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Amazon Relents: Begins Selling Rowling's 'Silkworm'

Jun 23, 2014
Originally published on June 23, 2014 10:27 am
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NPR's Business News starts with an Amazon exception. Sales of author J.K. Rowling's newest novel "The Silkworm" were brisk over the weekend especially as Amazon made it available to buy online Friday just one day after it was released. As NPR's Mandalit del Barco reports, the book had been caught up in Amazon's ongoing fight with the publisher Hachette.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: British writer J.K. Rowling wrote her new murder mystery under a pseudonym, Robert Galbraith. It's the second in a series about a private eye named Cormoran Strike. This time, Strike is drawn into the book world, an industry filled with infighting and rivalries, the kind that the book's publisher is now having with Amazon in real life.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

STEPHEN COLBERT: I'm not just mad at Amazon. I am mad-prime.

DEL BARCO: Earlier this month, TV's Stephen Colbert, another Hachette group author, joined a list of authors complaining that Amazon was not allowing preorders of upcoming books, including his own "America Again."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: By Stephen Colbert.

DEL BARCO: Customers were told delivery would take one or two months. Amazon even suggested customers could buy books from its competitors.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE COLBERT REPORT")

COLBERT: Hey, Amazon...

DEL BARCO: Colbert gave Amazon the finger twice on his show, and he urged viewers to place a stick on their books that reads, I didn't buy it on Amazon. Many customers also began complaining about Amazon, and they started to buy their books from Walmart, Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers. Then late last week, Amazon began selling copies of "The Silkworm," listing them in stock and with only one or two days to process.

JAMES MCQUIVEY: We knew all along that Amazon would eventually have to give in.

DEL BARCO: Analyst James McQuivey from Forrester Research says Amazon probably wanted to shed the bad PR it was getting, especially as it released its new smartphone last week.

MCQUIVEY: Whether it was Rowling plus Colbert, and it all added up to Amazon deciding that enough was enough, I assume it's mostly that they realize that this is going to harm them. There are thousands and probably millions of J.K. Rowling fans out there.

DEL BARCO: McQuivey says unlike the ending of "The Silkworm," what's going on now behind the scenes at Amazon and Hachette is likely to remain a mystery. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.