Last night, in the second segment of the Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert, whose publisher is Hachette, took some hilarious shots at Amazon, which he said he used to like because "it's the only place you can get all your shopping done in your underwear--at least since they closed Circuit City." But now, "I am not just mad at Amazon. I'm mad Prime."
He outlined the dispute, taking the usual Colbert-centric view: "They are deterring customers from buying books by Stephen Colbert. And as any longtime viewer of this show knows, that's me."
Colbert noted that "Amazon has taken the preorder buttons off [J.K. Rowling's] new Hachette book, The Silkworm. A vicious tactic by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Or should I say Lord Bezomort?" At that point, on the screen a picture of Bezos's face morphed into Lord Voldemort. "And this, this has pushed me past my tipping point. I think. Because I'm still waiting for my copy of Hachette author Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point."
Colbert then announced that he had "a little package" for Amazon from him, Rowling and "Explaino the Clown," as he referred to Gladwell. Reaching under the package, he said, "I think you're really going to like it. Oh, wait a second. Here it is." His right hand rose through the packing material, middle finger aimed squarely at the camera. Then he said, "Customers who will enjoy this also bought this," at which point his other hand rose in the same gesture.
Next, he introduced "fellow Amazon victim" Sherman Alexie, who started off by saying, "I'm just happy to be here. If Amazon was in charge of the travel, it would have taken me two to five weeks to get here."
Alexie said in part that Amazon wants "a monopoly. They control 50% of the book market and they want more."
When Colbert asked what "we as the victims"--the authors--can do to fight back, Alexie answered: "Number one, you don't shop there for anything."
Noting that first-time Hachette authors are especially hurt by the lack of preorders, Alexie recommended Edan Lepucki's debut novel, California, which will be published by Little, Brown on July 8. "To prove that I can sell more books than Amazon," Colbert urged viewers to go to colbertnation.com and buy the book through a link to Powell's Books. Viewers can also download a sheet of stickers proclaiming, "I didn't buy it on Amazon."
As of this morning, California is Powell's bestselling title.
Silent until now, J.K. Rowling took a decidedly quieter approach to the dispute than Colbert. According to the AP (via ABC), on Twitter, she added "a subtle comment" under her pen name Robert Galbraith, noting that there are "lots of ways to order" The Silkworm, which appears June 19, as "Amazon kindly suggests."
Amazon, of course, is not taking orders for the book before pub date.
Another major author affected by the Amazon-Hachette dispute is Michael Connelly. Although his latest Lincoln Lawyer novel is available, a lot of his backlist is in the 2-4 week availability category and there is no ordering button for his fall Bosch book, The Burning Room. But in a weird circumstance, Amazon Studios is producing an exclusive TV series based on the Bosch novels that consists of a pilot and nine episodes. Amazon quoted Connelly as saying, "The right people and partnerships came together at the right time: Amazon and its creative team; ditto Fabrik Entertainment, Henrik Bastin, Eric Overmyer and of course, Titus Welliver." Timing is everything.
The Los Angeles Times offered a basic explanation to the dispute "in 13 easy steps" while Bloomberg had a more detailed account of the battle. It outlined the chronology of the negotiations, saying that "the length of Hachette's contract with Amazon, negotiated at the end of 2012, was for 18 months, according to two people familiar with the matter. Hachette's agreement is the first to expire, with Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins following soon thereafter."
Bloomberg also emphasized the effect of the dispute on authors--and their fear of Amazon. It wrote: "As [author Douglas Preston] has been trying to draft a statement to help articulate Amazon's effect on authors, only about half of the writers he's contacted have agreed to help--a sign of Amazon's power, he said. 'Quite a few authors say, "I totally agree with you, but I'm terrified going against Amazon," ' Preston said.")
Speaking of fear, the Stranger said that Amazon's direct and indirect contributions to the city of Seattle, including offers to pay for streetcars and build a new Museum of History & Industry as well as "high-paying jobs for about 15,000 people," have caused a kind of mute button to go on in the city where Amazon's headquarters is. "Over the years that Amazon has been relentlessly unsteadying the way books are created and sold, Seattle--aspiring UNESCO City of Literature, alleged booktopia--has largely looked at these questions and answered: Yes, we will shut up now, and thank you for the trolley!...
"Seattle seems to be pretty much taking the Amazon bribe. We will snap up every last available ticket when David Sedaris comes to give a reading in the nearly 2,500-seat auditorium at Benaroya Hall. But when Amazon takes aim at Hachette, the publisher of Sedaris's books, you will not see 2,500 Seattleites marching on the burgeoning Amazon campus that's about a mile away from Benaroya....
"In Seattle, at this point, we can't very easily get all the way out of bed with the company, much less strike back at Amazon over what it's doing to the book industry, without hurting our own cushy position as book-lovers who also like what Amazon has done for our local standard of living. That, ultimately, is the question Seattle now faces in this fight: Are we willing to actually suffer for our love of literature?"