On Amazon and the Economics of Clicking My Mouse

I just read an article in the NYTimes titled “Small Publishers Feel  
Power of Amazon’s ‘Buy’ Button,”
in which they talk about how Amazon–
in an effort to try and get an increasingly more favorable cut of the  
profits from publishers– will take away the “Buy now with 1 click”  
button on many of the titles that that publisher puts online (which  
includes free shipping) unless they bend to their demands, forcing  
people to go through to the Amazon marketplace (and pay for shipping)  
to purchase the book.

The first thing I thought when I read the article was “wow, we’re  
getting upset because we actually have to click the mouse at least  
three more times to purchase a book” and then I thought “well, three  
times is kind of a lot,” and then I thought “especially when you cut  
your pointer finger moving an air conditioning unit.” But after  
reading it over again (I’m thorough!), I realized the main point:  
Amazon is not being cool.

On one hand–and this hand is small, fragile, and needs its nails  
trimmed– I understand Amazon’s move. They are a business, and  
businesses make money, and money is what you need to buy Playstation  
3’s, even if you’re only using them for the Blu-Ray disc drive. Of  
course a business is going to try and gain a more favorable financial  
foothold, especially if their place in the market has increased.  
That’s just Econ 101, a class I never took.

But Amazon touts itself as “Earth’s most customer-centric company”  
and customers shouldn’t be forced to get punished financially for  
liking titles that just happen to be published by companies who are  
not assenting to Amazon’s demands. More importantly, I use the “buy  
now with 1 click” button all the time to make impulsive purchases,  
and then rationalize the purchase by telling myself that it’s too  
late to take it back because it’s already been shipped (free!), and I  
don’t want to feel like I’m supporting someone who is being a jerk to  
people in our literary fraternity/sorority/society. So I’m (kind of)  
conflicted.

This remains just another example of the (business) man keeping me down.

But, friends, yours and my time would be wasted if I didn’t have a  
solution for said situation. And I don’t, which I feel bad about, but  
I think you can help. You’re all smart, savvy, aesthetically pleasing  
people of various Interweb knowledge, so I figure you can provide me  
(and you) with the names of all other online book retailers that you  
use and think offer sweet deals or at least fair purchasing rights  
with moderately few clicks. You can provide these names in a section  
of the blog I have named “Comments” and then we will use that  
knowledge to better our lives. This is what economists call “very  
chill.”

So let’s do unto others as they’d do unto us in the Comment section  
and let the Tony Rich Project carry us home with another sweet sweet  
ditty from the year of Bob Dole. After all, he’s missing you and nobody
knows it but him.

Nobody,
Knows

The Tony Rich Project

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19 thoughts on “On Amazon and the Economics of Clicking My Mouse

  1. Kristan C.

    "Your welcome". "Your welcome." Kevin? Really? 🙂

    FWIW, anyone who wants to follow the Amazon travesty and the antitrust lawsuit can do so at Writers Weekly (writersweekly.com). My understanding is that a lot of publishers and authors have not just had the 1-click button removed, but for a while there, ALL "buy buttons" were removed.

    Oh, and speaking of independent bookstores, can I pimp one other website? (I’m not affiliated with either of these sites, other than that I like ’em.) http://www.newpages.com/bookstores lists independent bookstore by state. I know they try to keep it updated, so if you see wrong info pass it on (I’ve done that 3 times, sadly enough.)

  2. Kevin Alexander

    Tom– I assume your search engine of choice was Ask Jeeves. Jeeves knows (a decent amount of) stuff.

    Richard– I have used alibris before and have nothing but above average things to say about them… that’s a solid pick. Also like your admittance that LA contains no public trans. I couldn’t handle that–I get infuriated in even the littlest bit of traffic bc I think that I could be sitting on the subway reading a (racy!) article of sorts from a free weekly, listening to drunk college students talk about Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

    Karen–It sounds like it’s time to start burying your books in the backyard in faux-time capsules. Your welcome.

  3. Tom

    Genevieve,

    "good music and sculling" – tongue firmly in cheek.

    "Loving New Orleans is like loving a charming juevenille delinquent." – I love that sentence.

  4. Genevieve

    Kevin- Yay! Enjoy the rest of your week. About Bourbon Street, it is partly the thick humidity, but also a mixture of lots and LOTS of alcohol, and strip clubs everywhere you turn. Plus on the weekends there are people on balconies overlooking the street and sometimes a crowd will gather below a few chicks who look drunk and willing enough to take stuff off with enough prompting (money!). If you walk around St. Ann, the gay bar corner, ocassionally you get to see some dude nudity. But I’m telling you the grittier side. The art, food, and music are worth living here when you ignore the racism, corrupt politics, terrible school system and high murder rate. Ah, home. Loving New Orleans is like loving a charming juevenille delinquent.

