Barnes & Noble Faces Scorn Over Kerry Book Sellout

The Curmudgeony Librarian writes "Bookstore giant Barnes and Noble finds itself in hot water from both sides of the political fence as copies of the controversial book "Unfit for Command" have sold out. The book, written by John O'Neill and Jerome Corsi, is critical of Presidential candidate John Kerry’s war service. In an already contentious political season, this book shortfall has only fueled controversy. Some customers claim this shortage is intentional and accuse the chain of hiding the book. At the same time, some critics of the book have asked the chain to remove the book from their shelves."


I stopped at B&N yesterday to inquire about the book (seeing a tableful of anti-Bush books with a doplet of the other sides) and was told they were sold out and that I could put my name on a waiting list. I don't know how large the publisher/distributor is, but I suspect it too was not prepared. Surely, a bookstore, unlike librarians, wouldn't suppress a book if it can make a profit?

My local Barnes and Noble says they just ran out--that the publisher didn't send any of the bookstores enough copies. And, yes, customers are accusing them of being part of a vast left-wing liberal media conspiracy.

I am a book publisher. Getting stocked in B&N and Borders is not always easy. Keeping your books on their shelves is difficult, at best. Borders and B&N both have very strong opinions about what they will and won't carry. But that all goes out the window when a title is selling like proverbial hotcakes. They are in it for the money. They happily put Clinton's _My Life_ next to Anne Coulter's. Vote with your wallet, it's all cash to them. To accuse booksellers of a political bias is idiocy. I have a pal who owns a bookshop. She has a bumper sticker that reads _Shoot Cheney First_. She will happily sell you a copy (or many) of _Michael Moore is a Big Fat Idiot_ or any other political screed your little heart desires. But if she doesn't have it--likely, it's a very small shop--she'll have to order it for you. This she will do at no charge. She won't even ask you to pay up front. Why? Because she *wants*your*money*. But let's look at whence this _information_ comes--yes indeedy, it's the unironically labeled _fair and unbiased_ Fox News, home of some of the most appalling propaganda on American airways. Telling people there's a left-wing conspiracy preventing them from getting a book when all that is happening is a very small press is having problems shipping enough books to meet demand (the initial run was 30,000. They have shipped 325,000 at last count) is political red-baiting and possibly an incitement to riot. It's also great free pr. Lest you think this is all an anti-right wing screed, I think that those who demand booksellers remove a title they find objectionable to be guilty of attempted thought control. Remember the guarantee of free speech in our Constitution? A heck of a lot of people fought and died to insure that booksellers and librarians can offer a full range of ideas...even if YOU find some of them nauseating. I grew up in the belief that we could disagree thoroughly with each other, but still remain civil (hence CIVILization (be nice. I was very young then)). America in 2004 is not a civil place. People I know won't speak to me, since I won't support the president. We are not listening to each other, not working to find the right path together... and I find this worrisome. We're faced with stateless terrorism and have no clue how to fight that. We need to be ONE people right now. We have to start focusing on what's actually important, instead of getting sidetracked by useless political sideshows, like what B&N is/ not stocking.

Thank you for this excellent, informative post. I hadn't heard anything about this on Fox--and did they report a plan to hold up the book, or just report some book buyers suspected it? Your own slant prevents you from hearing the bias in other media, perhaps, like them not mentioning or analyzing the charges in the book, only the controversy of it having been published.

"We need to be ONE people right now" I always smile at this one. Reminds me of the old saw that when a man and woman become one through marriage, that one is the man. When it is used in political discourse, it means we could be more civil if everyone came over to my side (left, right, middle). Kerry denouncing the SBVT ads, for instance, when his side in 527s has spent 200 times more in anti-Bush ads. Now the Kerry ads are accusing the SBVT of being backed by Republican big money. Soros money is "little" I guess.

I haven't checked the blognews yet today to see if Kerry/Edwards will denounce 527s the way President Bush did. Kerry can say it was all his idea, although I think the RNC had filed a complaint in May about the DNCs links to 527s.

...or at least it did when I worked there a few years ago. Publishers really do run out of books, especially those recommended by Oprah. While Oprah would not recommend this book (imagine that), I'm sure the publicity about bookstores "running out" will create even more demand. Bottom line, B&N wants to sell as many books as it can and would not "hide" books from potential purchasers.

I left B&N to go to library school, partly because the further I got up in management, the more it was all about $$$$ and no longer about books or good customer service. I don't think pushing "Readers Advantage" cards on every single customer is good service. It felt more like I was being a pain in the *** to customers.

On the Howie Carr Radio Talk show here in Boston Howie did several segments with people calling in about trying to get the book at various bookstores, not just B&N, and sometimes they didn't have it, sometimes they surrounded with anti-Bush books, sometimes they were flat out rude to the customer for wanting the book.

Its not always just about making money. If I owned a bookstore I would probably carry anti-Bush books, it depends on how heavy the invective is. If I owned a video store I wouldn't carry Fahrenheit 9/11, I wouldn't even order it if requested. There are some things in life more important then money.

Subscribe to Comments for "Barnes & Noble  Faces Scorn Over Kerry Book Sellout"