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.
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.