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Are Amazon's new book discounts a 'declaration of war'?

Are Amazon's new book discounts a 'declaration of war'?
A screenshot of Amazon's 61% discount of the hardcover of one of its bestsellers, Dan Brown's "Inferno." (Amazon / screenshot)

Bargain book shoppers must have been pleased looking at Amazon's bestseller list this weekend: The online bookseller had dropped prices on some of its top-selling hardcovers, as much as 64% off retail.

The sudden discounts were so deep that one bookseller called them "a declaration of war."

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Sheryl Sandberg's "Lean In," Amazon's No. 9 bestseller, is priced at $9.09, 64% off its cover price. Khaled Hosseini's "And the Mountains Echoed," No. 5 on the site, is marked down 58% to $16.91. Dan Brown's latest Robert Langdon thriller, "Inferno," at No. 4 on Amazon's bestseller list, is marked down 61% to $11.65.

While people are used to seeing deals at Amazon, these price cuts are unusually deep. The booksellers' newsletter Shelf Awareness delivered a rare Saturday issue about them, writing that the discounts were at  "levels we've never seen in the history of Amazon."

"It's an open declaration of war against the industry," Jack McKeown, president of Books & Books Westhampton Beach in New York, told Shelf Awareness.

Amazon and the publishers affected declined to comment on the discounts.

On Tuesday, President Obama is expected to appear at an Amazon shipping center in Tennessee; the company recently announced that it will hire 5,000 new warehouse workers at it regional distribution centers.

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