Authors Cathy Newman and Jonathan Coe have urged customers to take their business to the high street this Christmas season after suffering stock shortages of their titles on Amazon.co.uk. However the online retailer stressed only a "small number of titles" were affected.
Sharing examples in which the retail giant was unable to deliver books in time for Christmas gifting - including delays of up to two months for Jonathan Coe's new novel Middle England (Viking) - Newman branded Amazon "a scrooge", accusing it of inaction on an issue that affected "the entire publishing industry". She added it was "so gutting for publishers who throw everything at these few weeks".
On Thursday 20th December, Newman's book, Bloody Brilliant Women (Williams Collins), was listed on Amazon.co.uk as "temporarily out of stock". On Tuesday 18th December Newman said on social media her publisher William Collins had offered to replenish Amazon.co.uk's stocks of her book five times but this had been met with a "computer says no" response.
"Today’s Scrooge award goes to @Amazon as an algorithm malfunction leaves thousands of books-lovers waiting until AFTER #Xmas for their deliveries. Suggest heading to your local bookstore to avoid disappointment (or buy from other sellers online)," she tweeted. The book remained out of stock on Amazon today (20th December).
Reacting on the same platform to the delays affecting his book, Coe weighed in similarly in support of the high street: "Amazon now offering to dispatch ‘within one to two months’, in fact. Use your high street bookshops, people!"
Other titles which appear to be affected by the issue include annuals tailor-made for Christmas, such as the Guinness World Records 2019 and Weird But True! 2019 (National Geographic Kids). There were also temporary shortages of Bonnier Books' big-hitter The Tattooist of Auschwitz, at one point showing stock would not come in until 22nd December, although it is now back in stock; and Sally Rooney's prize-winning Normal People (Faber), showing at the time of reporting it would only be available to ship in one to two days.
Although publishers including PRH UK, Bonnier Books and Faber declined to comment, HarperCollins said it was aware of the problems the online giant was facing, noting these were impacting publishers across the board. HC said it was working with the company to resolve the difficulties it was having in making its books available to Amazon customers.
"We are aware that Amazon is having some problems keeping publishers’ titles in stock, with challenges in both its book ordering and replenishment," said a HarperCollins spokesperson. "We have good availability of our titles and have been working with Amazon to ensure that our authors’ books are available to its customers."
Amazon said in a statement: "We’ve had a fantastic response from customers to our books range this Christmas and work closely with publishers to help ensure readers can discover the broadest selection of titles in all formats. While a small number of titles have extended delivery dates the overwhelming majority of print books are available with next day delivery. Kindle editions are, of course, immediately available."
The Bookseller is asking independent bookshops to take a few moments to fill out our annual Christmas trading survey here.