Friday, November 2, 2012

When Elephants, or 800lb Gorillas Move, Things Get Crushed.

There is an interesting article out on Amazon’s response to “sock puppet” reviews (Amazon Freaks Out). I have ranted in the past that there is no great system for book reviews that includes small publishers, self-publishers, and in particular eBook only publishing. One of those issues was “sock puppet” reviews, but as the article notes, that is a relatively small part of the problem. My bigger problem is, as I have stated before, that the reviewers as a whole are a mixed bag. They are not professional reviewers. Yeah, you have the whole “top NNN reviewer” tag, but that does not tell you anything, not really.

The article delves into the large number of “real” reviews that were “accidently” deleted as part of Amazon’s new automated system to prevent sock puppet reviews. Even some of their “top reviewers” were deleted.

That soapbox on the general value of Amazon reviews is one I will no doubt return to. My thought when reading the Freak Out article was more along the lines that “hey, this matches my blog tag line.”

Amazon is simply getting too big. When I was there a scant few years ago, there was already grumbling amongst the employees that it was getting too big and changing. At the time it was déjà vu from my early days at Microsoft in the early 1990s. The employees realized the company was too big.  How long before customers realize it? Customers who care, I should say. Many customers won’t care. They don’t care along the same lines as the majority who do give up various freedoms and rights don’t care in the name of security. As Franklin said, “He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.”  Those who give up quality and personal service for quantity and low price deserve neither. Yeah, I know, a weak analogy and a poor metaphor. It just popped into my head. Blogs are about stream of consciousness. (I wonder how Kerouac would do in the 21st Century).

Amazon is a retail company that sometimes masquerades as a technology company. They are constantly looking for ways to shave off milliseconds on the web experience, automate the catalogs, and in general avoid ever dealing with a person face to face, voice to voice, or directly email to email. Let’s be honest, they have to with the volumes they do. They will do so more and more, to achieve the volumes they are aiming for. And, make no mistake about it. They will do this in publishing and book selling as much as any other part of their business.

And most of the world won’t care.

So, the article on Amazon does miss the point. When it asks “Is this really what Amazon and these authors want -- people less willing to review books they read?” The response is Amazon and the customers who buy books really don’t care. They should, but they don’t.

Amazon is becoming Google in that respect. We stopped dealing with Google for books long ago. The system was terrible for selling ebooks (they failed three times) and you never, ever, could get ahold of a real person as an author, or publisher. Amazon has not figured out that it has a LOT of different customers. Authors, publishers, sellers on their system, users of their cloud services, on demand printing, Audible, audio and video content owners, games and programs, and on and on. In the end Amazon will focus on volume and sacrifice some customers for others, in order to grow and get a tiny bit more revenue per transaction. Because, they are still a retailer. Their margins are still in the mid-single digits. It’s all about volume.

So, where does this rant lead? Same old soapbox. Watch out when dancing with the Elephant, whether you are a author, a publisher, a reviewer, or a customer. Elephants cause damage when they stumble. Authors get crushed. But, nobody really seems to care, as long as the price of that next book is 50 cents to a dollar lower.  Hey, with about five to ten books you could buy a latte on those savings. You know that latte that provides you with many hours of satisfaction….

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