Bookstores sore with Rupa's Amazon deal for Pranab Mukherjee's book

The sales strategy by publishing house Rupa, the publisher of  President Pranab Mukherjee's The Dramatic Decade -The Years of Indira Gandhi   has sparked a face-off between bookstores and Amazon along with publisher Rupa, as the book will be available exclusively on Amazon for a period of 21 days.

Book stores are irate over the deal between Rupa Publishers and Amazon and have termed the tie-up as unfair and monopolistic. While some bookstores are planning to boycott Rupa, others have shot off emails registering their protest.

The book will be released on Mukherjee's birthday, 11 December, and will be exclusively sold on Amazon till the end of the month. According to reports, the pre-orders for Mukherjee's book has beaten books by former president A P J Abdul Kalam, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and former Comptroller and Auditor General Vinod Rai, and put the book in the bestsellers list.

Only cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and writer Chetan Bhagat are ahead of Mukherjee on Amazon bestsellers lists.

Given the interest in his book, it's not surprising that offline retailers are uniting against this 'monopolistic practice'.

"It is an ongoing battle, and it will continue. It will tilt on the side with more muscle. It makes logistical sense for the publisher in terms of distribution. In such deals, the website typically assures the publishers of a minimum number of sales, which reduces risk for them. As for vendors, it brings them new customers," Mayank Dhingra, who formerly ran an online and phone book-delivery service, was quoted as saying in The Times of India.

''The president's name is, of course, a big draw. Even with (Vinod) Rai's book we had seen enthusiasm among readers skyrocketing on the e-route,'' Ritu Vajpayee Mohan of Rupa Publications told the Business Standard.

Ironically, Rupa is among the many publishers who have been threatening to sue online retailers for selling books at cut-rate prices. Last month, representatives from hundreds of publishers grouped themselves into three associations and met in New Delhi to decide on legal action to be taken against online retailers. The primary worry is that it will be difficult to raise book prices in future as customers become used to paying less.

The fight against e-commerce onslaught is not new and reached its peak after the pre-Diwali mega sales by Flipkart and Amazon, which offered massive discounts as many products were sold at below-cost prices.

Private investors have poured $2.3 billion into India's e-commerce companies so far this year, according to consulting firm Technopak. This gives them financial muscle to overwhelm shoppers with bargains and deals that brick-and-mortar retailers cannot match, which is why companies in the e-retail space are increasingly entering into exclusive sales tie-ups.