Familiar sentiment

April 13, 2009

That last Amazon-related post was getting ungainly with the updates, and I did want to point to this excellent post at the Vromans bookstore blog:

“The benefit of having a rich, diverse ecosystem of vendors and suppliers has never been more obvious: many sources of information equals choice, and choice equals freedom. It’s actually your freedom that’s at stake here, and putting things back the way they were, fixing the notorious ‘glitch,’ won’t change that. Because your freedom was at stake long before this recent de-listing experiment. Anytime you limit yourself to fewer suppliers, especially of something as vital as information (and if you purchase a Kindle, you’re effectively doing just that, limiting yourself to a single information provider), you’re putting yourself at the mercy of that provider.”

Amazon deforests

April 12, 2009

Remember how Amazon.com seemed marginally less provincial than some other big book vendors? Cherish those memories:

“Yes, it is true. Amazon admits they are indeed stripping the sales ranking indicators for what they deem to be ‘adult’ material. Of course they are being hypocritical because there is a multitude of ‘adult’ literature out there that is still being ranked – Harold Robbins, Jackie Collins, come on! They are using categories THEY set up (gay and lesbian) to now target these books as somehow offensive.”

This open letter to Amazon from Booksquare sums it up nicely.

Update: Christopher Butcher points to this comprehensive post at Jezebel.

Update: The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s blog shares a statement from Amazon admitting to a “ham-fisted cataloging error.”

Tangled webs

April 30, 2008

At Manga Xanadu, Lori Henderson looks at some of the ways manga publishers can use online resources to promote their material, and she makes a number of good points. The piece is framed at least partly around a certain kind of title that needs the help:

“Even if most of the sales of titles come from brick and mortar retail, getting the word out about titles shouldn’t be such an issue in the internet age. If manga publishers would make better use of their online resources, C list titles would have a better chance.”

Coincidentally, Viz has redesigned its online store, and it does seem like an improvement. Viz’s press release promises easier navigability and better search functionality, and a couple of quick tests seem to confirm those claims. Viz’s manga titles are listed by imprint on the store’s front page, which is handy, and there are some web-only discounts running down the sidebar.

There are a few odd things going on. Clicking randomly through series, it seems like some volumes from some series aren’t available. (Just at a glance, some with only partial runs available are Kekkashi, Aishiteruze Baby, and Maison Ikkoku. Poor Inubaka: Crazy for Dogs and Yakitate!! Japan aren’t there at all yet.) Maybe Viz is still finishing up its listings, but that seems like something that should be corrected as quickly as possible. If a publisher is going to have an online store, which is never a bad idea if it isn’t going to be too burdensome to manage, then the publisher should have its entire catalogue available for purchase.

That seems particularly important for the C list titles. If a book is having trouble finding space on bookstore shelves, then it’s not unreasonable for a customer to seek it out online. The publisher’s online store might not be the first place they look, but a certain percentage of them will wind up there sooner or later, and it would be best not to discourage them in their inquiries.

And speaking C list titles and the Viz store, there seem to be some missed opportunities to give those books a push. Viz’s best-selling properties (Naruto, Death Note, Bleach, and the like) tend to eat up most of the front page’s visible real estate. I’m guessing you would have to work pretty hard to find retail markets where books and DVDs from these properties aren’t available. It’s not a bad idea for a publisher to brand itself with its successes, but why not use their rising tides to lift a few dinghies in the process?

I’m thinking about something along the lines of Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” widget, but with a more activist bent. I’m not all that crazy about suggestive selling, but I’m less bothered by it when it’s in service of underperforming but worthy books. Offering discounts on those C list books with purchase of an A list property might be a good idea as well.

Proceed to checkout

February 27, 2008

And now, for no real reason other than I felt like writing about it and the subject kind of came up in the comments following Danielle Leigh’s latest Manga Before Flowers column, a brief look at what I buy where:

At the local comic shop: My most regular purchases at the local comic shop are books that I suspect won’t show up in a chain bookstore (manga that’s rated for mature audiences or books from smaller publishes that don’t seem to have quite achieved bookstore saturation). Most of my comic shop purchases are the result of pre-orders, just because the local shop is primarily focused on super-hero comics so I generally can’t wander in and find something to my taste. They’re very accommodating in terms of pre-orders and re-orders, which compensates for limited use as a place to browse.

