Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Amazon dilemma

If there was ever a company it is possible to have a love/hate relationship with, it's Amazon.

The hate side is pretty straightforward, and the one that probably many of my readers could put forward. In fact the very mention of them will have some of you frothing at the mouth. They are a behemoth, flattening all opposition in their path. They fiddle their taxes. They drive bookshops out of business. They don't pay publishers (and hence authors) as much as they should because of their virtual monopoly. They set the rules and everyone else has to follow or get out. And they treat their low level employees like automata.

I really did write the book
But actually, they are also pretty damned good at what they do. As someone who wrote the book on customer service, I have to grudgingly admit that most of the time they get it right in a big way.

Like the way that I can buy music from them and in many cases I can not only get the CD, but instantly download the tracks at the same time at no extra charge. Now you may say, 'Grandad! Why do you need the CD if you've got the download?' And I have to reply, 'Experience, young Jedi, experience.' When I first worked on PCs I twice lost a hard drive before I realised backing up was a good thing (I mean the drive failed, as early ones tended to - I wasn't careless enough to actually lose them). If you can get a backup for free, then it's well worth having.

Another example. On Saturday morning I ordered a household product from them. Because I'm one of their 'Prime' customers I get free next day delivery - which itself is a brilliant thing, because it puts online shopping more on a par with the old bricks and mortar version. But of course, we all know that on Saturday, 'next day' means Monday. Nope. It was here, at my house, before 11am next day - Sunday.

And then there's returns. A couple of times I've had to send something back and they make it very easy. They even send out the replacement before you put the original in the post.

So, yes, they may be evil. Yes, they plan to take over the world.. But they are so seductive, like all the best baddies. I don't think I can give them up.

If you want to read more about Amazon (and the secrets of what they get up to), with useful timing, part way through writing this, I got a link to this interesting, if immensely long, article Is Amazon Bad for Books in the New Yorker magazine, from the lovely Lynn Price at Behler Publications.

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