Margaret Atwood's The Testaments gets early release — by accident
Amazon U.S. was behind the blunder after booksellers signed a strict embargo agreement
It's been shrouded in secrecy for months. Bookstore owners even had to sign an embargo agreement to keep it locked in a secure place until release.
Despite these protective measures, Margaret Atwood's highly anticipated novel The Testaments, a sequel to her 1985 bestseller The Handmaid's Tale, was shipped out to some customers a week early by mistake.
"I feel really bad because they've tried so hard to keep it under wraps," Jenny Klein, of McHenry, Illinois, said in a phone interview. "But I'm also super excited."
Klein was one of many posting on social media about receiving the novel well before the scheduled release date of Sept. 10.
"Did anybody else get the new @MargaretAtwood book The Testaments sent to them a week early?" New York blogger Jason Adams posted on Twitter Tuesday along with a photo of the hardcover book. "I feel like I won the lottery!"
Did anybody else get the new <a href="https://twitter.com/MargaretAtwood?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@MargaretAtwood</a> book THE TESTAMENTS sent to them a week early? I thought they’d just changed the date but checking it now it looks like this is an Amazon mix-up? I feel like I won the lottery! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/TheTestaments?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#TheTestaments</a> <a href="https://t.co/CZ34Zg8jjX">pic.twitter.com/CZ34Zg8jjX</a>—@JAMNPP
Amazon U.S. was the culprit, according to numerous social media users who posted their delivery notices online. The online conglomerate, which was taking pre-orders for the book, blamed a "technical error" in a statement to CBC News as the reason for the item being shipped early to some customers.
"We value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers," the statement said.
It happened despite a strict contract between the publisher and booksellers.
Mistake hurts independent stores
"I was about as angry as I get," Josh Cook, who co-owns the independently run Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass., said in a phone interview. "This was a book that came with a contract that we had to sign that stipulated that we wouldn't share it, sell it, that we'd face some sort of punishment if we did.
"And then there it was — that embargo being broken."
According to the contract, which CBC News has seen, breaking the embargo could result in future book supplies being withheld from the offending bookseller or even a legal injunction against it.
"You must ensure that the book is stored in a monitored and locked, secured area and not placed on the selling floor prior to the on-sale date," the agreement states in part, also specifying there could be spot checks and audits to ensure compliance.
Cook says he believes it's unlikely Amazon will face any repercussions, given its size. But like other independent booksellers complaining on social media, Cook says the move further undercuts them and appears to customers as though Amazon simply got it first.
Don't worry. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone else.- Jenny Klein, Amazon customer who received The Testaments early
It's unclear how many people in total received the book early but estimates are in the hundreds. Penguin Random House, which published The Testaments, confirmed the "retailer error" and said the situation has been "rectified." The publisher also says the global release date will remain the same — next Tuesday — despite the gaffe.
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...—@penguinrandom
The new novel is set 15 years after the final scene in the dystopian thriller The Handmaid's Tale, which won a Governor General's Literary Award when it was published more than 30 years ago and was turned into a hit TV series by streaming service Hulu.
The New York Times's book review described The Testaments as "a fast, immersive narrative that's as propulsive as it is melodramatic."
Screen adaptation in the works
A screen adaptation of The Testaments is also in the works, according to Time magazine. Hulu and MGM will develop the new story with Bruce Miller, creator and showrunner of The Handmaid's Tale TV series.
The Testaments is already a finalist for the U.K.'s Man Booker Prize and made the long list for Canada's Giller Prize.
Klein, who wasn't expecting the new book for another week and is still trying to finish The Handmaid's Tale, says she feels a little guilt about being one of the few to get it early and says she won't give anything away to those still eagerly waiting.
"Don't worry," she said. "I'm not going to spoil it for anyone else."
With files from The Canadian Press