the testaments
Penguin Random House

Some lucky readers got a surprise treat– the new Margaret Atwood novel, ‘The Testaments’, the sequel to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, which they received in the mail ahead of its September 10 street date.  And indie booksellers are pissed!

Who can blame them?  They already have to compete with the retail giant in general, as Amazon tends to discount its merchandise lower than what indie retailers can afford to sell the same products, but now some buyers have gotten this book a week early, while these other retailers have held steadfastly to the street date imposed by publisher Penguin Random House.

Lexi Beach, owner of Astoria Booksellers in Queens, New York, took to Twitter to report this infringement.  Twitter user @LateBloomer also took to Twitter to share that they’d gotten the book early from Amazon, adding “discouraged that Amazon would fail to abide by the release date, to the detriment of our beloved indie booksellers,” to which Beach replied with what we were all thinking, “If you’re that concerned, why did you order from Amazon?”

Doubleday’s executive director of publicity, Todd Doughty, issued a statement, which reads:

“A very small number of copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments were distributed early due to a retailer error which has now been rectified. We appreciate that readers and booksellers have been waiting patiently for the much-anticipated sequel to the bestselling The Handmaid’s Tale. In order to ensure our readers around the world receive their copies on the same day, our global publication date remains Tuesday, September 10.”

Retailers are forced to sign a “very strict, very clearly-stated affidavit” promising to adhere to the street date, and some are lobbying for Amazon to be fined for violating the embargo.

Rachel Cass of the Harvard Bookstore in Cambridge, Mass. said:

“It makes us look bad.  This is bigger than just this book. Customers will see that people who ordered online got their books. They will come into our store and see that we don’t have it yet. They won’t know or care about embargoes; they will just see that Amazon can supply them a book and we can’t. They might not come in next time.”

I must admit that I have also gotten stuff from Amazon before the official release date.  Not only can Amazon offer lower prices than most brick and mortar outlets, but’s it’s super convenient.  Even big boxes like Walmart and Target are feeling the crush.  But if you’re like me, I don’t care about taking dollars away from them, but do feel bad that locally owned indie sellers are being hurt.

Atwood’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ was already a bestselling, award-winning novel, but the Hulu TV series adaptation has elevated it to new heights of success, making ‘The Testaments’ possibly THE book release of the year.  So this is something that the indies are really relying on.  (It has just been announced that Hulu will also adapt ‘The Testaments’.)

What do you think?  Should Amazon be fined?  Or is this just a nice treat for a few lucky readers?


Source: Publishers Weekly