Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster Go to War, Authors in Crossfire

The book publishing industry is a pretty volatile place: Amazon.com becoming a book publisher and the U.S. government suing major publishers for price fixing are all just normal headlines these days. The latest upheaval in the industry is a major dispute is between Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster. The New York Times reports that Barnes and Noble is has severely cut its book orders during the cutthroat negotiations. This is really hurting authors whose books aren't being stocked. The bookstore has even cut orders of top authors. For midlist authors, it's a disaster.

So what's the dispute all about? No one will speak on the record but insiders talked to the Times, saying that Barnes and Noble wants to renegotiate its contract with Simon and Schuster. It wants to pay less for books and get paid a lot more for featuring certain titles at the front of the store. Barnes and Noble says it is one of the last bookstores standing and the publishers need to help. The book publisher says it wants to help, but can't afford Barnes and Noble's outrageous demands.

One person who would speak on the record about the dispute is Simon Lipskar, the president of Writers House, the New York literary agency. Lipskar said, "Without pointing fingers, authors are being hurt by this, and I think it is despicable." Authors report that Barnes and Noble is not giving them display space and is refusing to allow them to appear in their stores on book tours. Insiders say the dispute involves both physical books and ebooks.

The dispute is being watched closely by other publishers, who are concerned that the conflict will hurt the industry as a whole. Barnes and Noble has never done this before and it's got authors, agents and other publishers very concerned. Now that Borders is gone, Barnes and Noble and Books a Million are the only two major retail chains left with bricks and mortar stores. Barnes and Noble has seen declining sales of the Nook and ebooks, and clearly is embarking on a major cost-cutting program.

Posted on March 26, 2013

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