Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a fan of Amazon. I’ve long said the company’s gotten a bum rap from a certain segment about its role in the downfall of bookstores. These folks conveniently forget the fact locally owned bookstores were attacked and, in too many cases killed off, by the larger stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Amazon opened its arms to small businesses and gave them a chance to sell their wares. It also opened the door to indie authors and small presses when other “booksellers” wouldn’t give us the time of day. But that doesn’t mean the company isn’t without fault or problems and we saw a prime example of that last night.
I’ll also admit that my opinion of Amazon right now is a bit jaded. As I’ve written in earlier posts, I’ve been trying to get them to price match Nocturnal Origins with other storefronts. Go to B&N, Apple, Kobo and others and you can get the book for free. Amazon? Depends on the day of the week and time of day and how much time I’ve spent trying to get them to straighten their act out. Oh, and it also depends on which Amazon site you’re on.
I’ve received apologies and claims of technical problems and just give them yet another 2-3 business days. If that’s not bad enough, I’ve talked to other authors having the same problem. It got to the point I started including a note in my emails with the company that I assumed since they were changing the price back to $0.99 from free without my requesting it, they were waiving the section of their terms of service that say I can’t sell my books at a lower price elsewhere. Gotta play cya, you know.
Fast forward to last night. I logged into my Amazon account and did a quick search for Origins to check to see if they’d managed to fix the price yet. The site’s homepage loaded without problem. I entered my search term and got the usual returns, including a link to my book. Clicked the link only to get an error message that something had gone wrong and try reloading the page.
Hmm. I tried. Same message.
Because I’m a suspicious person, I checked several other titles of mine. Each of them had the same result. A hint of panic mixed with fury started setting in. Had Amazon decided to screw with me because I was being a pain in the ass about Origins? Before firing off another email–after all, it was too late to call them–I did a search for another author’s latest book. Same response.
Okay. So something is wrong and it isn’t limited to just me.
I did a quick search. Down Detector indicated approximately 38k users reported problems with the site last night. I started digging further and found I could access my books in Japan and one or two other “stores” but not in others. So it wasn’t just the main Amazon site.
Not good. Not good at all.
According to Reuters, the outage was the second major interruption for Amazon since late June. The story also said Amazon did not comment on what caused the “interruption”. I don’t know about you, but I’d feel a great deal better if the company would acknowledge what happened and why and give us an idea about what they are doing to prevent it from happening again.
And I have to wonder if this “interruption” was in any way related to the “technical difficulties” they keep blaming for their inability to lock in prices for perma-free books.
I know companies have software and hardware issues. That’s part of life. I also know companies like Amazon are prime targets for DDOS attacks and more. But after last night, after all the back and forth trying to get them to match the perma-free price on Origins, I’m finding myself more and more glad I made the decision to go wide.
Think about it. What happens if the only platform you have available to sell your books goes down? What if it happens the day of a new release? Or during a paid promotion? Not only could it kill a release because all your efforts to get the word out meet with nothing if your readers can’t get to the product page. But what happens if the unthinkable occurs and the store is down more than just a couple of hours? What if it is down for a day–or more?
There’s a reason for the old saying of not to put all your eggs in one basket.
So, yes, I’ll be continuing the move away from being Amazon exclusive. Most of my books are already offered elsewhere, but there are still some only available there. For all you authors out there, I don’t want to sound alarm bells or don my Chicken Little costume, but it is clear there’s something going on. Whether hackers are targeting the company or they have a software/hardware issue, we need to keep an eye on the site. For the next week or two, check your pages, make sure your links are active. Keep a closer check on your sales numbers. And do the same with the other storefronts as well.
For now, I’m off for more coffee and then work. Until later.