Bricks-and-mortar booksellers are trumpeting the availability of a wide assortment of titles from Hachette Book Group in the wake of last week’s revelation that Amazon.com is delaying fulfillment of customer orders for many popular books from Hachette’s imprints.
The publisher is keeping the Internet retailer supplied, but Amazon is delaying shipments of Hachette titles and restocking slowly, reported the New York Times. Most popular books ship from Amazon within two days, but shipping times for Hachette books are listed as upwards of two to three weeks. Sources say one of the points of contention is the details of new e-book terms, according to Publishers Weekly.
Suzanne Droppert of Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo, Washington, has been speaking out on social media about the issue, posting several comments to Twitter using the hashtag #amazonfail. “Really what I mean about #amazonfail is they’re failing as a community member, locally as well as globally,” Droppert said. “They’re trying to be the bully in the neighborhood.” Several posts made by Liberty Bay throughout the past week commended author James Patterson for his support of independent booksellers and reminded customers that indie bookstores are at their service and the situation regarding titles from Hachette is just another reason to buy local.
Author Sherman Alexie, who led the Indies First movement, joined the conversation on Twitter, commenting, “Like all repressive regimes, Amazon wants to completely control your access to books.”
When Amazon removed the buy buttons from Macmillan’s titles in 2010 during an e-book pricing dispute, Liberty Bay saw a noticeable increase in purchases of the publisher’s titles, including online orders from around the U.S., Droppert said. Since the option to buy Hachette titles is still available on Amazon this time around, albeit with a wait, Droppert thinks customers have not been seeking alternative sources for their books and remain unaware of the issue. “Because they’re still processing orders and haven’t removed the button, that’s why the customer doesn’t know,” she said.
In a Facebook post, Néna Rawdah, co-owner of St. Johns Booksellers in Portland, Oregon, recommended that people check out IndieBound to find a local business “that would be HAPPY to send you the book you want!”
Rawdah told BTW that she regularly fields questions from customers placing special orders through St. Johns who think that the books are coming from Amazon. “I try to keep people aware that they have alternatives and that they should use them,” she said. “Many Amazon customers genuinely don’t know that they can buy books from somewhere else.”
Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, put together an in-store display of Hachette titles and posted a photo on Twitter. Murder By The Book in Houston, Texas, saw it and was motivated to create its own display.
Many other stores addressed the issue on social media. Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California, let customers know that the store proudly carries Hachette titles and values its relationship with the publisher, while Green Apple Books in San Francisco declared S. by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst the Hachette Book of the Day, noting, “We have plenty here. Seriously, you can have it TODAY!”
In its store newsletter, Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Massachusetts, invited customers to the store to shop for Hachette titles. “One of our booksellers will happily hand you a copy of The Outliers from the Psychology shelf or from our wall of 20% off Best Sellers. Order a copy of Franny and Zooey on harvard.com, and we’ll put it in a box and send it to you. No shenanigans!” One Harvard Book Store customer, Penelope Rowlands, also tweeted about the information she discovered at the bottom of the store’s receipt. “independently-owned @HarvardBooks points out that $0 enters the community when you spend $100 at Amazon #buylocal #books.”
Josh Cook of Porter Square Books, also in Cambridge, wrote an extensive post on his personal blog about the issue. “Unless something changes, Hachette will not be the last publisher stressed by Amazon. Even if Hachette ‘wins’ this particular conflict, Amazon will just pressure some other publisher when that contract comes up. How would something change? Ideally, Amazon would start acting like it is a member of society, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Even less likely is the use of existing federal antitrust regulation to stop Amazon’s predatory pricing,” wrote Cook.
“So, again, it comes down to readers thinking in the slightly-longer-than-short-term and shopping elsewhere, at least some of the time. Now seems like a pretty good opportunity to start. If Amazon is telling you there is a three-week wait time on a popular book, go to IndieBound and buy it from an independent bookstore. You’ll get the book faster, you’ll buy it from a company that acts like it’s a member of human society, and you’ll help support the publishing industry as a whole.”