Say What You Want About Amazon’s Business Practices, But They Treat Customers Right
There’s a lot of time, effort, and press devoted to Amazon bashing in the book business. The Big 6 hate them for their loss leading sales practices designed to get their Kindles out the door and forced them into agency pricing. Other people (myself included) have been up in arms about KDP Select. Small business owners have been generally unable to compete with Amazon’s usually uncomparable low prices and talk about this Goliath as if they are personally responsible for the rest of the world’s refusal to change with the times and update their business models.
I get it. Amazon is scary in the business world because they are innovative and incredibly successful. They are mushroom eaters. And most business owners do not have multi-million (or is it billion now?) dollar companies with excess revenue that allows them to play around with assorted business tactics (many of which are referred to by others as “predatory”) to try to raise their profits.
But here’s the thing. As a business owner you can bitch and whine and moan all you want about the evils of Amazon. But grousing about it isn’t going to change. They are what they are and if you want to survive, you’re going to have to change with the times and provide INCENTIVES to the customer. This is one of the main reasons I think Amazon has been so freaking successful. Because from a customer standpoint (other than KDP Select), they do SO MANY THINGS RIGHT.
Case in point. I prefer shopping for dead tree books on Amazon. Why? Several reasons. 1) I can actually FIND WHAT I AM LOOKING FOR, which I almost never can at real book stores. 2) It’s easy to sort out where books fall in a series with a few clicks of a button, and guess what, AMAZON HAS ALL OF THEM, not just the most recent release. 3) They have this nifty little button to report a lower price. I can’t remember ever paying full retail for a dead tree book on Amazon. And since we have an Amazon Prime Account (worth it’s weight in gold), I never have to pay for shipping (and I mean awesome free, two day shipping, none of this super saver wait for 2 weeks after you’ve spent over $25 and MAYBE get it then crap), making it ALWAYS cheaper to order my dead tree books from them. I understand the desire to support small local businesses, and I do when it comes to thinks like produce and services and stuff that matters, but frankly, my local bookstores suck, they have a lousy selection of what I like to read, their customer service is non-existent, and I’d way rather get 4 or more books for the price I’d pay for 2. In an economy where people have less discretionary funds for spending, this kind of thing matters. A lot.
Amazon’s selection is better (on books and a myriad of other things). They are a GODSEND for the gluten intolerant. I have a subscription bulk order on gluten free flours that I simply can’t get in my small town. It makes my life so much easier and cheaper than if I were to buy the same from Whole Foods or some health food store.
Their categories and lists are generally easier to navigate and locate, and ranking actually means something. They are infinitely more browsable (because of said rankings), and they take your buying history into account and suggest other stuff that people who bought what you bought have also liked (and I’m sorry, they just give MORE of that than Barnes and Noble and it seems to be better).
Their Android app store is ginormous and their apps are often cheaper than at Barnes and Noble. It’s still on my list of Things To Do to hack my Nook Tablet so I can buy my apps anywhere. Because, yeah, Barnes and Noble has an app store of like 1200 apps instead of over 20,000.
I am a Nook fan not because of anything Barnes and Noble has done but because I like the physical device better and I’m not limited to one particular format or one particular store in buying my ebooks. That’s it. That’s why I bought a Nook over a Kindle anything.
And it’s been my experience that Barnes and Noble is so not interested in doing anything to keep up with or be like Amazon. Their Pubit! platform has been a mess from day 1. Their sales reporting is clumsy and harder to use (seriously…I just want a total number of each title sold…I don’t need to know how many I sold on what day–you do not endear yourself to me by making me do math to update my spreadsheet having books sold that lags 2 days behind, then having to add Yesterday’s Sales and Today’s Sales if I want a semi accurate picture). They STILL have not gotten their keyword search fixed more than A YEAR later, and I don’t think they ever will. They have zero interest in price matching. If someone has a lower price elsewhere, well good for them, we aren’t going to do diddly squat. And pretty much universally all the suggestions made that have a ring of “But Amazon does it this way and it’s better” are met with a stony silence that has a serious ring of “Go fly a kite”.
No, I think I’ll go shop at Amazon instead. And if Kindle ever reads EPUB, I might even buy their device.