I saw this tweet a few hours ago and did a double take, thinking it must be incorrect.
Thirty-three of the top 50 books on Amazon are Dr. Seuss right now. I’d be surprised if anything like this has ever happened before.
— Eric Nelson (@literaryeric) March 3, 2021
When I checked Amazon’s bestseller list at 6:30 ET, I found that it was (basically) correct. Seuss books weren’t 33 of the top 50 sellers at that hour — but they were 27 of 50. An outright majority.
Here’s what the top eight looked like when I was on the page. Dude:
Seuss books were also numbers 10, 11, 12, and 13. The lone non-Seuss entry, in at number nine, was by, uh, Sistah Souljah, which is another reminder that we live in a simulation of reality now that’s simply too absurd to parody.
Curious, I checked the bestseller list at Barnes & Noble to see if the same thing was happening there. Result: Sistah Souljah at number one … and Seuss books at nine of the next 10 positions.
There’s a full-blown run on his books online today, post-cancellation — even though, technically, he wasn’t canceled. His own publisher withdrew six of his works voluntarily, without a pressure campaign from some online mob. Although one now has to wonder: Was that an earnest attempt to right a wrong or was it actually the marketing gimmick to end all marketing gimmicks, instigating a panic over a potential scarcity of Dr. Seuss titles in the near future that’s led to a buying frenzy?
Other media outlets have noticed today’s Seuss-a-palooza as well:
A day after the announcement of the cancellation, nine of the top 10 books on Amazon’s best-selling charts were by Dr. Seuss, though none were the six controversial titles. Those books are now much harder to get, and their prices on the secondary market have skyrocketed. On rare book site AbeBooks, first editions of And To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street are going for up to $9,000, while If I Ran the Zoo is selling for $8,200. On Barnes & Noble, both titles are already out of stock. Rare and children’s bookstores, which typically get calls about The Cat in the Hat or How the Grinch Stole Christmas, have been handling increased requests for the six nixed titles.
“Fielding those calls was basically our entire day yesterday,” says Marissa Acey, a manager at New York City’s Book Culture. The store only had one copy of If I Ran the Zoo, she added, explaining that none of the titles listed were popular enough to keep in stock.
“We spent the whole day yesterday on the phone answering calls about Dr. Seuss,” adds Peter Glassman, the owner of New York City’s fabled children’s bookstore Books of Wonder.
It’s not just the six verboten (and mostly lesser-known) books that are being snapped up, to the extent one can find them. It’s all of the classic titles too, even though they’re among the most ubiquitous books in American history. There’s not a library anywhere that doesn’t have multiple copies of “The Cat in the Hat” and “Green Eggs and Ham,” I’d guess. Although the nice thing about a cancellation panic is that you can always convince yourself that the libraries will succumb to the pressure to cancel Seuss too. Why, once it’s received wisdom that “The Cat in the Hat” is racist against … cats, copies of the book may become samizdats, available only if you have connections in “the underground.”
A scarcity panic is one reason for the run, then, not much different from surges in gun purchases after a mass shooting. If you have reason to think a coveted good might soon be unavailable, you snap it up before it disappears. But the other half of the equation, I think, is a gesture of solidarity with the late author by various constituencies. Parents who fondly remember reading Seuss as kids may be splurging today as a show of rejecting the perceived groupthink that his books aren’t quite fit anymore for decent people. Alongside them may be a big group of conservatives eager to defy any attempt to cancel a prominent cultural icon of their youths. If you want to own the libs, today’s the day to buy some Seuss books. Very much relatedly, Fox News is apparently in saturation-coverage mode on the story:
It's just 10AM and Fox News has already had 8 segments on Dr. Seuss "quite literally being canceled" [Narrator: He wasn't] pic.twitter.com/uSHnBT8sXn
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) March 2, 2021
Seuss’s publisher should give Fox a cut of the royalties after today. Anyway, combine the enormous audience of Seuss fans with the enormous number of righties who view cancel culture with contempt and you’ve got some consumer magic in the making in America’s online bookstores. Getting canceled — it’s the new path to fame and riches!