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Sat, 29 Jun 2013

The Most Important Word in Publishing

Dustin Kurtz works for a publisher, and writes on their blog. His thesis is that authors do themselves a dis-service if they link to Amazon, and that they should instead link to some random small independent bookshop if they want to visitors to their websites to buy their wares.

In this piece, he omits the single most important word in the whole of the publishing industry. That word is "readers". He does mention customers twice, but only in the context of making sure that a bookshop is willing to post stuff to them and when he says "even if not a single customer finds them through you, [the bookshop] will be happy" - which is wrong. A bookshop to whom you direct no custom at all won't be happy. They won't be sad either, they just plain won't care, or even notice. Well, I suppose they might be pissed off if they made a special effort to stock your wares when you told them you'd be linking to them, and then didn't sell any. At no point does he consider even for a moment what readers, the people who are ultimately paying his salary, want.

Actually, the whole piece is confused. For example, he says that most people will go straight to Amazon in the first place and not visit author websites at all (which is probably true) but then thinks that that is a good reason for authors to not link to Amazon. Errm? The links to Amazon are for people who have visited the author's website and have not gone straight to Amazon. What people do who go straight to Amazon is irrelevant. Once someone has come to your website, they are, provided your site doesn't suck, yours, and they will keep coming back. Just like I keep going back to Charlie Stross and Hugh Howey's websites, via their RSS feeds.

But anyway, back to readers. What readers want is a combination of convenience and reliability. Amazon does both of those brilliantly, and with excellent customer service for the very few times that they screw up.

So, authors - please don't link to small local bookshops. It's far less convenient for your readers, who end up with a bazillion separate accounts with a bazillion separate online shops, and have to type all their details in a bazillion times, often fighting against idiotic web forms that simply won't accept their address* or phone number** or email address*** or whatever. Once the reader has fought through all that, he has to hope that your order fulfillment process works, that you know how to get stuff reliably to his door, and that if anything goes wrong you have heard of customer service.

Nah. Far better to just use Amazon.

In addition, I hear anecdotally that some authors make more money in Amazon Affiliates kickbacks than they do in royalties. If you don't link to 'em, I'll go there myself anyway if I want to buy your stuff.

* too many insist that all addresses have a state or a county, or don't have enough lines

** many won't accept phone numbers from other countries

*** many won't accept addresses with a + sign in them

Posted at 13:26 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon | books | culture
Permalink | 1 Comment
Sat, 4 May 2013

Amazon efficiency, part 2

I recently ordered a Huawei 3G-to-wifi router thingy from Amazon. It's crap and doesn't work so, after ordering a replacement made by another manufacturer, I had to return the duff one.

Amazon make this really easy. All I had to do was fill in a form on their website, print out an address label with a barcode, stick that on an envelope, and take it to a Collect Plus franchise. There are bazillions of these, even in ruralistan. This is far more convenient than having to take something to a post office which is only open for a couple of hours a day because they want to go out of business.

And best of all, the newsagent I took it to could scan that barcode, and my refund arrived within the few minutes it took me to walk back home.

The mark of a business that knows about customer service is what they do when something goes wrong. When everything goes right it's easy to please your customer, but when it goes wrong, such as when you've sold something that doesn't work, it's much harder. By making returns so very quick, easy, and quibble-free, Amazon have done it. Bravo!

Posted at 18:57 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon
Permalink | 0 Comments
Thu, 29 Sep 2011

Amazon Kindle wireless bug - and a bugfix

I recently bought a Kindle e-book reader (I'll post a full review later after I've had another week or so of using it) and first impressions are pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.

There was, however, one big problem. It couldn't connect to my wireless network, whose base-station is a Mac Mini running OS X. I talked to a nice lady in Amazon's customer support department, but after getting me to send my Kindle's logs, and having Amazon's engineers look at them, the best she could say was "your router isn't configured properly".

I'm afraid it is configured properly, and everything else - my phone, my iPad, my Linux laptop, my Mac laptop - can talk to it just fine. The only thing that can't is my Kindle.

This is because of a bug in the Kindle's DHCP client. In DHCPDISCOVER messages, the 'secs' field is meant to be set to the number of seconds since the DHCP process started. Many DHCP servers, including (in my case) Apple servers are configured by default to ignore such messages if 'secs' is set to zero, as this indicates a client that isn't fully running yet so any reply may not be noticed. A compliant client will retry if it gets no response, and after a few seconds of retrying 'secs' will be above whatever the server's threshold is, and everything will work. It seems that the Kindle always puts a 0 in that field, in violation of the standard.

To work around it on your Mac, do the following, in this order. I assume Mac OS X 10.6, it may be a bit different in others:

  1. open System Preferences
  2. open "Sharing"
  3. turn off "Internet Sharing"
  4. open Terminal.app
  5. type "sudo defaults write /etc/bootpd reply_threshold_seconds -int 0"
  6. if that asks for your password, enter it
  7. turn "Internet Sharing" back on
  8. sorted

I have emailed the nice lady at Amazon and told her that I have a solution, and that Amazon can have the solution in exchange for a 20 quid gift voucher. Seems only fair, given that people have been complaining on Kindle-ish forums about not being able to use Apple base stations ever since the Kindle was launched. I'm really surprised that Amazon haven't figured it out.

Posted at 19:21 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon | geeky | kindle
Permalink | 0 Comments
Fri, 3 Jul 2009

Good readers, please carry on

Hurrah! Someone out there is paying attention to my book reviews and bought four Strossisms. And what's more, they followed my links to that nice Mr. Amazon's website to do so, thus earning me a commission. Now, what's stopping the rest of you?

Posted at 19:22 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon | books
Permalink | 2 Comments
Sun, 7 Dec 2008

Amazon efficiency

Last weekend I ordered some stuff from Amazon - a USB memory thingy, and some DVDs. I told them to "group my items into as few deliveries as possible", to save money and also out of an embarrassing slightly hippy tendency to grumble about the waste of excessive packing materials. They do say that occasionally they'll split an order anyway, if part of it is excessively delayed, but ...

They sent five packages, all on 29/11/2008, at 06:10, 11:52, 16:16, 16:41 and 17:02.

It is obviously through efficiencies like this that they have attained their current dominance of the book/CD/DVD market!

Posted at 21:59 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon
Permalink | 0 Comments
Sun, 14 Jan 2007

Dear Amazon

You're a bunch of cunts. Not only do you provide no way for me to export my wishlist to XML or CSV or anything useful like that, you manage to break all the third-party applications that do it as well. I hate you and hope you die.

update: they had for no apparent reason disabled my account, although they were still sending me information about how to use it. It would have been nice if they'd told me. It would have been nice if I got helpful error messages back from the Net::Amazon module too.

Posted at 17:30 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon | geeky | rant
Permalink | 0 Comments
Thu, 28 Dec 2006

Amazon recommendations

Today I ordered a spoon from Amazon. This seems to have screwed up its recommendations system so now it seems to be ignoring the zillion bits of sci-fi, the zombie flicks and the metal CDs I've bought and thinks that I want:

  • a slotted spoon
  • a ladle
  • a spaghetti server
  • an omelette turner
  • some tongs

mixed in with:

  • "selected works" of Cicero (no thanks, I'll select my own)
  • "Iron Sunrise" by Charlie Stross
  • "Adventures of a bacon curer"
  • a DVD of The Da Vinci Code
  • Now 65

Well done Amazon, you score two out of ten.

And what the FUCK is an omelette turner?

Posted at 14:07 by David Cantrell
keywords: amazon | weird
Permalink | 3 Comments