B&N Cancels Order for Chelsea Green’s Obama Book

Barnes & Noble has cancelled its 10,000-copy order of Obama’s Challenge, a book by Robert Kuttner that Chelsea Green is making available early exclusively through Amazon.com. Chelsea Green president and publisher Margo Baldwin said the chain will make the book available on BN.com and will special order it, but that it will not stock it in its stores.

More at Publisher's Weekly


Barnes & Noble Cuts 'Obama' Book Order Amid Amazon Deal

Barnes & Noble Inc. is cutting its order for Robert Kuttner's coming "Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency" after learning that the publisher, Chelsea Green Publishing Inc., has struck an exclusive agreement to make copies available first via Amazon.com Inc.'s Web site for two weeks.

Independent Booksellers 'Disheartened' with Chelsea Green

Many independent booksellers are outraged with Chelsea Green’s decision to sell Robert Kuttner’s new book, Obama’s Challenge, by offering a discount coupon at the Democratic National Convention redeemable exclusively on Amazon.com via POD until the regular print run is available for national distribution. Since the announcement last Friday, Chelsea Green’s sales team has received e-mails calling the move “a money-grubbing sellout,” a “slap in the face,” and “another blow to independent bookstores.”

Associated Press: Obama book falls victim to booksellers' rivalry

A new book about Sen. Barack Obama has intensified a rivalry between two powerful competitors: Barnes & Noble, Inc. and Amazon.com.

Chelsea Green Publishing, a small, liberal publisher based in Vermont, is releasing Robert Kuttner's "Obama's Challenge," a call for Obama to enact a bold, progressive economic agenda. It plans to distribute copies at next week's Democratic National Convention, where Obama is expected to get the party's presidential nomination.

Angering both Barnes & Noble and independent sellers, the publisher also will distribute coupons that can be redeemed exclusively through Amazon.com's BookSurge, a "print-on-demand" service that through digital technology enables books to be printed in small quantities.

Blog entry:
Chelsea Green and the politics of ‘Obama’s Challenge’

The publishing and bookselling world has been atwitter since the announcement on Friday of publisher Chelsea Green’s decision to offer Robert Kuttner’s Obama’s Challenge early exclusively on Amazon.com. As soon as news of the announcement was posted on Publisher’s Weekly’s website, comments flooded in on the article, outraged at the decision by the publisher. Letters and complaints were also sent to Chelsea Green’s sales team, and the strong response prompted an open letter from Chelsea Green’s president, Margo Baldwin.

Here is a link to the first chapter of the book.

An Open Letter to Booksellers Regarding Obama’s Challenge

Open letter to the bookselling community:

First I want to thank all of you for the big positions you have taken on Robert Kuttner’s important new book, Obama’s Challenge: America’s Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency. As Hendrick Hertzberg just wrote on his New Yorker blog, “Obama's Challenge is the fruit of Bob Kuttner’s lifetime of engagé reporting, analysis, and advocacy…. it is riveting, brilliant, and persuasive. Kuttner, in concise chapters written with great vigor and clarity, shows what the change could look like if Obama is bold enough to go for it and the gods continue to smile on him.”

Secondly, I want to respond to the initial reaction to our decision to launch this book by offering a special discount coupon at the Democratic National Convention, redeemable exclusively on Amazon.com via print-on-demand technology until the regular print run is available for national distribution.

Letter continued here.

I think it is dirty pool for a publisher that regularly deals with all in the trade to hold back a book from all sales channels save one for a period of time to allow them to get the lucrative street date sales.

Chelsea Green should be ashamed of themselves. I prefer my local indy bookstore because they have something Amazon does not have, my friends and neighbors working there. Sure the people in whoville from which Amazon ships books need to work too, but they don't need to take money from the pockets of my local bookstore.

I am certain the publisher wants to capture the fervor of the Convention, and the coupon and POD certainly are a way to do that, and I am at heart a Capitalist so I don't bedrudge anyone an ethical money making opportunity. However it is simply not something I would do. I would not shut out independents simply because my press run timing was poor, or because I wanted a bigger share of the profit to the detriment of the small business owner.

Perhaps they wanted to test the waters before committing to a big print run, look at Representative Pelosi's dismal sales - perhaps people are just not in the market for a book of that type now. I can certainly understand that, however closing distribution channels seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face.

So, I wouldn't buy it unless and until I could buy it from my local independent bookstore.

I also wouldn't buy it because I don't really want to read it, but if it were something I would read, I would not buy it just for my own feeble protest at the man who puts profit so far ahead of fair dealing as to be unethical. It's legal - sure; but it is still dirty pool.

Eight locations come up on Worldcat for this book.

They are:
Laramie County Library System
Free Library of Philadelphia
Westport Public Library (CT)
Seattle Public Library
Ybp Library Service
Baker & Taylor (OH)
Baker & Taylor Inc Tech Service & Prod Dev (NC)

Las Vegas is located in Clark County.
Reno is located in Washoe County.
Area 51 is mostly located in Lincoln County.
Art Bell's "Kingdom of Nye" is in Pahrump in Nye County.
Stephen Michael Kellat, Host, LISTen
PGP KeyID: 899C131F

“Who’s Chelsea Green?” you ask. Chelsea Green is a small, third-rate publishing house that has confirmed its third-rate status with its recent snub of independent booksellers by making a new pro-Obama book available through Amazon and at a special discount before it becomes available in bookstores.

Full blog post here.

Has a blog entry: Buy Local, Unless There's Money in It for Me

Chelsea Green, a pretty crunchy eco-publisher, has raised the hackles of both B&N and the US indie bookstore community by deciding to initially release its new book titled Obama’s Challenge exclusively through Amazon.com. According to this Times article the decision was made to engage the folks attending the upcoming Democratic National Convention. Katherine Walton (not listed on Chelsea Green's staff page for some reason) told the Times that they felt the book was too important to wait for all sales channels to receive the book. Putting it in Amazon's POD program would allow folks immediate access to the book. This decision has apparently cost them a 10,000 copy order from B&N, not to mention quite a few orders from independents.

Full blog entry here.

They make this comment in their blog entry:

If they really felt that what was important here was getting this book's message out, perhaps again they could have learned a little something from university presses. Offer it open access. If they were really prepared to "bonfire" the book in January, they could have survived the decrease in sales online access might have caused. I'll bet it would have been less than the 10,000 copy order B&N canceled.

Booksurge Bite Back for Obama

I think Chelsea Green needs to wake up and smell the democracy. Any publisher keeping up to date with just how the world is changing (including the Amazon POD monopoly game and current associated litigation) shouldn't even be surprised, let alone dismayed, let alone scolding us like naughty and delusional children with the old 'cut off your nose to spite you face' litany.

Did they consider, even for a moment, the problem is not with POD, but with the choice of a POD printer that is essentially 'in house' to Amazon? Did they wonder whether, if POD companies were Presidential candidates, Booksurge would be Obama?

Full blog post here.

Amazon has the book down to $8. Print on Demand cost a little more than traditional print runs so Amazon is shaving the margins on this one. Marking the book super cheap will drive up sales and will show how great Amazon's pod service is. (View that Amazon wants people to take)

Here is a link to the book.

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