Tesco has warned Irish publishers that it will ban their books from the shelves of the supermarket if they do not play by its rules.
The row developed over the publication of 'The FitzPatrick Tapes', by Tom Lyons and Brian Carey, based on a series of interviews with the former chairman of Anglo Irish Bank, Sean FitzPatrick.
The bestseller, which sparked the controversy over the revelation about Mr FitzPatrick's golf meeting with Taoiseach Brian Cowen, was published in secret almost two weeks ago and distributed directly to Easons and selected bookstores -- but not to Tesco or other supermarkets.
The books were delivered to the shops on the night of Saturday, January 8, by the managing director of Penguin Ireland, Michael McLoughlin, and his staff. It went on sale the next day.
The secret last-minute delivery was organised to avoid any legal complications that might have prevented publication.
However, Tesco was not included. Now, in a letter to all Irish publishers, the marketing director of Tesco's book distribution company, Reedmoor, has spelt out a stern warning.
"If we find evidence of this happening (again), the offending publisher will have all their titles removed from sale and returned," Gordon Howey said.
The letter complains of "certain top titles not being presented to us" and going on "to appear in the Irish bestseller list".
The supermarket would act if it discovered that certain titles were being "reserved" for the traditional bookshops. But the book has now been supplied to Tesco and is on sale there.
Other Irish publishers are not impressed by the Tesco threat. One publisher pointed out that Tesco sometimes implements exclusive deals itself.
The sale of books is one of a number of areas which Tesco has extended into over recent years.