Love 'em? Hate 'em? A little bit of both?
There is so much to hate about Amazon's bullying tactics, their dodging of sales tax, and their treatment of warehouse employees. (Do a search on any of those terms, and you'll get more background than you'll ever want.)
More than any of the above, I worry about any one entity controlling the distribution of books, because Books = Ideas. And limiting access to Ideas is a Bad Idea.
But two things happened recently that make it pretty obvious why Amazon dominates, and why they will continue to dominate if their competitors don't get up to speed.
I have a new book coming out in a few months. Very exciting, right? The minute I had a jacket image and ISBN number, I was ready to tell the world. Look how pretty! You can preorder!
But the book's information was available in only one place. Can you guess where?
And it was all there: Cover image. ISBN number. Publication date. Preorder button.* Plot summary. Links to all my other books.
It took about 3 weeks for the same information to show up at BN.com or any other online bookseller.
So, being an author who sympathizes with Hachette authors (there but for the grace of Amazon etc.), and is opposed to Amazon ruling the world, I had two choices: share my good news, via Amazon, or bite my tongue until the news was available more widely. I bit my tongue. (Which probably makes no difference for an author of my (un)fame, but it proves I'm a good sport.)
This morning a message popped into my inbox, directly from Hachette, advertising a specific new book title. I suppose I'm on their mailing list, and it WAS a book that interested me, and that I hadn't known about before. I followed the links to buy it at bn.com, where it was discounted, AND with free shipping.
"Ha!" I said to myself, "Good move, B&N! Way to capitalize on Amazon's feud with Hachette, swoop in and steal sales from your biggest competitor!"
I set about placing my order.
Half an hour later, after many clicks, blank screens, kick-outs, and general frustration, I still hadn't bought the book.
I gave up. I will try from another retailer, but I won't get a discount, and it's a $35 book, so a discount would have been nice.
If I had shopped at Amazon (except of course the book was "backordered" for 3 weeks and not discounted either**), I would have been able to part with my money in under two minutes.
So here is the conclusion: Love Amazon or hate Amazon, or somewhere in between, Amazon has its sh$t together. They know what they're doing, and they do it very, very well.
Until other booksellers--online and real-world--get up to speed, Amazon will continue to rule the world.
* because not a Hachette book
** because Hachette book