While no independent bookseller said the decision by Starbucks to sell Mitch Albom's For One More Day in its 5,400 stores will be a fatal blow to its business, many described it as just the latest in a trend making it that much harder to run a profitable bookstore. "This is one more complication in the lives of booksellers," said Russ Lawrence, owner of Chapter One Book Store in Hamilton, Mont., and ABA president. "It's nothing new to independent booksellers to find ourselves competing with grocery stores and warehouse clubs. We've been dealing with these kinds of incremental incursions for years." Cody Morrison, buyer for Square Books in Oxford, Miss., said the trend of box retailers moving into bookselling is discouraging. "It's already chain vs. independent and bricks-and-mortar vs. online, so this is another chunk out of the pie," Morrison said.
Although booksellers acknowledged that publishers have the right to sell books in as many outlets as possible, some questioned the wisdom of that strategy over the long term, and what it means for their relationship to booksellers. "I wish the publishers had a little more loyalty to traditional booksellers," said Carol Besse, co-owner of Carmichael's Bookstore in Louisville, Ky., said. "I know they're looking for any outlet they can find, but the more publishers do this, the fewer traditional booksellers there will be." Vivien Jennings, owner of Rainy Day Books, Fairway, Kan., said publishers' practice of expanding sales into nontraditional outlets is like "being nicked to death. It's death by 1,000 cuts." She said she finds it "astonishing" that publishers "haven't figured out that we need big books that we can make money on so we can handsell other titles. Are we supposed to make a living handselling two to three titles at a time? We can't."
Bob Miller, president of Hyperion, Albom's publisher, said he hopes the availability of For One More Day through Starbucks "will add new readers" and attract customers who don't usually go to bookstores. The book will be available only for a six-week period beginning October 3. Miller noted that Starbucks selected Day, and, contrary to what some booksellers believe, Hyperion did not make a special deal with the coffee giant. Starbucks said it plans to sell the title at the full retail price of $21.95. Miller said Day's first printing of 2.2 million copies will be more than enough to accommodate the needs of booksellers and Starbucks.
Neither Miller nor Starbucks Entertainment head Ken Lombard was willing to predict how many copies Starbucks may sell. Since August 1, however, Starbucks has sold nearly 30,000 copies of The Little Engine that Could as part of a special literacy promotion, and the company is expected to sell out all 60,000 copies it received before the end of the month.