October 17, 2009

Wal-Mart, Amazon Battle Over Books

Amazon.com is battling it out in a full-on price war over an online book special offered by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the Associated Press reported.

At unbelievable $10 prices for upcoming hardcover releases, such as Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue" and John Grisham's "Ford County," Wal-Mart is offering 60 percent price breaks off of the standard cost, plus free shipping.

In keeping with competition, Amazon.com, the largest online bookseller, matched the $10 price, but Wal-Mart lowered prices still to $9.  By early Friday, Amazon.com had followed suit, also pricing books at $9. 

Seattle-based Amazon.com has already been dropping prices for ebooks to $9.99, which some publishers fear is impractically low.  Independent sellers cannot afford such significant discounts, making it increasingly difficult to compete for the best-selling books.

However, Amazon.com's discounting has beat out large chain bookstores like Borders Group Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. and also taken a generous share of their music business. 

"At Walmart.com, we remain committed to providing our customers with the lowest prices available online. That commitment extends to the nation's best-selling books, especially during an increasingly challenging year for many of our customers," Raul Vazquez, Walmart.com's CEO, said in a statement.

"Our newest offering - the Top 10 pre-selling books at just $10, with free home delivery - is a true reflection of this commitment to better help our customers shop and save money online, just in time for the approaching holiday season."

In a new program called "America's Reading List," Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart also will offer 50 percent off or more on 200 current best-sellers, including Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" and Kathryn Stockett's "The Help."

Booksellers have fought diligently to bring in customers for blockbuster releases such as Brown's "Lost Symbol" and the "Harry Potter" stories, offering reductions of 50 percent or higher. However, Wal-Mart's announcement proposes a far-reaching, sustained race for consumers at prices few competitors can match.


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