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.

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16 comments

  1. I so completely agree. I bought a Nook because I’ve played with the Kindles and I like the Nook usability much better, but any paper book or specialty item I’d have to drive up to the nearest city and hope a store had in stock I can usually just buy easier and cheaper at Amazon.

  2. I totally agree! On top of everything you just said, Amazon’s customer service is top notch! I purchased form vinyl records for my son’s birthday. One of them was not what I ordered but some other band. I emailed them, thinking it was going to be a huge pain to exchange. I received an email back quickly, saying that they’ve already 1-day shipped the correct album (free). This before I even returned the incorrect one, which of course I did.

    The vast majority of my Christmas shopping came from Amazon. I’m a prime member too and it’s marvelous! :)

  3. I love shopping at Amazon. I even have an Amazon credit card so I can earn rewards for free stuff. I had an order of over $30 once that I got for FREE. And I had the same experience as Ginger. One of the seasons of Buffy I bought had two of the same disk and was missing one (even though it was labeled as a different disk). Amazon immediately sent me a new set before I even returned the old one.

    I love Amazon’s reporting system, too. You’re so right about B & N’s sales reporting. I have to do math to enter data into my spreadsheets. Amazon has it right!

  4. I have to say, a huge Amazon fan and have had nothing but amazing service from them. Like Ginger, I did 90% of my Xmas shopping there and was pleased as punch to get everything just delivered right to my work. I have a Kindle and LOVE it!
    Now…I must go investigate becoming a Prime member and this Amazon credit card!!!

  5. Mary and I buy lots of stuff from Amazon. We both have Kindles, and we have their Visa card. We’ve never had a problem with them.

    From what I understand, the Calibre program will convert epub files for the Kindle. I’ve never tried it, and don’t know if it gets around DRM. Looks like have some experimenting to do this afternoon.

  6. I have a NOOK Color, rooted it right away, and generally buy and read Kindle books on it. Price, selection–and the ability to find what I’m looking for: Amazon haz it. Amazon/BN comparisons could go on all day, but even other stuff–

    A few weeks ago I needed a new stylus for my daughter’s 3DS. Went to GameStop where it was bundled with the useless cases I don’t need and a cleaning cloth I don’t need for an unreasonable price. Over to Walmart. Surely, in the billions of items of Walmart…No. Same bundle. And another package where I could buy 6 for $10. No. No no no. And then I realized it’s the 21st century, so I got out my phone, looked it up on Amazon, and ordered a pack of 4 for 1/3 the price and no shipping (Prime). Left the store and had it in two days. When I’d already waited days to get a chance to drive out to the store and should have just ordered them in the first place and would have had them both cheaper and faster. I don’t consider a normal accessory for a very current game system to be a specialty item and this shouldn’t have been a thing. If retailers are feeling like they need to order bundled items to upsell me, they’ll find themselves losing the sale.

    Sorry for the tangent. Back to NOOK vs. Kindle… @John, no, Calibre does not circumvent DRM. If you’re going to convert your DRM’d books for another reader, you’ll have to do some research on liberating your purchases. On the Kindle Fire you can always install an app to read ePUB, but again, the DRM may prevent you from reading your books just like you can read a NOOK EPUB book on a Sony Reader that supports EPUB. As long as a company has an interest in limiting your shopping options, you never know how they’ll restrict their tablet/reader and what kind of hoops you’ll have to jump through to get what you want from it. I’m at the point now where I’d rather recommend a tablet not branded by a book dealer.

    1. Guess that answers my question about DRM, then; my guess is that the book I converted didn’t have it. I think I’ve seen a couple of hacks that circumvent it, though. I’ll have to try.

  7. I buy my chai on Amazon, two cases at a time. It’s cheaper than buying it at my local grocery store, which doesn’t always have it in stock anyway. In fact, my local grocery store and Walmart often STOP carrying products that I buy regularly, which means I’d have to make a 70 mile round trip to the city to get them, with all the aggravation that entails – if it weren’t for Amazon.

    As a result, I love shopping at Amazon. I would like to be able to read epubs on my Kindle, but I buy ebooks on Amazon and Smashwords only anyway, so that’s not a huge deal to me right now. Prime saves us LOADS on shipping! We bought almost every single Christmas present from Amazon in both 2010 & 2011. I buy almost all of my music from Amazon (that recommendation feature is the BOSS, man. I’ve found so many new bands that I crush on, thanks to it).

    If there’s a screw up, Amazon jumps right on it to fix it. Amazing in this day and age of crappy customer service. :)

    Plus, Amazon is the retailer where I receive the largest percentage of my ebook sales every year. Usually 70-80% any given year. Why? Because their search and recommendation/cross-listing features WORK.

    Most of the time, I can’t even get a full list of my titles available on B&N using my damn name. I have to search by title to find them all, and even the EXACT title with author name doesn’t bring up just my title, but a load of others that usually don’t even share any common words. Which is just stupid. :|

    On the other hand, I will buy DT books at the B&N store in the city when I have a chance to go there. Usually only clearance titles, because holy cows, DT books are expensive!

  8. I love my Nook. It’s an older model, but it’s easy to use and get the title I want. I can also download my own drafts and read them, which is cool.

    I will say a couple of things about a local bookstore and Amazon. One, Murder by the Book in Houston is an incredible bookstore with a vast selection, knowledgeable staff, and author appearances. For its niche, it can’t be beat. Second, the one thing that bugs me about Amazon is that it tracks me like a hawk. If I so much as browse an item, it sends me an email suggesting like items or I see Amazon ads on other sites indicating that they know what I’ve been searching for. I understand that as a business model, but it comes across as pushy salesperson and creeps me out. Anyone else?

    And yes, the Amazon Prime membership is totally worth it. My hubby has a Kindle Fire, and it’s great.

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