Shop Hachette With Us!

As booksellers, our central mission is to make books available to customers, not make them hard to get. So we’re particularly troubled to see Amazon limiting access to a number of titles produced by the Hachette Book Group, one of the country’s largest publishers.

Amazon has slowed delivery of some Hachette books, telling customers that the works were out of stock and suggesting alternative books published by other houses. It also has prevented customers from pre-ordering some coming titles—among them, J.K. Rowling’s The Silkworm, a detective story under the pen name Robert Galbraith, and Michael Connelly’s The Burning Room, the latest thriller involving detective Harry Bosch.

These tactics have received widespread media attention in recent days. They’ve been described as a hard-nosed gambit by the online giant to pressure Hachette into granting a larger cut of e-book prices and to warn other publishers facing future negotiations.

In a statement posted on its Kindle forum, Amazon acknowledged a negotiating impasse with Hachette and defended its actions as serving consumer interests. “When we negotiate with suppliers,” the statement said, “we are doing so on behalf of customers. Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term.”

Although we agree that retailers are entitled to bargain hard with their suppliers to achieve the best possible terms, books are not ordinary commodities. They have cultural significance, and this requires that special care be taken in business negotiations to ensure authors and customers are not held hostage.

The publishing community has rallied to support Hachette and has decried Amazon’s measures. Along with a number of other independent bookstores, we at Politics & Prose have set up a table prominently displaying Hachette titles and ensuring customers know these books are available. Included are several recently-released works: Night Heron by Adam Brookes; Everybody’s Got Something by Robin Roberts; The Phantom of Fifth Avenue by Meryl Gordon; and Living With a Wild God by Barbara Ehrenreich. Also featured are hardback editions of paperbacks due out in the fall but currently not available on Amazon for pre-order: David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell; Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris; and The Everything Store by Brad Stone (a critical portrait of Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos).

Other books on our Hachette table were selected because they’ve sold well or are staff favorites: Room by Emma Donoghue; The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers; An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield; America Again by Stephen Colbert; and The Onion Book of Known Knowledge by The Onion. A couple were written by prominent local authors: The Double by George Pelecanos; Jewish Jocks edited by Frank Foer and Marc Tracy. Also displayed is Gone by James Patterson, who has spoken out against Amazon.

--Brad and Lissa