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Amazon breaks embargo on Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments

Indie bookstores call out the giant online retailer for shipping the long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid's Tale a week before the book's official release.

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood is one of the new books from your favorite authors we found for our Fall Fiction Preview September 2019
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Few books have caused more buzz in recent memory than Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, the long-awaited sequel to her award-winning novel The Handmaid’s Tale. Its publisher, Penguin Random House, forced booksellers to sign the strictest of embargoes in anticipation of the book’s release on Sept. 10. Even the Booker Prize judges were only allowed to share the vaguest of sentiments on why The Testaments was shortlisted for the 2019 prize.

So why are some social media users reporting they’ve already received the much-anticipated novel?

Because apparently Amazon started delivering the book yesterday – defying the embargo all other retailers had upheld.

“A very small number of copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments were distributed early due to a retailer error which has now been rectified. We appreciate that readers and booksellers have been waiting patiently for the much-anticipated sequel to the bestselling The Handmaid’s Tale. In order to ensure our readers around the world receive their copies on the same day, our global publication date remains Tuesday, September 10,” Penguin Random House confirmed. 

The Guardian reports that roughly 800 orders were fulfilled early by Amazon. 


Indie bookstore owners protested on social media, noting that any other retailer who broke the embargo would face consequences with the publisher. 

“Traditionally, the publisher would then delay shipments of future releases to the offending retailer, preventing them from capturing first day sales. This is the only kind of punishment available, the goal being a level(ish) playing field for all the publisher’s customers,” Astoria Bookshop owner Lexi Beach tweeted yesterday. “But even a publisher the size of PRH can’t afford to fuck up things with $amzn. The best I can hope is that this book has a high enough profile that federal anti-trust lawyers will finally see exactly how unlevel this playing field is.”

Amazon has not yet released an official statement on the matter.