When Amazon was first given its nickname as the “evil empire” by some in the traditional publishing and bookselling industries, one question kept coming back up: “Who will be big enough to take down Amazon?” Critics lamented the fact that other retail outlets can’t compete with a company that can afford to take a loss on books and make up for it with sales of coffee makers and blue jeans. Retailers like Target and Walmart seemed poised to compete, but their physical store overhead and limited shelf space for books kept them from offering the volume of the world’s largest online retailer.
But according to an article today for The Bookseller, there is a retailer giving Amazon a run for its money in book pricing: Overstock.com. And just like Amazon, it too can afford to lose a few dollars on the price of print books and make up for it when its customers decide to purchase a household item at the same time in order to capitalize on reduced shipping costs.
“Shelf Awareness has reported that in response to the direct competition, which is across the 466,000 books that Overstock supplies, Amazon.com has begun discounting the price of hardback books much higher than before. Dan Brown’s Inferno is selling for $29.95 but is available on Amazon for $11.65, a 61% discount; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, listed for $28.95, is being sold at $12.04, a 58% discount; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, is listed at $24.95, and selling for $9.09, a 64% discount; while The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, listed at $17.99, is available for $6.55, 64% off.”
One thing that Overstock cannot match Amazon with is volume, at least not at this time. It would be interesting to know if Overstock is actually doing as the name implies and gathering up leftover merchandise–in this case, books from publishing houses–or simply brokering the books directly from the publishers like any other retail outlet. It would also be interesting to know if publishers are trying to build up relationships with Overstock in order to direct more customers to that retailer over Amazon. But be warned, a move like that would stand to simply create two retail giants who have the power to tell publishers how much their books will be sold for.