A deep drop in orders and sales from Amazon at many companies since mid-July has prompted rumors and speculation among industry players about the cause and whether it portends more buying changes at the online sales giant. A few companies contacted by PW reported orders down as much as 80% over the last four weeks for no apparent reason and with little explanation from Amazon.

One indie publisher told PW he was surprised when orders starting declining at the end of July since sales with Amazon have been strong since the pandemic. One company said that the automated Amazon Vendor Central response it received said the lack of new orders was based on Amazon’s forecast and needs. A person at an other company said he heard orders would return to a more normal pattern in September.

The most discussed reason for the slowdown is the decision by Amazon to slow its plans to add more warehouses following a disappointing first quarter financial report, where expenses jumped as online orders fell. Faced with a slowdown in online shopping, Amazon has canceled, closed or delayed the opening of 49 delivery processing facilities across the U.S., according to logistics consultant MWPVL International. That decision, the theory holds, has led to high inventory levels, making replenishment difficult.

Whatever the reason, the order/sales decline has publishers worried that a repeat of Amazon’s decision to cut book orders at the start of the pandemic may be at hand. A more ominous rumor is that Amazon is looking at moving more book fulfillment to third-party sellers. Contacted by PW, an Amazon spokesperson issued a statement saying the rumors of de-prioritizing books and moving to more third-party seller fulfillment are false. “This is not true; we continue working with publishers to maximize sales across the breadth of their titles,” said Maggie Sivon, a spokesperson for Amazon.

An independent publisher said he hopes orders begin to improve soon, because if they don't "lots of indies are looking at difficult times ahead."