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Stephen Colbert Rips Amazon Over Hachette Dispute, Sells More Books (VIDEO)

Photo of Jacob Combs By Jacob Combs | Thompson on Hollywood June 6, 2014 at 12:03PM

America's late-night comedy hosts are now, it would seem, the country's new defenders against corporate overreach.
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Stephen Colbert.
Stephen Colbert.

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:

"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.

This article is related to: Stephen Colbert, Amazon, John Oliver, Television, Television, Television, TV, TV Interviews, TV News, TV Videos, Books


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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.