There’s a very interesting blog post here on Bookarazzi about the latest attempts at world domination by Amazon. They suggest that bloggers put the text on their own blogs, but I’m leaving you to follow the link if you’re interested in Amazon’s hegemony.
I find myself torn in this whole debate. And here’s why. Testament is now ‘temporarily out of stock’ on Amazon and, though the site still confidently says ‘Order now and we’ll deliver when available’ it’s not clear to me that it’s going to be available anytime before January and the publication of the paperback. Because, essentially, it’s sold out. As in, the whole print run has been sold to booksellers, not as in every copy printed has now ended up on somebody’s shelf. (Because I do not have a subscription to Nielsen Bookscan (surprise!) I don’t know how it’s sold out of bookshops. I’d be delighted to hear from anybody who has seen it in a bookshop recently…)
Would Testament have sold so well if people had had to get off their bums and go to bookshops and buy it? I don’t know. The fact that it has sold so well is a great mystery to me. Not because I don’t think people will enjoy it – clearly, I very much hope they do – but because I don’t know how people have come across it.
Who has been buying it? And why? It’s not won prizes, it hasn’t caused any kind of scandal, there aren’t huge ads on buses and on tube stations, so where have people heard about it? Is it this blog? Unlikely. I’ve never been brave enough to put any kind of traffic-meter on the site as I don’t want to know how few people read it but I am under no illusions that these maunderings about my writing and reading life have produced hundreds and hundreds of sales.
It’s been reviewed here and there. I think some of the recent sales on Amazon are probably due to the really nice review which I mentioned here in the Church Times. But, apart from that, am I seriously to suppose that reviews in various local papers have generated hundreds of sales? Or my popping up now and again on BBC Radio Kent? Maybe I'm just ignorant of the publicity power these appearances generate...
The question I’m getting at is, has Amazon generated lots of sales for me via its ‘Perfect Partner’ and ‘People who looked at this also looked at this other book’ features? Because if that is what’s going on, then my reaction to their attempts to squeeze publishers (and therefore authors, therefore me) are bound – on a selfish level – to be different than if they did not contribute to my earnings in any way but the negative.
They may be squeezing the price by discounting and paying less for the book in the first place but if they then sell more, I’m no worse off.
Or am I? Sales on Amazon could potentially be made in a real live bookshop. But the thing is, would they be?
I have to put my hand up, here, and admit that, many a time, I have read about a book online and immediately clicked over to Amazon and bought it instantly (yes, I am on one-click ordering) whereas I probably wouldn’t have bothered to write the title down, go into town the following day or on the weekend and buy it. Or, more likely, order it.
So is Amazon denying real bookshops sales or are they doing two different things?
Does Amazon exist for immediate must haves, especially of the kind of book likely to have disappeared from the shelves; while bookshops exist for browsing, talking to booksellers and seeing what’s hot and what’s not. Because all of the latter are difficult, if not impossible, on Amazon.
What do other people think?