America’s late-night comedy hosts are now, it seems, our country’s staunch defenders against corporate overreach. Earlier this week, we brought you the story of John Oliver’s recent William Wallace moment which buried the FCC in a deluge of pro-net neutrality comments. Now it looks like he inspired Stephen Colbert to make a stand of his own.
Colbert invited Sherman Alexie, author of “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,” to his show to explain why the clash of the corporate titans between Amazon and publisher Hachette should matter to all of us. (In case you’re coming to this story fresh, the LA Times has a good overview of the dispute.) Hachette is a huge publishing conglomerate, so it’s not like there’s a little guy to root for here, but essentially, Amazon has been artificially delaying shipping times for Hachette books due to an ongoing dispute with the publisher over e-book pricing. As “The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green put it earlier this week, “What’s ultimately at stake is whether Amazon is going to be able to freely and permanently bully publishers into eventual nonexistence.”
Colbert is himself a Hachette client, and during their interview he and Alexie discussed the importance of pre-release publicity to book sales, which has a similar effect in today’s changed media landscape to pre-release word-of-mouth for films. The late-night host featured Edan Lepucki’s debut novel “California” (which Alexie recommended), and then announced a deal he had set up with Portland, Oregon-based Powell’s Books to allow viewers to pre-order the book through Colbert’s own website. As he put it, “We’re going to prove I can sell more books than Amazon.”
Not surprisingly, Powell’s Books got the ‘Colbert bump’ the very next day:
Hi Colbert fans! Our site is going a little slow bc there are SO MANY of you but don’t worry, we’ll get all your orders! Thank you!
— Powell’s Books (@Powells) June 5, 2014
“California” is currently at the top of Powell’s bestseller list, with Alexie’s “Absolutely True Diary” making an impressive showing at number four and Colbert’s own “America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t” and “I Am a Pole (and So Can You!)” taking up the seventh and eighth spots. Clearly, it was not only a moral stand on Colbert’s part–it was also a savvy business move, to boot.
Check out Colbert’s interview with Sherman Alexie and his full segment on the Amazon dispute, after the jump.