I don’t know if everyone has seen the news about Costco and the book America: Imagine a World Without Her by Dinesh D’Souza, but I’ve read a lot about this, gotten some comments on here and Facebook, and some emails too. I had actually wanted to stay out of this completely because it seems to be a situation that is based on political ideology, and this isn’t that kind of blog. But I feel like I need to address it, if only to acknowledge to my readers that it’s a news worthy story.
So, if you’re not aware America: Imagine a World Without Her by Dinesh D’Souza was released in early June 2014 and Costco started selling it at that point. Sales were not great, according to information from Costco, and when they reviewed their book selection at the end of June it was determined that the book wasn’t selling well enough at their stores to meet their criteria. At that point Costco had only sold 3,600 copies of the book; that averages out to less than 10 per warehouse in the US. Also, at the end of the month, on June 27, the documentary based on the book was released at more than 1,000 theatres in the US. It seems that the movie prompted interest in the book and sales increased, both at Costco and other retailers.
In the week following the release of the film Costco sold around 700 copies of the book. The book is currently ranked number 1 at Amazon for books and number 7 for Kindle sales, but was only at number 51 earlier in the week. This week, America will hit number 17 on the NY Times Best Sellers list. The book does not show up on the Top 10 Best Sellers at Barnes and Noble for this week, but is currently number four on the list of top 100 books this hour. But the bump in sales at Costco, as well as at Amazon obviously, happened after the movie was released, and from what I can tell, after Costco had decided to quit selling the book. Some stores had started pulling the book immediately on July 1, others still had some on their book table earlier this week and were waiting until they do their regular book changes on Tuesday or Wednesday. After the increase in sales, and the big bruhaha over them discontinuing sales of the book, Costco has actually backtracked and decided to keep the book in their stores as a result of renewed interest and perhaps also because it is finally moving onto the NYT Best Sellers list.
On the face of it, it seems that Costco had decided to stop selling the book because it wasn’t selling that well and they have a very limited selection of books, so they get rid of the things that aren’t moving well, as you would expect since that is what they do with the items in the rest of the store. But there are many that see this as some evil, politically motivated conspiracy. Here’s what Costco has said in response to all this:
Costco is not a book store. Our book shelf space is very limited. We exercise discipline in the best utilization of that limited space based solely on what our members are buying. We can’t carry every title that our members are interested in reading. We are constantly monitoring book sales, and make decisions to pull books off the shelves frequently based on sales volume to make room for other titles. Politics or controversy over content do not influence our decisions.
I think this is a case of seeing controversy where there is none. Sometimes books don’t sell well at a particular retailer, it just happens. Costco stores don’t necessarily have the same demographics as Amazon, so their sales aren’t going to be the same. And honestly, this alleged slight to the book has probably done more for its sales than anything else. Costco has always carried books on both ends of the political spectrum, so it seems pretty clear that they don’t pick their books based on political message. They have a book on their table right now that is, by all accounts, also very critical of Obama and the current administration, One Nation: What We Can All Do To Save America’s Future by Dr. Ben Carson. I’ve also seen books by Rush Limbaugh at Costco, and if anyone is hating the other side of the political spectrum, it is him. So if Costco is so concerned with pushing a political agenda through their book table selections, why do they sell these books? Why is it just this one book that would be pulled? Probably because this one book wasn’t selling well with their members.
Not to mention, how do people think Costco buys books? Just randomly? There is no way that this book ended up at Costco without awareness of the content of the book, as well as the history of the publisher and author. Dinesh D’Souza, the author has made a whole career of writing books and making documentaries about how horrible liberals and Obama are for the US. And the list of books from the publisher, Regnery Publishing, makes it abundantly clear what side of the political aisle they are on, and it is definitely not the same one as the the current administration. I think Costco had sales expectations for this book that it did not meet. Perhaps they should have waited to make a decision about its continued poor sales record until after the movie was released. Of course, maybe this was just a part of the regular process they have for reviewing book sales. But whatever the reasoning, it looks tenuous at best to say that dropping the book was based on the political content of the book.
Also, Costco is not censoring your reading choices. They were exercising what is considered “editorial selection” because they do not have the space to sell every book ever published. Just like publishers cannot publish everything they receive from prospective authors, retailers cannot carry all books published. For instance, I’ll bet that your local Christian bookstore, like Family Christian, exercises editorial selection too and wouldn’t sell things that you might find at Costco or other book sellers. I’m pretty sure you’re not going to find Swedish Death Metal there, but you’d never demand that they stock it even though there’s no way it is going to be a big seller with their customers, would you? And you definitely wouldn’t claim that they are censoring books by not selling this. You would expect that they can’t carry every book and have to tailor their selection to the books that are popular with and appeal to their customers.
I want to make clear that I am neither for nor against this book. I could not care less if Costco sells this book or not, quite frankly. Politics, like religion, can be a very contentious subject for many people, and as such makes for quick, often over the top, knee-jerk reactions. Things like this become fodder in a political battle that has little to do with what is best or most productive for the country, which is a shame.
I haven’t turned off comments on this post but I will be watching them closely and will not allow comments on this post, or any other, to be used to make personal attacks or spurious claims about Costco, myself, or the author of this book. If we can all play nicely and behave in a mature and respectful manner that’s great, if not, I’ll be trashing comments, that is to say, I will be deleting unpleasant comments.
For more on this topic:
- Amazon.com: America: Imagine a World without Her by Dinesh D’Souza
- The Washington Times: Dinesh D’Souza book yanked from Costco shelves
- Newsmax: Costco Relents After Thousands Protest Decision to Pull D’Souza Book
- WND: Costco denies political motive for pulling D’Souza’s book
- TheNation: ABC News Helps Dinesh D’Souza Hype His Latest Conspiracy Theory