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American Newsstands Scramble for Copies of Charlie Hebdo

Only a few hundred copies of the first post-attack issue of Charlie Hebdo will make it into the U.S. A select few vendors will get them.

Florida newsstand owner Seth Cohen is a regular purveyor of French magazines, which are in high demand among the snowbirds who migrate there every winter from France and Canada. But he never had anyone ask for Charlie Hebdo.

Until now.

Customers have been flocking into his store, Bob’s News & Books in Ft. Lauderdale, and plunking down deposits for a copy of the satirical magazine’s latest issue, the first since its offices were attacked by Islamic militants last week. Cohen can’t be sure he’ll get any. But he has a close enough relationship with his distributor, LMPI, that he figures he has a shot at a small stack. “They told us they might be able to get us like 50 copies,” Cohen said.

That would be a huge score, given the remarkable demand.

The normally 60,000-copy-circulation magazine is churning out millions of additional copies of Issue #1178 and has still been unable to keep up. In France, 700,000 copies were sold in the first hour they became available Wednesday.

But America is an entirely different story. Charlie Hebdo hasn’t been regularly sold here for years. LMPI, the magazine’s main distributor in North America, said it will have only 300 copies of the new edition available for the U.S., to be divided among clients in New York, San Francisco, Florida and the Midwest. Those magazines are expected to start arriving Friday.

"It’s a case of demand far, far exceeding supply, " LMPI executive Vice President Martin McEwen said in an email. "We are in regular contact with France working to secure additional copies to respond to the demand." He said he hoped to arrange for a second shipment this weekend, but could not predict how many copies it would include.

That left non-LMPI clients, including the chain of Hudson News shops that are ubiquitous in U.S. airports, scrambling. “We made many inquiries of different distributors and we haven’t had any success,” said Laura Samuels, spokeswoman for Hudson Group National. “So, that’s where it sits, at least until they do another printing.”

In Los Angeles, Dmitri Stergiou, owner of Sherwood Magazines, said he hoped to secure 30 copies from his distributor (not LMPI). “They’re trying to get it, but I’m still waiting for an answer,” Stergiou said Wednesday morning.

The American Booksellers Association also is trying to get in on the action. “Currently we are aggressively pursuing options to find a way to distribute copies of Charlie Hebdo via independent bookstores that want to carry the magazine,” a spokesman said in an email.

The New York Public Library has a standing order for a copy, which will go into its vaunted research collection. But it had no idea when to expect it.

Even Albertine Books, which is supported by the French Embassy in New York, doesn't know whether it would get any copies, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

Same for Bouwerie Iconic Magazine in New York. “I’ve been told we’re not going to receive any copies for now, and we don’t know if we will,” manager Raj Tiwjri said.

Among the lucky is Chicago-Main Newsstand in Evanston, Illinois, a longtime LMPI client, which expects to have copies later this week. Whatever they receive will be divided among that store and its sister shop in downtown Chicago. “If anybody is going to be on the top of the list in the U.S. to get it, we would be,” manager Eric Ismond said.

Cohen, the Ft. Lauderdale vendor, is continuing to take advance payments for Issue #1178. He tells customers that he’ll call them in the order he received the deposits. But he reminds everyone that he can’t be sure the magazine will arrive at all. “There are no guarantees,” he said.