In a letter about the upcoming holiday season, which appeared in Bookselling This Week, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher discussed various expected topics, like Indies First on Small Business Saturday (November 28) and the advantages of joining a national map for consumers. It was in his closing, though, that he touched on something of more pressing concern: How Amazon can sell books in its newly opened physical store in Seattle at the same prices as its online one.
How Amazon Books is stocking its shelves is among the questions indie booksellers have about the new bricks-and-mortar store. As a small physical store, similar in size to many indies, the location should not benefit from the deep discounts that its parent company receives on titles at the wholesale level. Though no specifics have been shared about how Amazon Books is being stocked, it's been largely assumed that the titles it sells are plucked from the larger shipments of titles that go to Amazon.com, a company that, given its size, receives books at far larger discounts than many indies.
Neither Amazon Books, or any bookseller, can commingle inventory purchased at wholesale with retail inventory. That Amazon Books is pricing its titles as aggressively as Amazon.com does has led many bricks-and-mortar booksellers to question whether it is benefiting from an unfair advantage, its wholesale discount.
While Teicher noted that it's "far too soon to speculate" about what Amazon is planning in terms of a bricks-and-mortar profile, ABA is watching the new physical store closely. And he promised his constituents that he has no intention of allowing Amazon Books to benefit from its ties to Amazon.com. He also pointed out that, for the small store to do so could be a violation of antitrust law.
He wrote: "I did want to make one thing clear: ABA member bookstores can rest assured that your trade association will continue to remind publishers and other vendors about their obligations under antitrust laws, especially regarding their need to ensure that inventory purchased under one set of terms is not commingled and transferred to another class of business. That remains a bedrock principle that everyone must abide by, and ABA will not be shy in raising this matter with all suppliers."