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Amazon Aids & Abets Theft From Writers

Tish Harrison Warren, victim of Amazon's negligence (TishHarrisonWarren.com)

I am stunned to learn that Amazon has been selling counterfeit version of Tish Harrison Warren’s great book “The Liturgy Of The Ordinary”(buy it here from Barnes & Noble). Look:


Here’s the story from Christianity Today:

It took Tish Harrison Warren nearly three years to publish her first book. It was more than 18 months of arranging childcare and carving out time to write before she had a manuscript—11 chapters chronicling details from her day-to-day life paired with the rhythms of church ritual.

By the time Liturgy of the Ordinary debuted in December 2016, she and her publishing team had gone through the process of selecting a cover (an open-faced peanut butter and jelly sandwich against a bright green backdrop) and editing the page proofs to check every dot and detail.

But over the past year, thousands of readers ended up with copies that didn’t quite look like the book she and InterVarsity Press (IVP) had finalized three years ago. The cover was not as sharp. The pages were a bit off-center.

These were not IVP’s books at all. They were counterfeits.


IVP estimates that at least 15,000 counterfeit copies of Liturgy of the Ordinary were sold on the site over the past nine months, their retail value totaling $240,000. That nearly cuts sales of Warren’s book in half; IVP reported 23,000 legitimate copies were sold over the past year. IVP also found evidence of counterfeiting on a smaller scale for one other title, Michael Reeves’s Delighting in the Trinity, which came out in 2002.

“I’ve been constantly thinking of the verse about, ‘Do not store up treasures where moths and rust can destroy, and where thieves can steal, but store up your treasures where moths and rust cannot destroy and thieves cannot steal’ (Matt. 6:19–20), and it’s really hard to process,” Warren told CT last week, a day after she learned about the scope of the fraud when IVP officials called her at her home in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a huge loss of money for my family. Percentagewise of what I make as a writer, it’s an enormous amount of that.”

Read it all. The story explains how this happened.

Tish — who is a friend of mine — has issued a statement about the matter on her blog. Excerpts:

Here is what you should do if you suspect your book is a counterfeit copy:

1. If you believe you have received a counterfeit edition, please return the book to Amazon and ask for full credit.

2. Please note the seller from whom you purchased the counterfeit edition and send that information to [email protected] We are attempting to stop the sales of these editions through Amazon’s marketplace re-sellers.

3. Please rate the seller experience low on Amazon. This will help decrease the visibility of the re-sellers who have made counterfeit editions available.

4. If you desire to ensure you are buying authentic editions, visit the following URL: www.ivpress.com/real-liturgy. This will allow you to buy from InterVarsity Press at 40% off plus free shipping for all addresses in the U.S.

5. If Amazon refuses to grant a full refund for the purchase of the counterfeit edition, please email [email protected] and IVP will be in touch with you on a special price for us to replace the counterfeit editions at the best possible price.

Also, if you bought a counterfeit book, can you let me know through twitter or the comments section of this post and tell me when you purchased your copy (and, if you remember, the name listed as “sold by” on Amazon).

D). If you pray, I’d ask that you pray in a couple of ways.

I. Pray for the “bad guys.” Our two kids overheard my husband and I talking about this situation last week, so we had to explain to them about how some “bad guys” stole from our family. They were full of good questions. And we talked to them about how we need to pray for and forgive the people who committed this crime. We prayed together for their blessing and for their repentance, and my six year old—whose heart is 97% gold and 3 % cotton candy—prayed that the “bad guys” would “read Mama’s book and become Christians.” I would love for all of us to join her in her good, kind prayer and ask God for a redemption story out of this. Maybe it will be a dramatic—a Jean Valjean “I have bought your soul for God” with these candle sticks situation. Crazier things have happened in the kingdom of God. Maybe it is a more subtle story of redemption. Either way, pray for God to use this situation for good and for His glory. It would make it worth it.

II. Pray for wisdom for IVPress, Amazon, and me. We each have decisions to make about how best to proceed now that we know that there are counterfeit books out there. This is a situation that IVP has never faced before and they in particular need prayer for wisdom about how to respond.
I also have never faced this before and need wisdom about how to most wisely respond moving forward.
Amazon executives and decision-makers also need wisdom and motivation about how to respond to improve their systems. Please pray for all involved.

Read it all. It’s important.

This really gets to me, and not just because I love Tish, and know how much her family — a clerical family, which means they are not well off — depends on her income as a writer. It gets to me as a professional writer whose family also depends on his income. Many people think that if you have a published book, you must be rich, or at least doing well. It’s not remotely true. I have done reasonably well with my books, but unless you’re Brad Thor-level, you’re not getting rich off of writing. Just today I met with a publisher in Poland that’s eager to publish my next book. It’s one of the most prestigious publishers in the country, but when I asked them how many copies of their books count as a best-seller, I was shocked. The market is really small. The US market is much bigger than Poland’s, of course, but the profit margin on books is minuscule. If you want to get rich, being a writer of books is not the way to do it. Counterfeiting books like Tish’s (and mine, and all of the non-blockbuster writers you read) is stealing from people who don’t have much.

I’m furious at Amazon.com. It claims to be vigilant about this stuff, but what happened to Tish’s book shows that this is nonsense. As Tish points out:

C. If you buy books from Amazon, make sure you notice who the seller is.

Stealing is stealing. True confession: I have watched pirated TV shows before, knowing they were pirated. In light of what has been done to Tish, I am embarrassed by that fact. I justified it by saying that it’s a big company, and nobody will notice, but that’s nothing but a cheap rationalization. If I had been stealing from a “little guy,” I would not have been able to justify it. It’s no less an act of theft when it is from a major distributor. If you’ve done this, I ask you to repent of it, as I am doing right now. There’s no excuse. It’s taking property without paying for it, and it hurts people who create it, and those like IVP who depend on the honesty of sellers and consumers to make their daily bread.

I hope there’s a class-action lawsuit to force Amazon to clean up its act. The retail giant is a veritable monopsony on the US book market. It doesn’t control the market, but it’s so big that everybody has to do what they say. They get rich from writers like Tish Warren, but they don’t do enough to protect us from counterfeiters. And they don’t protect you consumers, either. Nobody who buys books wants to benefit thieves. Amazon’s negligence has made honest book-buyers party to theft.

Lawmakers, are you listening?

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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