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Barnes & Noble to pull DC graphic novels in digital spat

October 7, 2011 | 11:53 am

Watchmen DC Comics' efforts to expand digital distribution of its graphic novels has gotten it caught in a battle between two book-selling giants.

Barnes & Noble said Friday it will not stock physical copies of 100 of DC's graphic novels that the Warner Bros.-owned unit is making available exclusively on competitor Amazon.com's Kindle platform, including the upcoming Kindle Fire tablet.

DC agreed to give Amazon exclusive digital distribution rights for the books, which include "Watchmen" and graphic novels featuring Batman and Superman, for four months starting with the launch of the Kindle Fire on Nov. 15.

The deal gives DC's books, which are being made available digitally for the first time, the advantage of being part of Amazon's huge marketing push for the Kindle Fire.

Barnes & Noble said it had a policy to not put books that are available on other digital platforms, but not its Nook e-reader, in its 1,341 stores.

"We will not stock physical books in our stores if we are not offered the available digital format," chief merchant Jaime Carey said in a statement. "To sell and promote the physical book in our store showrooms and not have the ebook available for sale would undermine our promise to Barnes & Noble customers to make available any book, anywhere, anytime."

Customers will still be able to special order the books, however, as well as buy them from Barnes & Noble's website.

In response, a DC Entertainment spokeswoman pointed out that the graphic novels will be available on any device with Amazon's Kindle app, including Apple Inc.'s iPad, and not just the Kindle Fire.

"We are disappointed that Barnes & Noble has made the decision to remove these books off their shelves and make them unavailable to their customers," she said.

DC will swallow the sales hit from Barnes & Noble for the four months rather than alter its Amazon agreement, apparently betting that it can make more money online than it would have in the retail giant's stores.

As part of a relaunch in September of all its comic book titles, DC for the first time has been selling all of its comic books as digital downloads the same day they go on sale in stores.

-- Ben Fritz

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Photo: A panel from "Watchmen." Credit: DC Comics.

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