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Independent booksellers upset about rollout of John Oliver book

“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver holds a copy of “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.” AP

Not everyone is laughing about John Oliver’s parody book about Vice President Mike Pence’s bunny.

Specifically, independent booksellers are furious that Chronicle Books, the publisher of Oliver’s “A Day In the Life of Marlon Bundo,” cut a deal with Amazon to make the book available only — at least initially — from the online retailer.

Oliver, the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” revealed the existence of his bunny book at the end of his March 18 show, saying it was only available at the moment through Amazon. That surprised and upset independent booksellers.

“There’s no excuse for how poor the initial communication was, nor for how slow the distribution has been in our channel,” Harvard Book Store buyer Rachel Cass told Publishers Weekly. “I worry that this type of thing does long term damage to our industry as a whole. If there were customers who called their local indies to get the book this week, and found we couldn’t supply it, they may be less likely to try us first next time.”

Oliver’s book immediately became an instant hit, far outselling the book it parodies, the Pence family’s “Marlon Bundo’s Day in the Life of the Vice President.” (In Oliver’s book, the rabbit belonging to Pence is gay.)


Chronicle president Tyrrell Mahoney has since e-mailed an apology to indie booksellers.

“We had to ensure that the book was a complete surprise for the ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ audience,” wrote Mahoney. “We ultimately agreed to make the book available for purchase at the time of the on-air surprise by allocating a percentage of the print run to Amazon and making the rest of the first print run available to all our other retailers as soon as possible.”

That explanation is unsatisfactory for many booksellers. who say the publisher screwed up by giving preference to Amazon. Meanwhile, it’ll be interesting to see if Oliver, who is something of a champion of the underdog, will comment on the kerfuffle.