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Newsletter #99 September November, 2012

Used Book Sale

        Every year our supply (oversupply) of used books gets larger. We’re having a used book sale to try to reduce our supply.
        All used books will be 20% off, whether you have a discount card or not. The sale includes used paperbacks, used hardcovers, used magazines, used gaming books, and bagged books.
        Because we have so many used audiobooks, we will be selling all used audiobooks at $5.00 each, whether cassette or CD. The sale runs from Friday, September 7 through Sunday, September 16. That gives you two weekends to take advantage of the sale.
        This sale will be for customers shopping in the store–it does not apply to mail orders. If you’re thinking about bringing in lots of used books to sell to us during the sale, expect a longer than normal wait.

How’s Business?
By Don Blyly

        Around August 1 a customer on the way out of the store thanked me for managing to keep the store open in spite of all the problems. A couple of days later the e-mail edition of Publishers Weekly had an article about Partners & Crime Mystery Booksellers in New York City going out of business in September after 18 years in business and also mentioned that Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks, California, went out of business at the end of July after 19 years in business. It used to be that specialty bookstores had a somewhat better chance to survive than full-line bookstores, but that clearly is no longer the case.
        We usually see a lot of once-a-year customers during July and August as out-of-state customers vacation in Minnesota or western Wisconsin and visit the Uncles while they are in the area. That has happened again this year, but we’ve also been seeing a lot of people who were staying at the Sheraton Hotel across the street. When they look out the window and see a bookstore across the street, many come over for a look, and some even buy some books. A couple of days ago, somebody from the Sheraton walked in and asked “Where is there a real bookstore in the area?” I raised my eyebrow to him, and he said, “You know, a bookstore that doesn’t sell science fiction.” It turns out that he was looking for religious books. I told him he would probably have to either go downtown or to the Hennepin-Lake area to find a large general bookstore, but that they would probably also have some science fiction available for sale.
        A couple of years ago, Amazon had 90% of the e-book market, and they were trying for even more market share by selling certain best-sellers below cost. Target and Walmart matched the Amazon prices, but nobody else could afford to do so. Steve Jobs of Apple went to some publishers and suggested that they switch from the “wholesaler” model (where the publishers sells to middlemen, who can then set any price they want for their customers) to the “agency” model (where the publisher determines the retail price and any middleman acts as an agent for the publisher, selling at the price determined by the publisher, and takes a commission on the sale–just like the insurance industry works, and like Apple handles digital music). Some of the publishers, both large and small, switched to the “agency” model; some publishers, both large and small, stuck with the “wholesaler” model.
        Jump forward a year and a half, and Amazon is down to 70% of the e-book market because lots of other parties can now afford to compete with them for e-book sales. The U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) then sued Apple and five of the top six U.S. publishers (the other publisher from the big six had stuck with the “wholesaler” model) for collusion and price fixing. All of the parties denied that they had done anything wrong, but three of the five publishers agreed to settle because they couldn’t afford the battle. (One of the settling publishers just revealed that it cost them $10,000,000 in legal fees over the last 6 months; presumably it’s been much more expensive for the parties that are still fighting.) The DoJ had to allow the public to review and comment on the proposed settlement with the three publishers that agreed to settle, with the judge then to review the comments before deciding whether or not to accept the DoJ’s proposed settlement. The DoJ received an amazing 868 written comments on the proposed settlement, of which 92% were opposed to the settlement and to the entire case. Among other things, the comments pointed out that the number of companies selling e-books has increase dramatically since some of the publishers switched to the “agency” model; that the average price of e-books has gone down since the introduction of the “agency” model; that publishers are making less money per e-book under the “agency” model than they did under the “wholesaler” model but are willing to do so because they expect to sell more copies now that there are more middlemen promoting and distributing the e-books; that there is nothing inherently illegal about the “agency” model; that the DoJ has not produced evidence of any collusion, just that some publishers decided to switch over to the “agency” model; and that the DoJ doesn’t seem to understand how either the publishing industry or the e-book marketplace actually operate. The DoJ response to the 92% of comments against their case and proposed settlement was, in my opinion, contemptuous towards all of the arguments presented. From the reports I’ve read, a majority of the 8% of comments in favor of the DoJ’s position seemed to be from self-published authors who sell their e-books through Amazon and thought that anything that helped Amazon increase market share was wonderful.
        I’ve looked over the DoJ’s proposed settlement agreement with the three big publishers who decided that they couldn’t afford to fight this all the way, and it looks almost as if it were drafted by Amazon. It’s no wonder that 92% of the comments were against it.
        The American Booksellers Association and Barnes & Noble are going to jointly file a friend of the court brief to try to help the judge understand how the publishing industry and the e-book marketplace actually operate. And sometime this Fall we’ll see what the judge thinks of the thousands of pages of comments in opposition to the DoJ position.
        As usual, we had lots more new titles than we had space for in the paper newsletter. Many books had their descriptions shortened, and most paranormal romances, gaming related titles, Doctor Who titles, kids and young adult books, reissues, and non-fiction titles were eliminated from the paper newsletter, but full information is on our website. There are also more science fiction and mystery reviews on the website.



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