Still, there are issues. Is it OK for the manufacturer to offer lower prices or other incentives not available to retailers? What if the product is one that is typically sold at less than suggested retail price - should the manufacturer offer it at "street price."
Since I entered publishing in 1980, I have always sold direct to consumers, but been reluctant to offer consumer incentives that would seem unfair to my dealers.
It's one thing to sell direct, but another as to how and where you promote your direct channel. A curious case appears today where Penguin Books is promoting their online store on Shelf Awareness, an email newsletter sent to people in the publishing trade (ad below).
You might say that individuals at other publishing houses, agents and publicists are good prospects for a well-loved publisher such as Penguin. And "reader/booklover" is an accepted category of subscribers, so there are definitely consumers reading the newsletter. But one of the main readerships -- the one to whom most ads on Shelf Awareness are aimed -- is booksellers. It seems to me dangerous to rub your direct sales effort in the face of your primary distribution channel, especially since Penguin is offering gift packs and personalized editions that likely are not available to retailers (though make absolute sense in a web store) and promoting staff recommendations, just as a book store does.