Dave and Goliath: maverick writer Eggers makes a stand against Amazon

From The Guardian:

The plight of the high street bookshop, struggling against the power of the online giants, is a common complaint either side of the Atlantic. But not often do the prominent players, the authors and publishers, put their words into action and take a stand against the tide.

This month, Dave Eggers, the award-winning campaigning author, is to risk American sales of his new novel, The Every, by limiting access to the hardback copies. Only small bookstores will stock it.

It is a typical move for Eggers, who has long pushed back against the conventions of the industry, setting up his own non-profit publishing house, McSweeney’s, in 1998, two years before his breakout bestseller A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. But it is also something that fits neatly with the subject of his new book. A sequel to his 2013 hit, The Circle, it is a dystopian satire, featuring a company that looks much like Amazon.

For the US release of the book, on Tuesday, Eggers will allow hardcover editions to go on sale only in small bookstores. Weeks later, Vintage, a division of Random House, will publish an e-book and a paperback version. Even then, customers won’t be able to buy the hardcover on Amazon.

Eggers’s maverick move has been met with great gratitude by America’s independent bookstore owners, who are struggling with the huge post-Covid shift to online services.

“It’s made us feel like the author and the publishing industry really care about the smaller stores,” said Laura Scott Schaefer, owner of Scattered Books in Chappaqua, New York. “It’s been hard to compete with the bigger retailers. Any small advantage we can get in any kind of space is great.”

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Miami and creator of the Miami book fair international, goes further. He believes Eggers is recognising “the important role independent booksellers play in the ecology of our literary culture”. Kaplan sees Eggers’s innovation as support for stores more than an attack on Amazon, which, after all, has had a negative impact on a wide range of other small businesses. The larger question for Kaplan is what would be lost if independent bookshops disappeared.

“You’d be losing a diversity of voices when you lose a diversity of sellers. The people who sell literature in a community help people to discover voices that might not otherwise be introduced,” he said.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to D for the tip.

PG just checked on Amazon (US) and the book is available for pre-order in Kindle, paperback and audiobook formats. It’s scheduled to release on November 16. As usual, no preview was available from Randy Penguin.

PG will let those with more information about sales of speculative fiction in hardback decide whether this heavily-promoted virtue-signalling will save any bookstores or not.

8 thoughts on “Dave and Goliath: maverick writer Eggers makes a stand against Amazon”

    • I used to but tbat was back when the SFBC had cheap book club editions, before they became an outlet for pricey B&M leftovers. I haven’t been there since the agency conspiracy when I stopped buying anything from the BPHs, hardcover, softcover, or digital.

    • I think the hardback copies are so you can get a Signed First Edition and then Add It To Your Collection.

      .

      (I still remember the mystery bookstore owner in Seattle who was so sad that people had stopped doing that, for reasons that he could not fathom.)

    • Yes.
      Some SFBC editions are legendary.
      Their hardcovers of Burroughs’martian novels, for example. Frazetta wraparound dust covers and internal illustrations.
      https://news.justcollecting.com/frank-frazetta-princess-mars-fantasy-artwork-auction-heritage/

      (For anybody concerned about Frazetta’s female body types: ERB’s martians, humanoid and non-humanoids, are oviparous.) 🙂

      SFBC used to offer special omnibusses and Anthologies as well as combo editions, all at prices well below open market editions of the same books *if* available. In those days a lot of “novels” were more properly novelettes so some trilogies added up to a decent novel’s worth. With made them great values for readers when a deckle edged bargain hardcover went for maybe 50% more than a paperback. (At the time of the Frazetta-cover books, PRINCESS OF MARS went for $1.49, IIRC, and its followup, GODS OF MARS/WARLORD OF MARS went for $1.99.) Lots of classic editions, lie a single volume RIDDLEMASTER OF HED trilogy, THREE TO DORSAI, DRAGONFRIDERS OF PERN, CITIES IN FLIGHT, etc. And most of the time tbe cover art actually reflected the contents, which paperbacks rarely did.

      Hardcovers make perfect sense for stories that withstand tbe test of time and those classics did and still do.

      Of course, all that went away when Doubleday sold out to the germans.

      • Yes! Most of my hardbacks are from SFBC. I lived for the omnibus editions. I started my subscription when I was a little kid. They offered plastic Mercury rocket models when you joined. I’m pretty sure that one of my first books was Foundation Trilogy. I kept having to glue that book back together over the years. I finally bought an extra copy to read when the time comes that I can’t fix the original.

        I finally cancelled my subscription a year ago when I realized that I had not bought a SFBC edition for years. I checked each month looking for new books, and their list was no longer SFBC books. I held on for so long expecting them to wise up and fly right. Never happened.

        A few years ago I was able to track down a bookclub edition of the original The Stand. I’d read it in the original mass market, small print. I bought the “Uncut” when it came out, but the story felt wrong. When I read the original The Stand again it was such a joy. I need to read it again.

        – I like both versions for what they are, and do not confuse the two.

        The “Uncut” is actually a Dark Tower novel, not the standalone book that the original was. The original had the Flu in the 80s, where the “Uncut” was set in the 90s. Not the same Story. Think Justice League vs Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

        – I like both movie versions for what they are, and do not confuse the two.

        I’ve been watching each movie, one after the other, the past week. I sit there, scene by scene, with tears in my eyes, saying, “I see what you are doing.”

        Need to watch them again.

  1. Easy to signal virtue when you know most fans who buy on Amazon have no interest in your hardcover editions. At most they’re interested in the story.

    I still have one of two SFBC very cheap hardcover editions of good stories – most of them were stolen by my children long ago. Let go of most everything when we moved to our retirement community – as much as I loved those books, I don’t re-read them, and space is limited.

  2. Awesome. I’ve always wanted to see a sequel to The Circle. I have always thought of it as a Horror story. People becoming Transparent. Yikes!

    – That’s worse than Vampires or Zombies.

    I thought that there should be a second book about a resistance movement to free people from being Transparent, so reading the blurb for the latest book is a hope. I will get it when it comes out, in paperback.

    The concept that the hardback will only be available from small bookstores means that there is no place within a hundred miles of my house where I could find it in hardback.

    Based on what the book is about, it is simply a publicity stunt.

    I need to read The Circle and watch the movie again.

    Thanks…

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