Amazon Versus Brick and Mortar Bookstores

Amazon Versus Brick and Mortar Bookstores

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Photo credit: theunquietlibrary)

As I was perusing Facebook yesterday, I came across a status from John Green’s author page that said that the print version of The Fault in Our Stars was written by Holt McDougal, an author who actually creates math textbooks–so, obviously, John Green is still the author of TFiOS. One can find the blunder here, assuming the blunder is still present by the time you read this. Nonetheless, believe me when I say that possible drones changed the author from John Green to Holt McDougal on the print version, which, I must admit, is quite amusing. Who knew John Green was secretly THE Holt McDougal, who writes math textbooks to aide students in their mathematical pursuits?

Going through the comments was amusing to me, but one comment that troubled me was a commenter who said that people should not support Amazon and should instead flock to their local bookstores. Now I agree we should support our local bookstores, but bookstores are not any more innocent than Amazon. For example, upon distribution of a new book, that new book has roughly fifty days to sell out. Since the average sale of a book in bookstores is somewhere between 200-500, one can assume that the shelf lives of many new books expires, and so those books go back to the publisher, never to be seen on bookstore shelves again. One can argue that these books just weren’t good enough, but having a great product isn’t enough. Many publishers will neglect the publicity of newer authors in favor of pushing publicity upon their best authors. Oh, certainly these new authors receive some form of publicity, as being in a bookstore is publicity itself, but bookstore publicity has obviously proven that it should not be the only form of publicity.

In fact, many newer authors I have met online that come from traditional houses are not in my bookstore. They may be in others’ bookstores, but these bookstores are often larger and can take in more books. But, again, if a book doesn’t sell out within that 50 day time frame, it gets axed.

Before Amazon and the e-book, the books that were axed gave their authors no chance of being discovered or being publicized ever again, unless that traditional house was willing to take on another one of their books. But I have read stories of authors who were published by big houses, just weren’t doing well at all in terms of sales, their books went out of print, and then they inevitably moved to self-publishing, where they found more success.

Now that Amazon and the e-book exist, books that are removed from bookstores now have a chance  on Amazon, both print and e-book alike. So, they have an infinite “shelf life,” so to speak, especially through the e-book version. Not only this, but authors frustrated by the submission process to literary agents or editors of large houses can now turn to self-publishing. One used to have to go through a vanity press to receive self-publication, and would have to go door-to-door (kind of in a figurative sense) to get discovered. The only book that was successful in this endeavor is The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. Otherwise, most other books didn’t have a chance. Oh, certainly authors could go through Createspace and Lulu, but the price of the print book is often high and unaffordable for many book buyers–after all, books are an impulse buy, not a necessity for many people. Amazon now owns Createspace, so a lot of self-published authors do use Createspace for both print and e-book–but it’s really the e-book version of a book that outsells the print version due to its cheaper price.

Amazon has also given rise to small press publishers, who are able to devote publicity to their authors. And there are some successful small publishers out there devoted to even their newest authors. This allows readers more books to choose from and I’m certain readers delight in having many, many books to choose from now.

All in all, it does bother me when people protest buying books on Amazon, because Amazon has made self-publishing a very viable option for many self-published authors. This attack on Amazon, to me, is almost an attack on self-published authors, who can now make their dreams of publication come true. It is also an attack on authors published by small presses, which either do not put books in bookstores–yet!–or only put the books of a small percentage of their authors in a store. It has also allowed books to be affordable to many readers through the Kindle and its e-book. I can buy books like candy now, and I love that. Reading has never been more pleasurable for me.

I say support Amazon, because the supporting of the book side of Amazon is the supporting of many authors who can become successful through Amazon alone.