Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Is Amazon putting coal in small publishers’ stockings for Christmas?

Some authors’ books which last week were listed as available (ship in 1-2 days) are now listed as 5-8 weeks or 6-9 weeks or some 1-2 weeks. There doesn’t seem to be any discernable logic about what is marked with what availability. It doesn’t take a genius to see what marking a book as ‘available in 5-8 weeks’ means at this time of the year. So, what’s the deal?

Many of these books marked with such a delivery time are available right now, and if an order is placed at Amazon, it will indeed ship right away, but how is the public to know that? And if someone is ordering a book as a Christmas present how would they have any faith that they would receive it in time with the delivery date marked like that?

Amazon is the big gorilla in book sales expected by some to sell over 80% of the books in the market. What’s the old story about “where does a 500 pound gorilla sleep? Anywhere he wants to. Is that what’s going on here?

Actually, I can’t think of any reason Amazon would want people to think books they could be selling would not be in stock until after Christmas. Selling those books is what they do. Another small publisher told me when he saw that on some of his titles he quickly ordered a copy through them and it updated immediately. That’s the kind of thing that makes it look like a software glitch, not some kind of action they have taken.

As we get closer, you can expect me to talk about Christmas not being about gifts, but rather to remember whose birthday we celebrate. I very much believe that, and bristle every time someone tells me “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” But even if we put our priorities in the right place we do have to take care of business too.

Retailers make or break their year on Christmas sales and it is important to booksellers, publishers and authors as well. In today’s economy with money very tight we don’t need software problems throwing roadblocks in the way of making the most of the season. I’m told that they are working hard to correct the problem and I hope it gets resolved very soon.

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