kent Holloway’s post: A writer/publisher’s concern over the future of Amazon.

Amazon in the meantime has been making a great deal of headway in publishing books themselves. According to the Huffington Post “…a deal was announced between Amazon and publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to create a new HMH imprint, New Harvest, entirely made up of Amazon-acquired titles that would be distributed to book stores. It is understood that this imprint is included in Barnes & Noble’s ban on Amazon-published books, and might prompt some authors not to sign with one of Amazons six imprints.” Read more at the link above. It’s an interesting article.

B&N then decided it would not stock any Amazon published books in their book stores, but would carry them online. Books-A-Million (BAM) and Indigo made the decision to join B&N in their print boycott of Amazon’s books.

Okay. So that’s the history. But I don’t get it. Sure I understand they’re upset and think Amazon isn’t playing fair. But doesn’t this boycott just hurt B&N and readers more than Amazon? If customers are coming INTO the stores to buy those books, it’s still a sale. Why tick off people that are still actually frequenting the book stores? After all, they say they will sell them online. Big deal. If the people want it online they can get that from Amazon. Looks like to me that’s just backwards thinking. I’d be doing everything possible to keep my in-store buyers happy with the current climate of change.

Isn't keeping readers happy the most important thing in all this? (Image by Ju_li_a on flickr)

Haven’t we been reading about the instability of brick and mortar book sellers? Haven’t many like Borders been put out of business already? Don’t you want your customers to come into the stores and find what they’re looking for so they’ll keep coming back? Why send them right back into the arms of Goliath? Personally, I think they need a better slingshot.

Maybe I could understand it if they only sold them in stores and not online or not at all. Although losing sales doesn’t really make much sense to me in the long run. It’s not like Amazon can’t sell the print copies online. But if someone wants it quicker, they’ll go to the bookstore to get it. Right?

And according to the Bottom Line on, Amazon is looking into opening retail stores. Yeah. So who’s going to lose there if customers want to actually walk into a store and find the books they’re looking for?

Now of course, I have  to put in my opinion as a writer just briefly. If I have a book to sell, I want it in as many locations as possible. Who am I going to give my support to? Those who make my books available to their customers? Or those that don’t?

I’m by no means an expert on any of this. But, does this make sense to anyone else? What am I missing? What are your thoughts on what’s happening?


Follow Rhonda Hopkins:

The award-winning author of THE CONSUMING, and the zombie apocalypse series, SURVIVAL. She writes horror/sci-fi, paranormal, YA urban fantasy, suspense, and middle grade.

28 Responses

  1. Patricia Yager Delagrange

    Yes, I’m published but I’d feel the same way as anyone else who is a reader, i.e. what sense does it make not to sell an Amazon book just because of Amazon’s exclusivity thing with authors? If a reader has the rare opportunity to WALK into a real live bookstore, as a bookstore I’d be doing all I could to please that reader – no matter what!

  2. Harry Shannon

    I’ve benefited greatly from Kindle, but understand why other companies are reacting to what has rapidly become an unchecked monopoly. Doubt this action will do much to slow the tide, though–my guess is they will work out more favorable terms with Amazon and then cave in. The giant is here to stay, at least for the time being.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I’m glad you stopped by Harry. I think Amazon has been a great company breaking down barriers for writers. But, like you said, I can understand other companies having a problem with the monopolizing. In Kent’s post that I linked to above, he talks about the possible concerns about this in the future for writers and publishers as well. A healthy competition is good for everyone. I just think the way B&N and the others are going about it is not good for them or their readers. Maybe there’s something there I’m not seeing though. Thanks for taking time to leave a comment. 🙂

  3. PJ Sharon

    Excellent post, Rhonda and a great summary of the problem. I agree whole-heartedly that B&N is not doing themselves any favors with their boycott. As much as it makes me feel like a turn-coat (because I LOVE B&N stores and don’t want to see them shut down), I’ll be publishing my next book with KDP Select. I’ll leave my other two books available on all distribution channels, but I need to see if I can increase sales through the Select program. It’s a business decision and I only sell about 15-20 books a month on ALL other channels combined compared to 200 a month on Amazon. It’s a no-brainer for me.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Thanks, PJ! I completely understand your decision. Lots of others have said that they have sold more books after signing up for the KDP Select Program. Everyone has to make the decision for themselves if it’s what’s best for them. I love going into B&N stores as well. I like buying online from Amazon. Both have their good and their bad. We need both for healthy competition. It wasn’t long ago, B&N was gobbling up all the little stores, so they’ve been the big mean guy themselves in the past. Glad you stopped by and good luck with all three books. I’ll be interested in seeing how the Select Program works out for you.