    Tom- fans of good music and sculling?? Hee hee. That song had to be a Kevin creation.

  5. Tom

    Kev,

    By the by, when I typed "this coxwain’s life" into my search engine of choice, I got this as my first result: http://www.coxswaincafe.com/books.php

    Now you have one more place you can go to pick up some reading material. (I’d still stick with This Writer’s Life for the blog, but that’s totally up to you, of course.)

    And for all the fans of both good music and sculling I present what I believe to be KA’s little-known songwriting and rapping debut: http://youtube.com/watch?v=be_Tq1XVI5c&feature=related
    It’s just gotta be. The streetwise knowledge, killah rhymes, and coxswainery. It all fits.

  6. Kevin Alexander

    Genevieve– That missive re: my use of the parenthetical exclamations made my entire week (I’m shallow!)

    To follow up: Are people still topless on Bourbon Street? Is it bc of the humidity?

    Tom: nice little summation of the piece. And to answer the obvious follow up– i think a summation is like a rich person’s version of a summary, although I’m too lazy to actually google it, with the increase in mouse clicks I’ve had to overcome…

  7. Richard Robins

    I’m not a writer, I just enjoy books. Kev, may I suggest an alternative to Amazon, which seems to link indie bookstores to the web. It’s ‘alibris.com.’ Here in Los Angeles we don’t walk anywhere, in particular we don’t walk down to the bookstore.

    Alibris seems to be less of a commercial big-box vendor. I find the caliber of the booksellers there reasonably priced and responsible. I’m presently collecting 1st edition/1st printings of Ian Fleming’s 14 Bond books. I have found Alibris represents many smaller booksellers and enjoy getting a book from the postman.

  8. Genevieve

    One more thing about George Eliot that I just realized while finishing my coffee, and then I really will stop typing (and besides it’s off topic). The reason she went by a guy’s name isn’t just because the reading community wouldn’t have taken her seriously. It’s because she had balls of steel. No one would have believed she was female. She wrote about doctors, lawyers, writers, politicians, staunch Catholics, and farmers. And did it effectively! She had to know about medicine and property laws. No one would have believed that a woman could have been that intelligent. Think about how amazing that is for a Victorian age woman. And she could write the socks off of anybody. My friends who might be reading this have all heard me say this before, but it’s impressive enough to mention again. She’s my idol. Can you tell?

  9. Genevieve

    Man, this is a great one because it involves a subject I know very little about (business), and references books and an article I haven’t read. It’s like a nerd knowledge buffet!

    As a devote New Orleanian, I must speak in favor of my three favorite indie New Orleans bookstores: The Garden District Bookstore, The Maple Street Book Shop, and Octavia Books. And if you’re ever in New Orleans, The Crescent City Book Shop in the French Quarter is kick ass with book selections and bohemian ambiance. I believe that you can order books on-line from Garden District. Kevin, these might have been mentioned in the WD article but I have yet to read it. But now I will because it sounds intriguing. Anyway, I think everyone should support their local bookstores BUT the reason I mention mine is because I’m a selfish bastard. No, not really. It’s just that we are very, very, very, VERY slowly recovering from Hurricane Katrina (after nearly three f’g years) and the city needs all the help it can get. I will now end my still-not-recovered-from-Katrina tirade because I could go on and on. But if anyone is ever in New Orleans, after you’ve done the tourist ritual of seeing the topless people on Bourbon Street, you should hit the bookstores.

    Tom, I feel your nightowl pain about coffee shops that close too early. And the smell of libraries can be intoxicating if you’re in a particularly bohemian (my word of the day) mood. Stacey, I am obilged to reccomend British author George Eliot. She’s one of those women who went with a dude’s name. You should get Middlemarch. When you look at it you may scoff and say, "But Genevieve, I have no time to commit to an 800 page character driven novel about people in mid-1800’s British society." Oho, but that’s where you’re wrong! Dude, it’s brilliant. Granted, the 1st 100 pages are slow, but stick with it. Her skill is amazing. The character development is the best I’ve ever read and the dialogue is fantastic. There are sentences I highlighted while reading this thing because they were so good.

    One more thing to say and then I promise I’ll stop typing. Kevin, I think you’ve influenced the way I write ever so slightly. In my last blog I wrote about eating "banana nut bread (with raisins!)." After I wrote that I thought, "That paragraph statement with the exclamation point looks familiar. Have I written something like that before?" But when I read your blog and saw this, (I’m thorough!) I realized it was a Kevin Alexander influence. Dude…you’ve done what all of us strive to do. An small part of your style has, unbeknowst to me, influenced part of my style. I feel so corrupted! Well done.

