blog: What Amazon did

Lately there have been a lot of negative views on Amazon, for their blackmail-like politics and misuse of power (e.g. on Spiegel Online), and rightly so.

But, as someone living in Germany, you can easily get some perspective on how Amazon changed things for avid readers. As mentioned before, I have written a Firefox plugin which just makes me a bookseller-readable list of the interesting books I find on Amazon with the push of a button. I did that, partly, because Amazon pretty evidently tried to screw me on one order (which was for SD cards, not books, but anyway). Also I think it's a good thing to buy locally. So I just collect those books in that list, print it and take it to the book store that is conveniently close to the supermarket that I frequent every week.

It's definitely one of the better book stores - they are usually pretty darn fast (next day delivery on usual orders), they even offer a bike service to bring the books directly to your home (one of the "old" stores that has understood that there's nothing wrong with convenience...). They organize readings, meetups with authors and so on. But even they have problems when it comes to ordering the English originals instead of the German translations. One time I tried to order Pratchett's Long Earth and Scalzi's Old Man's War, among others. Estimated delivery time: 2 months.

Today (ok, by now, yesterday) I tried to order some older books by Christopher Hitchens, Harari's Sapiens and Randall Munroe's What If. First they told me, that all of them would take a long time to deliver. At last, they found another distributor that would at least have one of Hitch's books and the Harari book. Another Hitchens book would have to be imported and takes 2 weeks, the delivery time of the Munroe book is still unknown.

Ok, and now bear in mind, that this is one of the good book stores in Germany in a moderately large city, today. Sort of modern. Now imagine my hometown, a backwoods city which only has 27000 inhabitants if you count all smaller surrounding towns in the same community. Think back to the early nineties. No good book stores, only two crappy ones. A town not exactly known for it's intellectuality, rather for its beer consumption. Ordering Hitchens' God is Not Great as English original? (Had it been written by then.) Not a chance. And not only because people were still kind of militant catholics there back then...

[Update 2 weeks later:]

By the way, it then turned out that the Munroe book was immediately deliverable and both of the Hitchens books were not. And then another one still, because it came out October 1st, but the book shop's distributors apparently are not among those who get the new publications anytime close to the release. When or if the three books are delivered is still unknown.

[Update 28.10.2014]

Despite the fact, that the author, the publisher and Amazon announced the book to be out October 1st, it is delayed because the author misjudged the time and work needed. So it's not the distributors' fault.

[Update 18.06.2017]

Replaced Spiegel link with archive.org, pointed amParser to new location.

2014-10-10 00:27