  4. CC MacKenzie


    I’ve just posted the very same question on another blog talking about this subject where the writer is asking ‘what about freedom for the writer?’

    Like you, I’ve been following this story closely. Amazon’s Kindle Select programme was/is experimental, they’re testing the market. B&N’s response has been a knee-jerk. Neither company is thinking of the reader imho. And the writers who signed up to Kindle select aren’t thinking of the reader either. They’ve limited who will get to see their stories and that is never a good thing in my opinion.

    Where’s the reader’s pov in all this? Surely bookstores are there to serve the reader us/me? Without the reading public there wouldn’t be a bookstore. Bookstores are in trouble, why on earth shoot themselves in the foot? Why don’t they improve the reading experience for us? Encourage us into their stores, make them fabulous places of interest to be, to take our kids for their first book/Nook/Kindle purchase?

    B&N etc should be offering the reader a better reading/purchasing experience than Amazon. Yes, it’ll be difficult but not impossible. AND they should be encouraging indie authors too, to give the reader a CHOICE. I cannot fathom the thinking of these guys.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Christine! You’re so right about the bookstores needing to focus on the readers. I don’t want the retail book stores to go away. I enjoy the time I spend in them. Whether indie book stores or conglomerates like B&N. They all have something to offer. They should be trying to figure out how to make the experience unique to bring customers in. Hopefully the big guys will get their stuff worked out soon. I don’t have a problem with the authors that go with the Select Program though. It’s only for 3 months — unless they decide to stay with it. And like PJ said’s a business decision. They get more exposure to the readers. Those that are selling well on other sites usually aren’t opting for this. But if it helps bring more readers to the author then both win. I know everyone has their favorite e-readers, but I have both apps on my computer so if I see one I want at a lower price or even free on one (for instance I have some type of coupon code) I can get it regardless of who’s selling it. Anyway, that’s just my opinion. Thank you so much for stopping in and commenting. 🙂

  5. CC MacKenzie

    I just want to say that I’m not attacking anyone who puts up their book on Kindle Select, I respect their choice and why they’ve done it. I’m thinking from a reader pov rather than a writer.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Completely understood. I had similar thoughts when it first came out. I’ve just seen authors benefiting from it. I don’t know what I will decide but I’m trying to sort it out. 🙂

  6. Maria

    Once there is no competition for Amazon, how do you think the company will treat writers? I base my beliefs on their actions toward others. I will not buy from Amazon nor will I support their continued insistence on exclusivity. I will continue to push for an examination of Amazon’s business practices. Their help to consumers and writers will be short lived should they ever be the only game in town.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Maria! I don’t want Amazon to be the only game in town, either. I want B&N to succeed. I just think the way they’re going about it affects the consumer (readers) more so than Amazon. I don’t want to forget what a great opportunity Amazon has given to writers and small publishers the last few years. But if they were the one and only? Not a good idea for anyone. Hopefully they’ll come up with a plan that will work for everyone. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

  7. Catie Rhodes

    Thanks, Rhonda, for posting the rundown on this. I was aware of some controversy, but I didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on.

    Bricks and mortar bookstores are getting fewer and fewer. Where I live (near a dense commercial area) there is only one bookstore. It is a B & N, but it is at the mall, so I never visit.

    I think B & N’s reaction is a sour grapes thing. The people who won’t shop anywhere but B & N will continue to do so, and the same goes for Amazon customers, I suspect.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Catie! You’re probably right. Most people will continue to shop at those places they currently do. I just hope they get it all worked out so WE can continue enjoying easy access to the authors we love regardless of who publishes them.

      I don’t shop at the B&N at the mall either. Well, unless I’m already there for some reason which might be once every 5 years. LOL I really dislike going to malls. 🙂 Thank you so much for coming by!

  8. Edward G. TalBot

    Both companies of course are for profit entities seeking nothing less than to sell as much as possible. I happen to be an ebook and physical book customer of both stores, so both send me several emails a month. Most of what I buy are ebooks priced $4.99 or less, and occasionally a hardcover (plus non-book items from Amazon). Amazon’s emails mostly feature ebooks priced at $4.99 or less in the genres I read. Barnes and Noble’s emails mostly feature ebooks priced $9.99-$14.99, both in the genre I read and not.

    I can speculate with some confidence that Amazon’s goal is to attract customers who will buy more and more things and they literally don’t care what they sell a customer in terms of content. They simply want the customer to be given the opportunity to make as many targeted purchases as possible. B&N does target customers based on prior sales, but they have other criteria as well. They want to sell traditionally published books because the success of the brick and mortar stores depends on traditional publishers (for multiple reasons) and because they make more money per book on those.

