Wal-Mart Takes On Bookstores

Amazon.com might be feeling a little paranoid these days -- it seems like everyone is trying to ruin its efforts to be the chief online book seller. First, we hear that internet behemoth Google is going to try to encroach on up some of its e-books market share. Today we find out that retail giant Wal-Mart hopes to compete with paper book sales through its website. The latter effort is particularly notable, since Wal-Mart's threat would extend well beyond just Amazon, to jeopardize the business of other book retailers.

Reuters reports:

The online division of Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said on Thursday that it is pricing the top 10 pre-selling books on its website at $10 each, including free shipping.


The $10 price represent a 66 percent cut on the $28.99 listing price for Sarah Palin's "Going Rogue: An American Life", or a 64 percent cut on the $27.99 price for Michael Crichton's "Pirate Latitudes."


Walmart.com also said it is rolling out a new book program, called "America's Reading List." Under that program, it is cutting the price of 200 of the nation's best-selling books, including "The Lost Symbol" by Dan Brown, by 50 percent or more from their listing price.

I find the concept of "America's Reading List" particularly amusing. As mentioned above, it's not books that Americans necessarily should read, just those that it does read. As a result, you get a hodgepodge of titles including Palin's book noted above, several Glenn Beck's books, Ted Kennedy's Memoir, The Spark Diet, The Twilight Saga and Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan's new book. It really has something for everyone, unless you're looking for literary classics. Of the 200 titles, the only classic I could find scrolling through was Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird." Although, it did also include "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance-Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem." So that's almost two literary classics.

Some of its prices are seriously competitive, even beating Amazon's in some instances. Glenn Beck's "Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government" is $16.47 on Amazon, but only $14.50 on Wal-mart.com. Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" is $16.17 on Amazon, but again only $14.50 on Wal-mart.com. Of course, on both those titles, Amazon was even cheaper than Barnesandnoble.com. So Wal-Mart clearly isn't messing around.

It's an interesting experiment, to be sure. Some might argue that Wal-Mart customers aren't typically bookworms. Yet, as I indicated above, the titles they're offering heavy discounts on are the most popular that even more casual book-readers probably enjoy.

Presented by

Daniel Indiviglio was an associate editor at The Atlantic from 2009 through 2011. He is now the Washington, D.C.-based columnist for Reuters Breakingviews. He is also a 2011 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow through the Phillips Foundation. More

Indiviglio has also written for Forbes. Prior to becoming a journalist, he spent several years working as an investment banker and a consultant.

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