Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon Failed. Now What?

Ok. So. Amazon failed. For whatever reason, when they removed the ratings for GLBT and other "adult" titles, they did authors and publishers a huge disservice. Themselves, too. Apparently, Amazon has already lost a cool $80 mill over this fiasco.

Now what?

Will you stop supporting them? Buy those hard to get books from small dealers who have to order them from Timbuktu (or straight from the publisher on the other side of the world if you're lucky)? Boycott totally and utterly the Giant That Is Amazon?

Personally, I think that's the wrong approach. All that is likely to do is take away from GLBT authors and presses revenue that no doubt make up a very large part of their sales. Whether we like it or not, Amazon means easy access for many folk who live far away from the nearest decent bookstore. Even here, where I am in the capital of New Zealand (Wellington), books are extremely expensive. It's cheaper for me to order a book via Amazon than to buy one locally, even with postage included. If a local shop does not have it and have to order it, it is likely to cost me almost double. (I have eclectic tastes). So in my case, if I don’t buy my books from Amazon, I'm not buying them at all. And all that does is hurt the author financially.

I'm the first one to shout and scream about multinationals. But few things in life are black and white, and if we are really honest with ourselves, the damn grey whiff and wafts in everywhere. Yes, Amazon should have apologised by now, preferably on the home page of their website. Yes, they should accept responsibility. Yes, the GLBT community (and everyone else who rightfully did so) should have reacted the way they did and cause Twitter to be the Twit-Spawn in everyone's side. (I'm a Twit, too). But should we be condemning anything—anyone—before we have all the evidence? Some of the evidence?

Granted, we will probably never know what really happened. But to throw out Amazon like the proverbial baby with the bathwater would be a mistake that could potentially end up hurting GLBT writers—all writers—even further.

My two cents.


P.A.Brown said...

You have a point about how this could hurt authors and publishers and readers alike, but I also don't want to see everything go back to normal just yet. If they're hurting for $80 million then maybe a few more days of losing money will be incentive for them to make sure this kind of crap doesn't happen again. You're right, we'll probably never hear the real story, since they are showing their normal stubborn refusal to simply say "yes, we screwed up and we're SORRY'. I say keep sweating them for a while longer (which I think is going to happen) If we all go back to spending big bucks too fast they'll think what they did was okay and let it happen again. I won't be buying from them right away, and I'm going to encourage buyers to purchase my books elsewhere if they can.

Lynne Jamneck said...

Fair's fair; you make a good point. Sure, they can pinch a little bit longer, no doubt! Thanks for dropping in :)

Ruth Sims said...

Gosh, Amazon made a (nudge-nudge,wink-wink) glitch, did they? *snort* I wonder if anyone really believes that? I live in a small town and there is no bookstore at all, let alone an independent bookstore, for many miles. I have to order online or not at all. I intend to use Amazon only for the books I can't get from B&N, and other online stores. Unfortunately, I will have to use Amazon sometimes but, like flu shots, I don't have to like it. I was going to buy a Kindle for my granddaughter for high school graduation. Think I will now? As if.

I agree with P.A. -- if Amazon is capable of sweating, let them sweat. Of course $80 million is probably not much in their view of things. Who figured out how much they lost? Is that official?

Ruth Sims