Sunday, September 18, 2011

Amazon Makes Shoddy Books



Two copies of the same book? Well, you might think so, but being the author, I can tell immediately when Amazon has produced yet another shoddy book. See the one on the right? It's a different size; Jane Austen (bless her), looks a little different, and the font colors are slightly off. 

What happened?

A good friend of mine ordered 18 copies of this book from Amazon. She was going to to give them to the young people attending our Young Writers Workshop as part of the lead up to the Annual General Meeting of the Jane Austen Society of North America.

When the books arrived, it was clear that Amazon had violated their contract with my publisher and produced some of the copies through their own print on demand resources. Apparently, it is common to have an agreement with publishers that they can produce copies of a book if it is out of stock. However, Amazon is apparently determining what being "out of stock" means in a very flexible, self-interested way. If they receive an order and they, Amazon, are out of stock of the book, they are producing their own rather than obtaining the book from the publisher's warehouse.

This happened last year, too, and I complained then. I thought it was a one-time deal, but it isn't. And it isn't just happening to this book. Other authors have complained as well.

Why does this matter? 

Well, for one, they are making shoddy reproductions. The cover, the paper, the size of the print. Here's the side view:



See the book on the right? It's thinner. It's Amazon's version of the book on the left. They use a different kind of paper and they glue the book together differently.

How many authors is this happening to?


If you order from Amazon, look at the back page. If the book is from an established publisher and yet it shows something like this, you have just bought a shoddy reproduction of the book you wanted, rather than the book itself:


Besides getting a poorer quality book, this matters for other reasons as well. Perhaps Amazon's Print-on-Demand business needs some propping up, I don't know. But, certainly this is one way to keep their own presses, er, copiers running. For established publishers, it is a problem because at the end of the year, publishers are taxed for the books they have in their warehouse. This creates pressure for them to "dump" some of the copies at a reduced rate. How many extra books do they have in their warehouses because Amazon produced their own copies? 

It's unfair to the publisher; it's unfair to the author; and because of their low quality, it's unfair to the reader. If you want to read a book in print, rather than an electronic version, you should be able to read the book as it exists in print, not Amazon's (faulty) reproduction.

16 comments:

  1. I never order books from Amazon, and now I definitely won't be. This is very interesting. Can you have that agreement terminated?

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    1. Kênh thông tin mua bán nhà đất tại Việt Nam , nếu bạn muốn mua hay bán nhà đất thì chỉ cần vào đây , chúng tôi sẽ cho mọi người biết về tin của bạn, nhà đất tphcm, nhà đất gò vấp, nhà đất thủ đức, nhà đất tân phú, nhà đất quận 9 . Còn chần chờ gì nữa , hãy đăng tin mua bán nhà đất nhanh nhanh . Bạn đang phân vân không biết phải chúc đám cưới bạn mình như thế nào thì bạn có thể tham khảo lời chúc đám cưới, in thiep cuoi, lời chúc đám cưới hay o day .

      Delete
    2. Nội dung cậu chia sẻ tôi cảm nhận hay, chắc phải lưu lại xem tiếp.

      Sẵn đây tui muốn hỏi bên bạn có nhu cầu van chuyen Ha Noi hoặc vận chuyển hàng đi Sài Gòn không vậy?

      Mình bên công ty vận chuyển chuyên cung cấp các dịch vụ van chuyen hang Bac Nam như van chuyen hang di Hai Phong, vận chuyển hàng đến Đà Nẵng, chuyển hàng đi Nghệ An, van chuyen hang ve Cam Ranh, van chuyen Phu Quoc .v.v...

      Ngoài ra bên mình cũng chở thang máy Mitsubishi chính hãng, thang máy tải khách mitsubishi từ HCM để vận chuyển hàng hoá Campuchia, van chuyen hang hoa di Lao hoặc van chuyen hang hoa sang Trung Quoc.

      Có gì liện lạc cho tôi, cảm ơn bạn nhiều nhé.

      Delete
  2. Thanks Jennifer. It's not my agreement; it's the one between the publisher and Amazon. That's the problem. I am sure these agreements cover lots of contigencies, etc, but it seems that in this case Amazon is in the wrong.

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  3. I agree with the basic aim of ensuring that books are always available to those who want to buy them even if they are out of print, but agree this is the wrong way to ensure this.

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  4. My wife made a cookbook a few years ago. We originally set it up on Lulu.com and were quite pleased with the results - except the cost. I setup the book on Amazon and ordered a proof. The cost was much lower (about $8 vs. $25) but the quality wasn't acceptable. So we never published on Amazon and the book remains on Lulu.

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  5. In addition to the poor quality of the book itself, which affects the reader's experience, this is troubling for many reasons, among them the way it has an impact on the definition of "out of stock" which affects the definition of "unavailable" and "out of print" which affects when you can recapture rights to works contracted with a publisher. The author loses and loses and loses some more. Your AGENT and your publisher need to step up and take responsibility for confronting this situation.

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  6. Thanks! Katharine, you're right. It has continuing impact. I'll go back to them again!

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  7. Or just write a book with enough merit and appeal to be picked up by a real publisher and you won't have one more thing to incessantly whine about.

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  8. @ Anonymous: and do you have any proof that amazon doesn't pull this crud with "real" publishers? If so, where is it?

    I have to confess to a vested interest, having dabbled in self-publishing myself. Plus, Anonymous is pretty rude and I don't see the need for it.

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  9. I just ordered two books by Bonnie McCullough I thought were published by St. Martin's Griffin. Wrong! Both were produced by Amazon's print on demand publisher. One book had bright white paper like that seen in an office photocopier, and one had deeply yellowed paper that looked like it had been sitting around for 20 years. The glossy covers are just photocopies of the original covers, and they are sticky like photo paper. The print quality is almost unreadable, very light and crooked on the page. I've been a faithful Amazon customer but I am returning those books and that's the last order I'll place with Amazon. It's sneaky and dishonest to sell books to customers without disclosing they are print on demand. Guess I'll be looking for decent used copies of the books I wanted.

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  10. Nếu bạn đang định mua hàng ở amazon và có thắc mắc mua hàng trên amazon có tính thuế không hay cần tư vấn hướng dẫn cách mua thì hãy liên hệ chúng tôi. Chúng tôi nhận ship hàng từ amazon, nếu bạn sử dụng dịch vụ của chúng tôi bạn sẽ không cần lo lắng hay tìm hiểu nhiều nữa.
    Ngoài ra chúng tôi còn nhận vận chuyển hàng đi campuchia, chuyển hàng từ Pháp về Việt Nam, ship hàng từ đức về việt nam, chuyển hàng sang lào hay chuyển hàng từ anh về việt nam. Hãy để chúng tôi lo cho bạn nỗi lo về vận chuyển ship hàng.

    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete
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    ReplyDelete