In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Amazon wars

Dear Annie,

Wow -- both your girls are moving right along on the reading front.  And having a good time doing it.

We also loved the Golly Sisters and their distinctly juvenile form of sibling bickering.  There are three Golly Sisters books, two of them now sadly out of print.  In Hooray for the Golly Sisters,  May-May and Rose encounter a river separating them from a town where they're scheduled to perform that evening.  The opening lines provided us with another of those family literary references:
"Big river," said May-May.
"Very big river," said Rose.
It comes in handy when faced with any large body of water.

Some interesting developments are afoot this week in the world of bookselling.  You eloquently discussed some of Amazon's predatory practices back before Christmas.  Now they're putting the squeeze on some book publishers to cut the prices at which they sell to Amazon.  Last week, Amazon stopped selling e-books from Independent Publishers Group because it refused to cave to Amazon's demands.  "It wasn't reasonable.   There's only so far we can go," said the head of IPG, a distributor which sells books for hundreds of small publishers.  Our store gets many titles, including the wonderful Alfie books and Dogger by Shirley Hughes, from IPG.

On Monday, Education Development Corporation, which publishes Usborne and Kane-Miller books in the U.S., announced it will no longer sell its 1,500 titles through Amazon.  They're an all-kids' book publisher -- we've talked about the Usborne activity books here and their First Experience series here.  Their publications which are nearest to my heart, though, are Atinuke's amazing Anna Hibiscus books.  Those come through Kane-Miller, which specializes in kids' books from around the world.  EDC started experimenting with going Amazon-less back in 2009 when it pulled its Kane-Miller titles -- at last I know why Anna Hibiscus was only intermittently showing up on Amazon.  They satisfied themselves that they could stay profitable -- Kane-Miller's sales are way up since then -- so they pulled the plug on the larger Usborne list this week.  The EDC president said Amazon is trying to "gain control of publishing and other industries by making it impossible for other retailers to compete effectively." And he concluded the announcement with a statement which has cheered many independent booksellers:
 From my point of view as an editor and publisher, this is also about supporting the connection between booksellers and book buyers. Hand selling has always been a necessary, integral part of the business, particularly with children's books. And it's still the hand selling, the independent booksellers and word of mouth that can create a best seller. Amazon might sell them, but independent booksellers are the ones who create them.
This is all cheering because from my point of view Amazon has seemed so unstoppable in its efforts to monopolize book sales in all forms.  Smart people are figuring out how to keep bookselling a varied and open marketplace.



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