At the bookstore: My purchases at Borders, Barnes & Noble, and so on are fairly random. I tend to either buy really mainstream shônen or shôjo titles, because I know they’ll be readily available and I can use my discount card. Sometimes I’ll special-order a particular book from the local Barnes & Noble if I really like it and want to trick them into ordering additional shelf copies. I’ll also buy other books from publishers like Fantagraphics, Drawn & Quarterly, and so on, usually based on word of mouth (or blog).

Online: I almost always use Amazon, as I like the discount and the free shipping. Amazon is kind of the “everything else” dumping ground… books I wasn’t sufficiently certain I’d enjoy but was later persuaded to look into via word of mouth (or blog), manga over the $10 point (but never under, because why pay full price when I can get it for 10% off at a brick-and-mortar shop?), stuff that I’d categorize as expensive (like One Thousand Years of Manga) and “when all else fails” books that I can’t find at a comic shop or a chain bookstore. (Yay! Amazon carries Shirtlifter!) Online shopping is convenient and often cheaper, but it still ends up being my court of last resort more often than not.

Monday links

December 17, 2007

This week’s Flipped is up, with lots of special guest stars making pitches for books they don’t think get the love they deserve. It’s the first of two parts.

Elsewhere, Tom Spurgeon has an excellent interview with Jason (Manga: The Complete Guide) Thompson over at The Comics Reporter.

And John Jakala isn’t crazy about the new BN.com. I shop at Barnes & Noble a lot, because the local store has a pretty great graphic novel selection, but my online shopping dollars tend to go to Amazon. I generally buy stuff that’s priced under Amazon’s discount cut-off at a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble, and I can generally find everything I need in that category.

One thing that does bug me about Amazon is when I request items to be grouped into a single shipping and they end up broken up into a few different deliveries. I know that it’s probably because different stuff is at different warehouses, but… cardboard! Packing materials! Fuel spent during shipping! I’m paranoid that my carbon footprint looks fat.

Amazon attacks!

September 25, 2007

It’s bound to happen from time to time. This week’s ComicList just doesn’t inspire me. I’m not too worried, as I’ve got a big shipment coming from Amazon, which happens to be having one of its four-for-the-price-of-three sales underway.

So to fill in for the usually pre-Wednesday, ramblings, here are some possible combinations you might consider if you’re looking through those Amazon listings.

  • The Popularity Contest: Have you fallen behind on (or never savored) some of the best-selling series out there? Now is your chance to atone.
  • I Missed the Omnibus! Maybe you just weren’t able to commit to that big, one-volume edition of Jeff Smith’s delightful Bone. You can sample it in smaller doses.
  • Fashion Forward: It’s not really open for debate that Ai Yazawa creates some of the most stylish manga out there, between Paradise Kiss and Nana.
  • The Anime’s Coming! The Anime’s Coming! As if the manga wasn’t popular enough, live-action and animated versions of Death Note will be arriving soon. See what all of the fuss is about.
  • Boys, Boys, Boys: Fans of yaoi would do well to give this list a careful scan, as there are treasures within.
  • She’s Back: After too long of an absence, ADV has resumed releases of Yotsuba&! And Amazon has her.
  • Four Minxes: Were you reluctant to pick up DC’s Minx books until you heard some critical feedback? You can pick them all up and get one for free. (To be honest, the only one I’d recommend without reservation is Re-Gifters.)
  • The Godfather: No, not the Corleone version — Tezuka. There’s a nice sampling of his work sprinkled among the offerings.
  • I had other categories in mind, but if I cut and paste one more hyperlink, I’ll lose my mind. Or what’s left of it.

    Okay, I can manage one more. Buy this book.

    Survey says

    July 30, 2007

    I got an interesting e-mail from someone involved in the development of an on-line comic shop, looking for feedback from potential customers and willing to pony up the swag to get it. According to Katherine Thoresen, Heavy Ink will feature…

    “…a user interface full of innovative features, good customer reviews to help folks find material they like, and great prices. The initial version of our service will carry the full inventory of comic books from Diamond, but with in a year, we intend to start doing outreach to smaller/independent publishers that aren’t carried by Diamond or most existing stores.”

    Sounds like a good idea to me, and they’ll be giving about $100 bucks worth of graphic novels to one survey participant and a buy-one-get-one-free subscription offer to everyone else who fills it out.