I think we can now confirm that the reason for the delays for Hachette titles was that Amazon wasn’t stocking the books in their warehouses. It has been said over and over again that the delays during this dispute were due to Hachette’s inefficiencies, which I saw firsthand as a bookseller. Direct orders placed with a major publisher took 2-3 weeks to arrive. I can’t remember them ever arriving as fast as in a week.
I’ve seen two news outlets express confusion over why some of Hachette’s titles still show a delay of 2-3 weeks. Well, it’s because Amazon just created those orders yesterday when the deal was reached. It’ll now take 2-3 weeks to get those books to Amazon’s distribution center. Only then will the efficiencies of those distribution centers allow 1-2 day delivery. (Hachette might choose to “rush” these orders, which costs bookstores a pretty penny and probably involves unpleasant warehouse conditions.)
The way this has been portrayed in the anti-Amazon media and by Hachette authors made it sound like Amazon set Hachette books aside and said “Don’t ship those for another week!” and then rubbed their hands together and cackled. Which is ludicrous. The truth is far more banal and speaks more to publishers’ weak infrastructure and customer service, something they should work on if they don’t want to be beholden to retailers like Amazon.
Of course, how could they possibly compete in this area? Amazon has decided to take its profits and spend it on acquisitions and infrastructure, notably these distribution centers. They spend billions of dollars every year building these things. I think this pointless standoff showed publishers one thing: they rely on that infrastructure. Don’t forget that we used to go into bookstores, special order a book, and get a call in a couple of weeks. Or we’d put a book on hold at the library and wait weeks or even months.
Now we either get the book on our device in five seconds, or it shows up at our stoop in two days. Not only did the complaints of the last few months seem to forget the delays in the old way of doing things, they never once paused to appreciate the new world that tech companies have ushered in. They naively think that every company can simply do these things, that Hachette can also send books to customers in two days. They can’t. And Amazon is their biggest customer.