Who is Stephen Colbert, I wondered. And why should he tell me what to read?
I don’t have cable TV, but Colbert, the host of a satirical fake news program on Comedy Central, recently asked viewers to pre-order Edan Lepucki’s debut literary dystopian novel, California, from independent bookstores and attempt to make it a New York Times best-seller. This gesture is to protest Amazon’s recent blocking of customers from ordering books published by Hachette, the publisher of both Lepucki and Colbert.
Amazon and Hachette are having a financial dispute. Amazon now claims at its website that Hachette’s books are not available for 3-4 weeks. (Hachette says they’re in stock.) Really a shocking fight, and I’m surprised it’s legal.
I love following social trends, and for that reason I DID pre-order California, not from an indie (what indie would that be here?), but from Barnes and Noble. This first novel, to be published on July 8, is a Barnes and Noble Discover book for the fall.
Confusingly, Amazon has named it one of the best books of the month, but the website says it is “currently unavailable.” And Amazon says that Colbert’s latest book, America Again, will take 3-4 weeks to deliver.
California is said to be one of the most pre-ordered books ever from Hachette. Publishers Weekly says that it has,
according to publicist Carrie Neill, gone back to press three times already, for a total of 60,000 copies. As of mid-June, Powell’s had pre-orders for 6,400 copies and the title has ranked, consistently, at #1 on the mini-chain’s bestsellers chart. This week the novel’s Amazon ranking dropped below 1.5 million, but Amazon is not accepting preorders for it, as the book is published by a Hachette imprint.
And so I’ve been suckered in. Oprah, The Today Book Club, and now Stephen Colbert.
It must be very depressing to be a Hachette writer these days.
Now here’s the thing: I don’t really buy much from indie bookstores. It’s not that I don’t like them, but I have to go out of town to support them. So I shop at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. What else can I do?
I’ve now supported Hachette, but obviously I’m not just a Hachette shopper. Many literary books deserve to be best-sellers. What books, new or old, would you promote as best-sellers if you had a chance?
Anything on my “Best of” sidebar deserves to be read. And I would love to revive Elizabeth von Arnim’s The Pastor’s Wife, Pamela Hansford Johnson’s Helena trilogy, Elizabeth Spencer’s The Voice at the Back Door, D. J. Taylor’s Ask Alice, Doris Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor (the best ever literary dystopian novel), and Jonathan Lethem’s Girl in Landscape and Amnesia Moon (two other great literary dystopian novels).
Now tell me your faves!
My would-be bestseller would have to be “If On A Winter’s Night a Traveller” by Calvino! The A word is becoming a bit of an issue in bookselling – there was a furore over here recently because they’re trying to force dodgy deals on small publishers and reserving the right to print the books themselves. I don’t have that many buying options locally so end up online – but I’m trying to go for places like The Book Depository and Ebay as alternatives….
Karen, I love Italo Calvino and must add that to my list. Yes, I’m gobsmacked by the Amazon problem. Amazon has the best website, the best service, and a great selection of books. I don’t know the ins and outs of these financial battles, but it is disconcerting to read about them. Your story about the small-presses is just weird. Why on earth would A want to do that? And, yet, all that great one-stop shopping…I’ll still shop there.
Well, A don’t have a great reputation in this country for staff wellbeing and working conditions – plus there are tax issues too. They are *very* convenient and cheap but there are trade-offs for that, and it’s whether they’re acceptable ones. The jury is still out, I think.
There have been several thoroughly researched articles on the man who has become a billionaire through Amazon. His practices are worse than unscrupulous: he pretends to care about books you see and then sets about to destroy the book publishing industry. About 5 years ago I realized Amazon had become a bad store for finding books; it often did not even list the better editions.
So I’m with Colbert — though this morning I’ve succumbed to Vera (from your other blog) and have Derby Day on my TBR pile too. People should go over to the New Yorker and read the article.
Karen, I’ve living in the last decade, before Amazon fired its writers and editors (according to a New York Review of Books article) and replaced their recommendations with some algorithm software.
Ellen, Jeff Bezos owns so much: GoodReads, The Book Depository, Abebooks. So really we’re shopping quite a lot at Amazon. The publishers, too, are big corporations, but I don’t want to see them go out of business. Which corporation is worst?