  10. Tom

    I’m all for the library as well, and try to borrow as often as possible, both as money- and space-saving measures. This doesn’t always work out for me though, as sometimes the book I need isn’t available from the library (London’s The Iron Heel, volumes two and three of Richard Mathesons’ collected short stories, and, no, I don’t know why the library had volume one and not the other two, and this parenthetical note has turned into its own paragraph somehow complete with a fabulous run-on sentence), or it has a gazillion holds (okay, seventeen for Diablo’s Candy Girl, but it’s still ridiculous), making the wait too long for even my uber patience.

    I have ordered from Amazon on occasion – an especially handy route to take when purchasing gifts for a loved one living in another state (just make sure you check your "ship to" address before you place the order and don’t accidentally send it to the address your brother lived at in college five years ago, ’cause that sucks, and no way in hell will you ever get it back). Still, the independents are fab, and I try to support them as often as possible.

    On a note of Kev’s, I was bummed that Indiana didn’t make any list of hot spots for the WD issue of same. I can’t say it’s because we were ignored. Other than the obvious haunts, I don’t know that we have any real hot spots. And, sadly, much as I’d like to use my "support the indies" intentions regarding coffee shops, the indie shops here all close around 8pm, which is far too early for me to make use of them, at least on a weekday. Hell, most times I don’t come up with available evening free time until after 8pm, and often it’s not until maybe nine or even ten o’clock. Sad to say, Startbucks is open latest (midnight), making them my default for caffeine and laptop peckage in the late evenings…but I sort of digress, I guess. Back on topic: extortion sucks, though Amazon can still be cool, and your life will be richer and fuller if you patronize indie bookstores and libraries whenever possible.

    Where the hell is Genevieve?

  11. Kevin Alexander

    Friends, I am one amongst the many of us that love the independent bookstore. I implore you to read the WD issue which included the "Literary Hot Spots" of a bunch of cities… I picked three fantastic indy bookspots in Boston. In slang, these places are known as "jump offs." Also love libraries with their strange, intoxicating smell and nice, patient older women.
    Speaking of libraries, Stacey– I recommend William Boyd and Zadie Smith as two fantastic Brit authors… but there are many more. Brits can bring the literary pain. As can the Irish (I’m huge Roddy Doyle fan). My dad can attest to both, seeing how he gave up reading anything but obscure Scottish mysteries.

    Anyway, I must return to watching my Celtics destroy the Lakers for the NBA championship while eating Vanilla Heath Bar Crunch ice cream. That in itself is a party, friends.

    Let the comments ensue.

  12. Carol Pierce

    Each of you offers extremely realistic, practical solutions to the Amazon problem…why not support our local independent bookstores and our libraries paid for with our own tax monies?

    Because of your comments, I am beginning immediately to provide free shipping to those buying books from my website and will encourage those attending my programs on publishing to do the same…and to emphasize even more that they follow in my steps by having their books only available at the independents…

    One of my consulting clients sold out of the first printing of her independently published book in less than a month by following that one piece of advice..and that was before her first scheduled book signing at a local venue…not a big box chain bookstore!

    Your suggestions do work!
    Carol Pierce
    http://www.jumpnow.com

  13. Stacey

    Well…I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything online, so I can’t relate to clicking a mouse numerous times in anticipation to relax my finger. Actually, I don’t usually buy books at all. My mom insists on getting everything from the library because why pay for a shiny book when I can get a crummy one with torn pages out of the library for free?

    Question for anyone who would like to answer…What are good books to read by British authors? I have an assignment and I have to choose a book written by a British author. I don’t think Peter Pan is an option…

  14. Mindy

    I’m with Tom and Dharma. I’ve used Amazon once that I can recall, and really don’t have a desire to use it again, no matter how many times I do or do not need to click the mouse. Convenient, yes. But half the fun in buying books is being able to flip through the pages while breathing in that new (or used!) book smell.

    -Mindy

  15. Tom

    Ah, yes, nothing like a little extortion, is there? That’s Econd Day One stuff there, Kev.

    I have to say, reading all that makes me feel extra awesome that, the last two times I’ve ordered books, not only have a clicked more than three times to order them, but I’ve ordered them from the independent bookstore in my neighborhood. Yes, that’s right, I’ve paid an extra two, possibly even three, dollars per book so that I can click more and then WALK ALL THE WAY DOWN THE STREET and pick up my books! OMG! I walked!!!

    Seriously, the bookstore down the street is "pretty chill" as economists around the world would say. They’re very small, but they are very enthusiastic about books, and extremely helpful in getting you anything you might want. I friggin’ love that little shop, and I want to see that storefront when I pass down that street, so I give them my money.

    I don’t think Amazon is inherently evil or anything, just offering up another possibility in the world of book purchasing.

    Tom (who is looking forward to getting his Jack London purchase from said bookstore this very week)

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