Any time that anyone mistreats, cheats, or defrauds one of my children, my momma bear claws come out. This week, Amazon turned me into a bear.
My eldest son recently finished writing a novel. The work took over two years to complete and was created in the middle of the night on weekdays and during mornings on weekends. More importantly, it is a great noir thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed it when I read it pre-publication.
It was due to be available on Amazon on June 1st, and many people pre-ordered it expecting Amazon to do as they said they would; ship it on June 1.
That did not happen. Since then, Amazon has said it is unavailable or not yet shipped. At one point, my son was no longer being shown the number of people who had pre-ordered it, but that information now seems to have reappeared.
He has contacted his print-to-order publisher several times, but they say the problem is not with them. The problem is with Amazon. We discussed various reasons why Amazon might do this and came up with some creative conspiracy theories but no real answers.
We did, however, come across an article from Writers Weekly that discusses this very problem. It says, in part:
“In a nutshell, Amazon is listing print on demand books either as unavailable or “out of stock,” available only through third-party resellers, or available but with very long lead times that don’t accurately reflect how quickly buyers can really obtain that book, even if Amazon orders it from the distributor. For example, it does NOT take 1-2 months to obtain a copy of a print on demand book! Rather, it takes just a few days.”
It seems that their goal is to encourage customers to order Amazon’s e-reader version of books instead of hardcopy paperbacks. By making the hardcopies hard to get, they hope to make money on their own products.
I leave it to you to decide for yourself if this is acceptable retail behaviour or not. I know that I am thoroughly disgusted.
Because of this, I recently tried a small experiment and found that I could order that same paperback book from Barnes and Noble in the US and have it shipped to my Californian sister the next day.
On the strength of that, I would recommend to anyone in the USA who has ordered a print-to-order book on Amazon that they cancel the order, then go to Barnes and Noble instead; they seem to be up to the task. I don’t know if a similar workaround is possible in any other country with a national bookstore, but I would be happy to find out. If you give it a try, please tell me how it plays out. This momma bear loves subterfuge.
Afterthought: My sister will not receive the book for at least a week. If it doesn’t arrive, you can expect a blog post about Barnes and Noble in the near future.
THE VERDICT IS IN! Barnes and Noble sent the book to my sister and it arrived within a week. I recommend that US readers cancel their print-on-demand book orders at Amazon and place them with Barnes and Noble instead.
Update: 11 June 2022. It turns out that Amazon UK, too, has been producing and shipping the book with no problem. We are awaiting news on whether or not a local Edmonton bookseller has been able to do the same.
One of my nieces in the UK is ordering a couple of books on my behalf and will mail them to me. How crazy is that?
I have written to my MP to complain. I doubt he can do anything, but I needed to tell someone who has some power.
Update 14 June 2022. One order from Amazon.com in the US has been delivered in Tennessee! There is hope!
Update 16 June 2022. One order from an Edmonton bookseller (Audrey’s Books) has been delivered in Edmonton.