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The tribulations of distribution

The tribulations of distribution

You'd think that Michael Halsband, a photographer noted for his work about the world of surfing (waves, not the Internet), would have been very pleased that his book was sold through Amazon.com. With a small business making a decent six-figure income, after all, what's better than to be attached to one of the world's largest booksellers?

But Halsband recently pulled his book from distributors that sell to Amazon and even, he says, bought 300 copies back from the Seattle-based megalith. The reason: Amazon was selling the book, which is cover-priced at $65, for $40.95, a price Halsband felt not only devalued the high-quality glossy book of pictures and text, but also cut his ability to make money selling the book himself. At the Amazon price, which includes free shipping, he says he can't make a profit.

He does believe customers see a value, an imprimatur of quality and legitimacy, from having his book in name-brand stores, so he's still leaving it for sale (at full price) through Barnes and Noble and Rizzoli, a high-end bookstore that doesn't appear to sell online.

There's never been a better time for getting your products into the public's hands. Tons of options exist for selling--eBay stores, PayPal merchant accounts (which Michael uses on his site), your own e-commerce solutions through your Web site)--and tons more options are available for marketing. The moral of this story is that not all channels are equal. Watch your margins and take actions you feel are best for your product. More and bigger may not always be better. If you have a product you feel customers relate to as high-end, who perhaps relate to it as more than a simple product (in this case, the work of an artist), you may have considerations that go well beyond selling your stuff as only a commodity. Does anyone else care to tell us if they're pulling away from big-gun Internet sellers?