In May, customers noticed that Hachette titles like Colbert’s “America Again” were listed as taking weeks to reach customers (“America” would currently take two to four weeks to reach a reader, according to Amazon’s website). Hachette and Amazon were apparently involved in negotiations at the time and Hachette spokesperson Sophie Cottrell told the New York Times that “we are satisfying all Amazon’s orders promptly” and that Amazon was delaying shipments “for reasons of their own.”
Soon customers also observed that upcoming Hachette titles like “The Silkworm” by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling’s pen name, were no longer available for pre-order and customers only had the option of signing up to receive an e-mail alert when the title became available to buy in advance.
Amazon recently released a statement on the dispute, saying that “though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon” and that “when we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers.” The company went so far as to say that if customers needed a Hachette title, “we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.”
When Colbert discussed the issue on his show, he compared Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to the “Harry Potter” villain Lord Voldemort and said that Amazon taking off pre-order buttons “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.’”
The host said he had “a little package” for Amazon from himself and other authors like Rowling and Gladwell and proceeded to raise his middle fingers at the camera.
Colbert then chatted with writer Sherman Alexie, who shares a publisher with Colbert and whose book “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” is currently listed as taking between one and four weeks to reach customers. Alexie is also a longtime advocate for independent bookstores.
Alexie referenced the book delays when he told Colbert that he is “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.”
When Colbert asked Alexie what “we as the victims” could do about the dispute, Alexie said, “Number one, you don’t shop there for anything.”
Alexie’s other solution centered on a specific book. Writer Edan Lepucki’s debut novel “California” is being released in July by Little, Brown, which is an imprint of Hachette, and Alexie pointed out that the current Amazon-Hachette standoff is especially rough on first-time writers. Colbert then asked fans to head to his website to buy “California” through Oregon’s Powell’s Books “to prove that I can sell more books than Amazon.” Colbert’s influence is already being seen – Lepucki’s book is currently the top-selling title on the Powell’s website
Colbert is also offering stickers on his site that read “I didn’t buy it on Amazon."