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Are Independent Bookstores a Dying Breed?

tombstoneRetail giants Walmart, Amazon and Target have come under fire recently for starting a price war on new hardcover titles, and pricing mom & pop bookstores out of the market. Walmart fired the first shot earlier in the month by offering online customers the chance to pre-order 10 of the holiday season’s hottest new books, including titles from Stephen King, John Grisham and Sarah Palin, for only $10. Amazon and Target then entered the fray and the pre-order price was whittled down to just $8.98. In the aftermath, The American Booksellers Association, which represents independent bookstores, wrote a letter to the Justice Department calling for an investigation of this “predatory pricing”. The ABA’s letter accused the mammoth retailers of selling the books at a loss in order to “win control of the market for hardcover best sellers.” Target, Amazon and Walmart are able to offset these losses, but independent booksellers operate on much slimmer profit margins and do not have this luxury. These price wars could not have come at a worse time for small bookstores, since the weakened economy and the rise in e-book popularity have steadily eaten away at their profits.

The latest development has Scribner announcing it will postpone the e-book release of Stephen King’s new title Under the Dome until Dec. 24, nearly six weeks after the hardcover version hits stores on Nov. 10. In a comment to Entertainment Weekly, King states: “It’s time to give the smaller bookstores a little breathing room.” No doubt King will also benefit from the increased hardcover sales, but he does bring up a good point. Many independent bookstores have become casualties in the war against giant retailers and emerging technology. Will the little guy be able to survive deep discounts and the e-book revolution? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

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