Monday, September 03, 2007

One Less Thing to Needlessly Obsess About

Today's NYT "Media" page dropped a bombshell: Amazon Drops Inventory Data, Irking Writers. Seems that Amazon is no longer reporting how many copies of a title it has in stock.

My reaction: So what?

Per an Amazon spokesman:
“Customers could still make a choice on whether or not to buy a product without having to know how many are in stock.”
Exactly. Who goes into their neighborhood bookstore and asks to know how many copies of a book are in stock before deciding whether to purchase it? But according to the executive director of the Authors Guild,
...the Amazon policy change makes the bookselling business “that much more opaque for authors.”

“Right now, there’s a great deal of interest in the author community on what the rankings are,” he said... This was one of the few places where you could get real-time data about how your books are doing.”

Except that Amazon was reporting how many copies were in stock, not how many they sold. Repeatedly checking Amazon sales rankings is a common authorly neurosis (read: time-waster), but the rankings give no intelligible indication of the number of books moved. Moreover, Amazon's sales represent only a fraction of the book market.

Better that authors should get their hands on their BookScan reports (their agents will, most likely), which will give them a far clearer idea of how their books are doing across the market, not just at one online retailer. And if they want to obsess, they can puzzle through their royalty reports, or try to pump up their Technorati "authority." Or, I don't know...WRITE THE NEXT BOOK.

1 comment:

katemoss said...

Mmm... While I agree that writing the next book is the best idea, I have infinite faith in the writer's ability to obsess. I'm sure the gap Amazon has created will soon be filled with some equally appealing compulsion.