A recent e-mail offer from Amazon reminded me (again) just what a savvy competitor the Seattle-based Internet retailer is.
Based on my purchases and the purchases of other “customers who purchased literary fiction,” Amazon says I “may enjoy these new releases.” The recommended list that follows includes novels by Chuck Palahniuk, Elizabeth Gilbert and William Boyd — all of which I am, in fact, interested in. (Way to go, algorithms!)
When I clicked through to “learn more,” though, I learned that most of these novels are “new” in the extreme: They won’t be published until October. But just because I can’t read these high-profile novels for months, doesn’t mean I can’t “pre-order” them now from Amazon, which, of course, is exactly the point.
By pre-selling these big-name novels, Amazon removes even the possibility that you might see and buy a copy in your local bookstore in October. Let local merchants sponsor readings by Elizabeth Gilbert this fall; by that time, her most ardent fans will already have her book in hand. The competition for buyers is over even before it begins.
Brick-and-mortar bookstores could offer the same advance sales, of course. But how many of them do? They’re busy trying to sell their current stock — probably at prices higher than Amazon’s. There’s nothing “new” about that.
Unless indie bookstores respond aggressively, it doesn’t take a financial genius to see the end-point of this contest. Borders, anyone?