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Amazon is no (Bibli)oasis

Biblioasis owner Dan Wells has taken on Amazon.ca on his blog, explaining in some detail the frustrations a small publisher faces in trying to deal with the online retailer.

Their bureaucracy makes Indigo’s seem positively customer-oriented. Their bibliographic information is consistently messed up; we have to fight with them to get our books in stock. They regularly, and seemingly for no reason, list our books as out of print, or not currently available, or not yet available, even months after the book’s release. One day the book is listed as available, with a couple of copies in stock; the next it is no longer in print. Twice in the last six months they have stopped listing our books as available the week immediately following a glowing Globe Review, the time when we are most likely to receive direct orders for our titles. I know for a fact that our distributor and sales force have repeatedly addressed this with amazon, with absolutely no success: go online today, the week after a positive Toronto Star review, 2 weeks after a rave of a Globe review, for John Metcalf’s Shut Up He Explained, and you will find it unavailable for anything but pre-order, a month after it’s official release, and after numerous bibliographic updates which should have remedied the problem. There is not a doubt in my mind that this has cost us at least several sales, and maybe more. And anyone who knows anything about small press publishing in Canada knows that every single sale counts.

Concerns like this have often been raised about Amazon, such as in this recent Q&Q piece. Publishers usually say that logistical snafus abound with both Amazon and Indigo.ca, its chief competitor, but Wells argues categorically that Amazon is far harder to deal with.

They ruthlessly squeeze publishers and distributors for a higher discount, charge exorbitant amounts for their promotions and advertisements, and, as a small independent publisher, make us jump through many more hoops than Chindigo.

And elsewhere in the Amazon complaints file, one small publisher recently forwarded Q&Q an e-mail from Amazon Canada saying that “at this time we are not taking any additional direct vendors.”

UPDATE: Wells has just posted a followup in which he concedes that, as it turns out, the most recent snafu was not Amazon’s fault but his own distributor’s. And he notes that his Amazon contact, after hearing about some of his frustrations, has agreed to buy on-hand copies of the fall Biblioasis titles.