In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses, Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn't clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. "It's a nightmare," the head of one independent publisher said.

Problems with controlling inventory heading to its warehouses is not a new issue for the giant e-tailer. In the summer of 2018, ahead of Amazon's annual Prime Day promotion, several publishers and distributors reported long delays in picking up orders because of capacity issues at Amazon's distribution centers. It appears that rather than ordering titles it won't be able to get into its warehouses, Amazon has chosen to cut orders, several companies told PW.

While not directly addressing the question of a reduction in book orders, a representative from Amazon said that the company's teams and systems are always evaluating what they expect its customers want to buy and place orders to its vendors to ensure that it has enough stock in inventory to meet its customers' needs.

With the holiday shopping season here, the reduction in orders comes at a particularly bad time. "We are missing our October numbers and November is slow out of the gate," the CEO of an indie house said about the impact on sales due to the cut in orders from Amazon. He added: "It’s hard to see how we can catch up in the next six weeks."

The head of yet another company said if Amazon orders don't rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks, "we [could] lose the entire holiday season." He added that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible that some online book sales could move to and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations. If Amazon starts running out of stock, he added, "maybe they'll lose some market share to their competitors."

This story has been updated with further information.