    Put simply – Amazon tries to sell the customer what Amazon thinks the customer wants to buy. B&N tries to sell the customer what B&N wants the customer to buy. And Amazon’s model works better in the ebook/online world.

    When you look at all this, it’s easy to see why B&N decided to make this move – they’re doing it to protect traditional publishers. So far, big name authors have not jumped ship. They get good deals and have a lot of paper sales still. But if Amazon swoops in and offers just about everything the Big 6 can offer plus better commission, it’s game over.

    This move certainly might delay big name authors jumping ship. In that sense, it might “work” for Barnes & Noble. But unless they figure out how to deal with the issue of Amazon’s customer model being superior for an increasingly ebook world, the respite will be relatively short-lived.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Edward, thank you so much for stopping by and leaving your comments. I’m like you. I buy eBooks for $4.99 or less. If I’m going to pay more than that, it better be an author I already love and want the print copy. Those I get from either B&N or Amazon. I actually go into B&N though to do my purchasing. I rarely buy anything through their website. You’re absolutely right of course both companies “are for profit entities seeking nothing less than to sell as much as possible”. I just hope they remember that without writers and readers both stand to lose significantly (B&N more than Amazon b/c they do quite well with other merchandise) and they will come up with a plan that doesn’t leave us feeling as if we’ve been pushed under a bus. I hope you have a great evening. Cheers!

      • Edward G. TalBot

        Cheers to you too, and thanks for the post! The main reason I pay $4.99 or less is because there are so many great books for that price from fellow indie and small publisher authors. There are a few very special authors for whom I pay more, but I’m not finding any new ones of those, as the only new authors I wind up trying are those $4.99 or lower ones.

        • Rhonda Hopkins

          That’s pretty much been what I’ve been buying the last few months as well. New indie authors. I’ve found some really great new authors! My TBR iist just keeps growing. 🙂

  9. Jennette Marie Powell

    I’m way behind on my blog reading, but wanted to say thanks for a thoughtful look at the industry. IMO this is really short-sighted of B&N and the other retailers – after all, one big reason people shop at Amazon is the selection! So they’re doing one more thing to limit theirs? The other thing B&N needs to do is step up to the plate regarding customer service. Amazon’s is fantastic. B&N’s is just the opposite – and it’s why I don’t shop there any more.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Jennette! I’ve heard other people say that about B&N. I haven’t had a problem, but I mostly shop in their stores, so don’t have a lot of online experience with them. The staff in the stores I do frequent are friendly and helpful. And for all the online shopping I’ve done at Amazon, I’ve never had a problem so I haven’t had to work with their customer service. Good to know that it’s fantastic in case I ever do. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂

  10. Pete Denton

    I read a number of blog posts recently where people have commented on the fact that Amazon sales account for 98%+ of their sales. It makes sense to go with KDP Select. I’m not at the stage of trying to publish my novel but what is on offer seems the best solution at the moment.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      Hi Pete! Thank you for stopping by. I’ve heard that figure a lot as well. It is a business decision pure and simple. If you can garner more sales and more readers then why not? Good luck to you!

  11. Kayla Sonergoran

    Personally, I feel all these companies that complain about Amazon are just mad that they never thought of it first. People for a long time, were forced to buy from B&N, Borders, and so on. All the prices were the same, the only differences between the different bookstores was the frequency of sales and frequency of changing selection.

    Then Amazon comes along, and like Netflix to Blockbuster, listens to all the complaining of customers that were being ignored by brick and mortar stores. They came up with a new model that worked in our favor and now all these companies want to do what they can to destroy Amazon.

    They even endorse the idea of big government to unfairly take down Amazon due to its success.

    For me, these companies have no one to blame but themselves. They chose not to listen to customers, they chose not to innovate and continually change their model as technology came. They let themselves be vulnerable to new competition.

    Eventually Amazon will be bested by a another model in the coming decades (or years in tech time). Its how the business cycle works.

    I think B&N’s decision to ban Amazon books from their store is a sign of how misguided B&N has been all these years. Its a prime example of why they are dying while Amazon is growing.

    B&N is depending on the vindictive government to come up with financial barriers to destroy Amazon, such as with sales tax (though it is illegal since the Supreme Court ruling says you need a physical location). In this day and age, people prefer to use the government to sustain unsustainable models rather than force businesses to either adapt, innovate, or just die off.

    • Rhonda Hopkins

      I definitely agree, Kayla. They have no one to blame but themselves for what is happening. Instead of leading the way for better service, they decided to stick with the status quo. Amazon’s pretty good at adapting and changing when necessary, so as long as they keep it up, I expect they’ll be around a long while. Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. 🙂