Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, was under a worldwide embargo until September 10, 2019. Amazon shipped “a small number” of copies a week early to customers who’d pre-ordered. A Penguin Random House spokesperson said the books “were distributed early due to a retailer error which has not been rectified. We appreciate that readers and booksellers have been waiting patiently… in order to ensure our readers around the world receive their copies on the same day, our global publication date remains Tuesday, September 10.” Professional review outlets quickly broke the embargo, too, with reviews appearing on NPR, The New York Times, and The Washington Post.
Independent bookstore owners and staff were not pleased, with Rachel Cass of Harvard Book Store posting on Twitter: “A reminder to publishers that to customers, this makes US look bad. Customers don’t care about embargoes. They care that they saw online that people have this book and we don’t have it in our stores yet.” She later called the publisher response “wildly inadequate.”
Amazon apologized, blaming “a technical error” and saying “we value our relationships with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”
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