Stephen Colbert adds his weight to Amazon book publishing war

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 June, 2014, 9:23pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 07 June, 2014, 1:43am

On one side of a major publishing feud is Amazon, the industry's biggest book seller.

On the other side is a leading New York publisher few readers have heard of, Hachette Book Group, and some Hachette authors virtually all readers have heard of: J. K. Rowling, James Patterson, Malcolm Gladwell and, most recently, Stephen Colbert.

Saying that he's not just mad at Amazon but "mad prime", Colbert has assailed the online retailer on his Comedy Central programme.

Amazon is in a contract dispute with Hachette Book Group and has been delaying shipments for some Hachette books, including Colbert's America Again, and removing the pre-order option for Rowling's The Silkworm (written under her pen name Robert Galbraith) and other upcoming works.

Colbert twice flipped his middle finger at Amazon during the show and brought on Sherman Alexie, a Hachette author who recommended a debut novel that Amazon will not sell: Edan Lepucki's California.

Colbert, anxious to prove that he could "sell more books than Amazon", urged viewers to buy California from Powell's Books in Portland, Oregon, one of the country's leading independent booksellers. Colbert also unveiled a sticker, "I didn't buy it from Amazon", that can be downloaded from his website.

The next day California, which will be published next month, was No 1 on www. the store's website. Hachette publicist Carrie Neill said the demand for California was growing at an "astonishing pace" and the publisher would probably need to have more copies printed. Amazon declined comment.

"I feel extremely grateful to Sherman Alexie for going to bat for me and for so many other authors," Lepucki said, adding that she believed Colbert had broadened the discussion beyond the publishing industry.

Amazon and Hachette are negotiating terms for e-book sales, which publishers say comprise about 30 per cent of the overall market. Patterson has warned that Amazon wants a monopoly of the book business, while John Green, of Penguin Random House, said he worried Amazon "would bully publishers into eventual non-existence".