Is There a Right or Wrong?

 Jenny Milchman, all around great gal, has posted yet another insightful piece on the controversy surrounding the success of or potential world domination by Amazon.com [Amazon: E-volutionary or Reinventing the Wheel?]. Her post stemmed from yet another article in the NYT on the subject [Amazon Signs Up Authors, Writing Publishers Out of Deal]. The response below is what I replied on her blog, but thought it deserved repeating.

I love what Amazon has done for the industry on both sides. I’ve shopped at Amazon for years and have loved its convenience. As for the publishing side, they have opened up new doors for so many writers and readers. They have offered a brighter shade of legitimacy to those not published by the legacies. The only problem is, booksellers don’t seem to get that it is not all or nothing. I know many booksellers think Amazon is the cause of them losing business, but I have said this before and I will say it again: lack of customer service is what drives business away, along with higher prices.

It is not Amazon’s fault it has more money to buy books at a lower per unit price. It is their good fortune to have that capital. What I have noticed over the last decade is that so many (not all by any means) indie booksellers have gotten angry at the industry that is shifting and growing around them, and have almost given up. They don’t offer the old-fashion kind of CS that takes them away from their desks/counters to lead a person to the book they are looking for. They don’t have time to be pleasant when someone comes in at the last minute before the store closes. And in so many cases (from my personal experiences) they are unwilling to carry, or even special order books from authors and publishers they “don’t like or support.” I cannot even count how many indie stores have refused to carry Echelon books or host our authors, or even special order because they don’t “consider” us a real publisher. {{insert colorful expletives here}}.

Things change and Amazon does so well because people simply don’t expect those things from a web site. Log on, get your stuff, log off, wait for delivery. No grumpy salespeople, no waiting in lines, nobody ramming their overloaded basket into the small of your back…over and over…and no traffic. They are very small prices to pay for not getting them in hand immediately. Most of us are okay with that if it saves us money.

Don’t dis Amazon because they are successful. You still have a choice. Don’t like what they do or how they do it, don’t shop with them. It’s pretty simple. But don’t make them out to be bad guys because they are good at what they do.

KS

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5 responses to “Is There a Right or Wrong?

  1. Thank you, Karen, for noticing my post–and for your insightful comment. I couldn’t agree more–Jeff Bezos himself probably doesn’t want world domination, but to offer a mode of buying and publishing books that widens the net.

    As you know 😉 I love bookstores, yet even a diehard like me sees my tech husband look for math or computer science books when we go into our local independent, and quickly exhaust the stock. Amazon provides an antidote to that.

    They also, as you suggest, open a door to writers whose work just doesn’t fit in traditional modes, and even provides a way of doing things that improves upon that tradition for some.

    On the bookstore side of things, I would love Echelon authors to appear at my local indie. I hope that booksellers in general get the message that opening the book world is what truly draws in customers. It’s what’s made Amazon succeed so hugely, but it’s also something bookstores can do uniquely when more than an online click is desired.

  2. Independent booksellers ask us to support them, but they will not support the independent author/publishers by stocking their books. I work with Amazon for everything now, publishing, distributing and retail and I have never made so much in alll my years as an author.

    I should point out that I am not a “hobby author.” I have a total of 8 books and this is my full-time job. Three of my books have received one of Canada’s major awards. I have been working as an independent author publisherfor 6 years after six years with traditional publishers.I got tired of publishes and agents saying humor doesn’t sell, when Dave Barry, Garrison Keillor, and many others including me had the sales numbers that proved them wrong.

    One independent bookstore near my home has my most recent book on their online bookstore and will only special order it for customers. The book has a list price of $13.99, and Amazon currently has it on sale as a new release for $10.07. The independent bookseller is charging $19.24 for the book. None of that extra money comes my way, but I have been asked why “I” am charging so much more for my book locally.

    Canada’s big-box bookstore similar to Barnes and Noble list half of my boos for sale there.

    Amazon have treated me fantasticly. Four of my books are near the top of the best seller list for the Kindle in Parenting and Family humor, and two are on the Christmas list. I can pick up the phone and talk to them about any issues that arise, and they have dealt with them quickly and professionally.

    Charging $5.25 more for my book is definately not professional and is simply ripping off my readers, something that has me pretty annoyed.

    • This is not the first time I have heard this. I find it very frustrating when I am sending a store customers and they refuse to order a book because of their “opinion.” You want the sales or not? Cause I can and will send them to Amazon.com.

      The other things is the credibility issue. Indie stores are just as good, if not better than the chain stores, or so we are told to believe, and yet, they refuse to give indy authors and publishers the same courtesy, and that is what it really is.

      I have several indy stores that I love and I adore their booksellers, but on the whole, those great stores are few and far between. With a little more attention to the customer instead of just the bottom line ($) I think the bottom line would actually improve on its own. The sacrifice of one or the other is not a good business plan at all.

  3. All very good points.

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