Why did Mark Haddon ‘physically’ attack Amazon?


(meaning – adverb from the adjective ‘physical’ – relating to the body; relating to, or resembling material things or nature; involving or requiring bodily contact) Dictionary.com

Mark Haddon, award-winning author of ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, has decided that bookstores will be supplied with more superior copies of his latest collection of short stories ‘The Pier Falls’ than Amazon. They will receive inferior copies. The difference being that illustrations are not included in the inferior copies.

Why has he done this?

Because he feels Amazon is a “merciless commercial machine”. (The Times, J Malvern,17/10/16) Speaking at the Times Cheltenham Literature Festival, he explained that he feels we like bookstores more than we love Amazon because of its ‘physical’ presence. He loves “being in a physical place to talk about books to people in your town” and he prefers physical books, as “eBooks can’t be shared.” He’s not alone in his beliefs. Victoria Hislop (author of ‘The Island, The Thread) also feels “we all love bricks-and-mortar bookshops” and she reckons “most authors spend a lot of time in them.”

Child physically in a bookstore
Physically in a bookstore

She’s right. I love bookstores and bookstores love me, the customer. I revel in running my hand along the rows of glossy dust jackets (Wonder why they are called that?) But most bookstores don’t love me, the indie publisher. The self published writer who dared to take her copies of her book to a bricks-and-mortar bookstore for them to take one look and declare from their pursed lips, “No, we don’t do self published.”

Amazon may well be tax-dodgers with a grasping hold of everything commercial but they provide a service. A service to their consumers in supplying quality literary works to all people, at prices that everyone can afford in a speedy manner. If I order ‘The Curious incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ in the next 53 minutes on Amazon, I will receive it tonight paying £5.59. If I go to my local bookstore it will cost me £7.99 and the cost to park my car as well as the time it takes to do this.

Amazon also provide a lifeline for authors who having tried local bookstores and publishers find an avenue they can proceed down, one that enables them to get their books ‘physically’ into people’s hands.

Baroness Rebuck, chairwoman of Penguin Random House, said in a government spending debate, that half of Britain’s independent bookstores have been lost since Amazon started trading in 1995.  This is extremely sad but not unexpected when you consider how the consumer shops today. The developments in technology have enabled us to shop around, research and buy anything we desire from the comfort of our sofa and in a fraction of the time it would take to do this physically. And it’s not just bookstores that have been affected. The way we shop affects the local high street shops, butchers, bakers, ironmongers and larger retailers in towns.

John Bird, the Big Issue founder, told the house that “we have lost more than 500 [libraries] since 2010”, and almost 9,000 librarians. (The Guardian, A Flood, 14/10/16) This a different matter. There are some buildings we do need ‘physically’ and libraries are one of them. Just as we need physical hospitals and schools, we need libraries. They provide a necessary service in ensuring all children receive literacy opportunities regardless of background or wealth. Support your local libraries. They need it. (The Library Campaign)

We don’t buy everything online and sometimes we go into stores and choose what we want. Just because a man in a warehouse packs and delivers the items to us, does not make the product inferior. And don’t forget we, the consumer, can choose. There may well be more ‘inferior’ books retailing at places like Amazon than at bookstores but that is for the consumer to decide. As with any product, when you are choosing a book you are attracted by the front cover, you read the blurb, you read the first couple of pages and then decide to purchase or not. If you have the time to peruse the rows of books in bookstores then that’s what you do but if you don’t, there’s always Amazon. Even if you don’t go there physically!


Question: What Is the Difference Between a Physical change and a Chemical change?

Answer: A physical change means that no new substances are made, but there is a change in the appearance of a chemical e.g. water turning into ice or steam. A chemical change means there is a change in the appearance and a new substance is made due to a chemical reaction e.g. rust on a water pipe (www.mcwdn.org)

4 thoughts on “Why did Mark Haddon ‘physically’ attack Amazon?

  1. Thanks for sharing Wordsmom, loved the article.
    When my sons were young I delighted in the fact that our town had 2 dedicated book stores. Many a happy hour was spent mulling through choices and expanding our views on what might interest us next.
    Those memories have remained with the boys who at 11 & 13, still love to read. HOWEVER we now have ‘0’ book stores in town and rely on friends referring titles to us, which we then inevitably purchase from Amazon. How we would love to be able to spend time choosing decent books together – I’m hopeful a retail will return but in the meantime cling to happy memories.

    • Thanks for the comment. I totally agree with you about the happy memories. I’m not sure bookstores will be able to return physically until they reinvent themselves. Pharmacies in Ireland and France have pubs/coffee bars/shops attached to them so the consumer has options. We have seen a change with our post offices. I wonder if bookstores might be next. Let’s hope so!

  2. I think there is a place for both bookshops and Amazon. One is inevitably more convenient than the other. My son, at 13, loves reading, and downloads his books from Amazon to his kindle, it’s instant and cheaper. For me, nothing can replace books. (I know the whole Kindle vs physical books is a whole other blog post) but the smell of a bookshop is fantastic, and as many of them now serve independent coffee within their bookshops, it makes a fabulous combination.

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