Amazon preorders of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments have been shipped out to readers ahead of schedule. By mistake.
A handful of reviews appeared on NPR, The Washington Post, and The New York Times yesterday even though there was supposed to be a strict embargo on the novel before its September 10th release date. And some readers are rushing to Twitter and Instagram to show off the copies they’ve received early.
Did anybody else get the new @MargaretAtwood book THE TESTAMENTS sent to them a week early? I thought they’d just changed the date but checking it now it looks like this is an Amazon mix-up? I feel like I won the lottery! #TheTestaments pic.twitter.com/CZ34Zg8jjX
— Jason Adams (@JAMNPP) September 4, 2019
According to BBC, Penguin Random House claims:
In the US 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 have been waiting patiently, in some cases for more than thirty years, 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 10th September.
The small number of copies received by these lucky readers total around eight-hundred.
Though some Atwood fans may be celebrating that they could get their hands on The Testaments early, many independent booksellers are frustrated that Amazon seems to have ignored the embargo. The fact that readers have received copies ahead of schedule from Amazon can drastically impact an independent bookstore’s bottom line, especially when they rely on the rush of first-day sales to drive their business.
Lexi Beach, one such bookseller whose “world is crumbling around [her] right now,” took to Twitter to vent about Amazon’s brazen disregard of the embargo.
And the kicker is that $amzn will make hardly any money selling this book. Books (especially big splashy publications like this) have always been a loss leader for them.
— Lexi Beach (@lexiatwork) September 4, 2019
Unfortunately, Beach is kind of right. Amazon’s business model is much different from your average independent bookseller’s. The online-shopping behemoth can afford to take a lot of losses on titles like The Testaments in a strategy to grow their customer base. Independent stores, on the other hand, often rely on the buzz huge titles like Atwood’s generate to drive business to their stores. And given that Atwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale has been shortlisted for The Booker Prize and is already on many best-selling lists based on preorders alone, the fact that Amazon can shamelessly violate the embargo all booksellers had to sign is made even more disheartening and terrifying.
Paul Swydan, owner of Silver Unicorn Books, also took to Twitter to express his frustration:
I had to sign the same embargo for my copies of "The Testaments," which I ordered A LOT more than normal. Wonder how badly I'll be undercut from Amazon signaling to the world that you can get the most anticipated book of the year a week early.
— Paul Swydan (@Swydan) September 4, 2019
Penguin Random House released a statement regarding the incident. However, they didn’t address Amazon by name, preferring to keep things vague.
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…
— Penguin Random House 🐧🏠📚 (@penguinrandom) September 4, 2019
Understandably, the independent booksellers Amazon continues to undercut are still angry and worried Amazon won’t be held accountable. After all, what can you actually do to affect the site that controls roughly 50% of book sales in the world. Even a publisher the size of Penguin Random House can’t really afford to tarnish their relationship with Amazon. Beach noted in another tweet that PRH could delay shipments of future releases to Amazon to prevent them from capitalizing on first-day sales. That’s the typical way smaller booksellers are disciplined, but who knows if PRH will or even can use those methods with Amazon.
Featured image via My Office Magazine and Instagram: @damagedbutinvigorated