President’s Online-Only Book Launch Triggers Online Vs Offline War; Offline Retailers Revolt


President of India Pranab Mukherjee has stirred a hornet’s nest this time; and the controversy, which has nothing to do with it’s content, is threatening to snow-ball into a major issue.

His new book: “The Dramatic Decade: The Indira Gandhi Years” is scheduled to be released on December 11, which is also his birthday.

The publishers of this book, Rupa Publication has inked an exclusive deal with Amazon India, wherein the book would be only available at Amazon for 21 days, after which it would be available in brick-and-mortar book stores.

Amazon Exclusive Pranab Mukherjee book

Traditional bookstores, which have been selling Rupa Publication books for decades are feeling cheated, and offended.

They have termed this decision as monopolistic and grossly unfair. Several bookstore owners have decided to boycott Rupa Publication books, and have sent angry letters to their representatives.

And this daring marketing decision is working it seems. Preorders of this book has already reached #3 position in top-selling list after Chetan Bhagat and Sachin Tendulkar’s books, and traditional bookstores are all set to experience major losses.

Rupa has done what mobile phone manufacturers have been doing since last few months: Online only exclusive launches, which causes much buzz and hype for the product, and consumers find themselves scrambling for the products.

But the question here is, is our President so desperate for attention and ‘exclusivity’ that traditional bookstores can be ignored?

Reactions from Brick and Mortar Bookstores

Anuj Bahri, CEO of Bahri Sons, a popular book store in New Delhi said, “How stupid it is of a publisher, who has sold more than 5,000 books, to sell this one book exclusively to the online retailer? Are we jokers sitting here? Who is going to do justice to his other books. We have decided to boycott all his books. If he thinks he can survive on his own, without the trade, then good for him. It is his policy and his decision. Let him sell all his other books through the online platform,”

Emami Frank Ross’ Starmark division chief executive officer Gautam Jatia told Business Standard, “This will set a dangerous trend. The online sellers just gain market share using predatory pricing which is not a healthy competition. So, we along with Crossword and Sapna have written to Rupa to reverse this decision or else we will not buy or display their books in future,”

Ajay Mago of Om Bookstores, another hugely popular book store in Delhi, said, “We have nothing against the online medium, but in this case, what should be questioned is why the publishers have chosen this medium to sell the book. Why they chose to restrict offline selling for three weeks,”

Om Bookstore is known for catapulting careers of several Indian authors including Amish Tripathi, and are well known to support new authors.

Charan Singh Rawat, sales manager of Jain Book Store, shared his opinion this way: “This had happened previously with Chetan Bhagat’s latest novel. The publisher has been telling us not to sell the book online. What sense does it make? Such tantrums won’t be accepted and they can’t run the business like this. We have told them we won’t keep their books on such terms and conditions. We can’t afford to sell books with such huge margins. So let them sell books exclusively online,”

Rupa has declined to comment on this controversy, meanwhile Amazon India has said online medium is just another channel to sell books, and the publishers would be the right person to comment on their preference.

Scarcity Tactics: How Far Can It Go?

We had shared earlier how scarcity triggers the human mind into hyper-action, and results are fabulous for the seller. Motorola was able to sell 6 mobile phones every minute, when it launched Flipkart only business model, wherein their units where only available on Flipkart.

We have explained how scarcity principle works, and how entrepreneurs can take advantage of this.

But the case with President of India is different. Launching such exclusive only deal on Amazon can be interpreted into several, dangerous ways, and the reaction till now seems scary.

1 Comment
  1. Deepak Kanakaraju says

    If everyone resisted change, we would still be cutting woods and building huts like in Age of Empires. Disruption is the name of the game. Online is going to win the war! If I have to take my car go to a book store and buy it would cost 2 hours of my time in this traffic and around Rs.200-300 in fuel and maintenance for my car. Yes, the book store owners are jokers for getting angry instead of adapting to change. This is not monopoly. The publisher is free to parter with anyone. It’s a free country!

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