Stephen Colbert believes he can sell more books than Amazon. On a recent episode of his show The Colbert Report, the comedian/author whose recent release America Again has been among the many Hachette Book Group titles impacted by the standoff between Amazon and the publisher, invited his viewers to shop Portland-based Powells.com for books until the dispute was resolved. Specifically noting the effect Amazon’s admitted slow delivery of Hachette books will have on first-time and little-known writers, Colbert joined fellow Hachette author Sherman Alexie in promoting Edan Lepucki’s debut California. He asked his fans to download an “I didn’t buy it from Amazon” badge in solidarity.
It will be an interesting test to determine whether celebrity can trump the e-tailer that now dominates more than 30% of the book retail market. A test that, by the way, has been playing out in different industries for years. When Beyonce opted to release her most recent album secretly via iTunes, Amazon and Target refused to sell it. The singer responded by treating a Walmart store packed with fans to $50 gift certificates. Whatever the impact of Colbert’s challenge to Amazon, it’s a step in the right direction: writers taking more direct control of the retailing of their books.
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