October 01, 2011

September Bestsellers

1. Reamde by Neal Stephenson
2. A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin
3. Legacy of Kings by C.S. Friedman
4. Tears of the Sun by S.M. Stirling
5. Departure by Neal Asher
6. Rule 34 by Charles Stross
7. Embassytown by China Mieville
8. Magician King by Lev Grossman
9. Ghost Ship by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
10. How Firm a Foundation by David Weber

Mass Market Paperbacks
1. One Salt Sea by Seanan McGuire
2. A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
3. A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
4. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
5. A Feast for Crows by George R.R. Martin
6. Black Prism by Brent Weeks
7. Truth of Valor by Tanya Huff
8. The High King of Montival by S.M. Stirling
9. Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey
10. Ghost of a Smile by Simon R. Green

Trade Paperbacks
1. Zero History by William Gibson
2. The Panama Laugh by Thomas Roche
3. World War Z by Max Brooks
4. The Urban Fantasy Anthology edited by Peter S. Beagle and Joe R. Lansdale
5. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu

Amazon is Nobody's Friend, part 2

by Alan Beatts

Last month I discussed some of the more objective problems with Amazon's general business practices.  This month I'm going to talk about how they just don't play nicely -- not with customers, authors, publishers, or the public at large.

But first I need to correct something that I suggested in last month's article.  When I was talking about the number of companies owned by Amazon, one of businesses I mentioned was LibraryThing <http://www.librarything.com/>.  I suggested that the way that they list sellers for books was influenced by Amazon's 40% ownership of the company.  A very kind reader who is familiar with that company pointed out my implication was not true and that I was doing a disservice to an independent company run by a very independent man, Tim Spalding.  After doing some research (which I should have done before I published), I discovered that the gentleman who contacted me was absolutely right and I was wrong.  Then I got in touch with Tim to apologize.  He was very pleasant and took the whole thing with more grace that I probably would have, were our situations reversed.

The short version is that, though the facts that I presented were accurate (i.e. that Amazon's purchase link (along with AbeBooks, which is owned by Amazon) appears more prominently than links to other sites (like Barnes and Noble)), the reasons for it had nothing to do with Amazon's ownership interest in LibraryThing.  Instead, the reason is Amazon has a policy that, if a site uses their data, which LibraryThing does, along with the data from more than 900 (!) other services, that site _must_ list Amazon's purchase links at the main purchase page and may not list any other business.  Tim doesn't like this rule and as a result made sure that the secondary purchase page was well designed and very accessible.

Tim also clarified something about the ownership of LibraryThing.  Amazon's stake through ABE is now actually less than 40% due to the 2009 purchase of a non-majority interest in LibraryThing by CIG, the parent company of Bowker, the company behind Books in Print.  Tim still retains majority ownership and in still in charge.

LibraryThing is a very cool site, a great service, and run by a fine, independent, and reasonable man.  I recommended it highly.

On the other hand, Amazon has --

(A) Edited customer reviews with a bias towards creating sales rather than maintaining objectivity.

(B) Removed book listings to coerce authors and publishers.

(C) "Hidden" books based on arbitrary standards.

(D) Maintained unhealthy and unsafe working conditions for their employees.

(E) Fallen far short of usual expectations for charitable giving.

October News Roundup

* This summer, NPR solicited listener input to choose the Top 100 Science Fiction and Fantasy Books. <http://www.npr.org/2011/08/11/139085843/your-picks-top-100-science-fiction-fantasy-books>.  Because science fiction fans are nothing if not helpful, we'd like to repost this witty flowchart from T.N. Tobias at SF Signal: <http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2011/09/flowchart-for-navigating-nprs-top-100-sff-books/>.  Thanks to Charlotte and Claud who tipped us off to its existence!

* An engaging rebuttal to the first part of Alan's article about Amazon: <http://www.thepassivevoice.com/09/2011/amazon-threat-or-menace/>

* Congratulations to fellow independent genre booksellers Mysterious Galaxy, who have opened a second (yes, also physical!) store location in Redondo Beach, California!  Their Grand Opening Ceremony is Wednesday, October 12th at 10:00 a.m. at 2810 Artesia Blvd. Redondo Beach, CA. <http://mystgalaxy.com/>

* We're sorry to report the death of Australian fantasy author Sara Douglass at the age of 54.  Tor.com has a nice tribute here: <http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/09/a-tribute-to-sara-douglass>