When Amazon doesn’t work: the tale of one book

I recently checked on my book Wicked Cool Shell Scripts at Amazon.com and was surprised to find its sales rank at 1.1 million, which basically indicates that it hasn’t sold a single copy. Yet I knew that my publisher was paying to promote the book through Amazon itself and that I’ve begun to receive rave reviews for the book from readers. So what gives?
Here’s what I found out…

First off, a note from my publisher told me:

“We’ve been having major Amazon problems. For a while the book wasn’t listing, and now that it is, it says it’s out of stock and published in 2003, not 2004. We’re doing all we can to clear it up right away. And we’re rescheduling promotions for when they could actually be effective!”

That’s disquieting enough: for a technical book, having it listed correctly at the #1 online bookstore is fairly important (though not critical). This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a glitch with Amazon either: two days prior to the official publication date, the book wasn’t even in the Amazon database, yet other books show up months and months in advance, like my new HTML book Creating Cool Web Sites which, if you click on that link, is already in the Amazon database even though it’s not going to be published for at least two more months.

More communication with the publicist at my publisher reveals that they’re very aware of these problems and that:

“I spoke with a programmer from Amazon this weekend, and he said that he was aware that Amazon was having major problems with listings and that he knew why. I didn’t get any more information than that, though. I expect it to clear up, but I don’t know how soon it will be. Our Amazon rep is super, but even she can’t get this fixed quickly. Frustrating…”

She goes on to say something that’s quite reasonable and interesting too, particularly if you’re an author, artist or anyone else who has products listed with Amazon, or any other major online venue:

“My true feeling about this all is that we expect Amazon to work flawlessly and that the expectation is unreasonable. Seems like they’re having growing pains right now. As long as the books are available elsewhere, and come up on a google search, then we’ll just need to roll with it until Amazon’s working better. But yeah, it’s still a pain.”

So that’s the situation this last Monday morning of February, 2004.

What do you think? Do we rely on Amazon entirely too much in the online world?

3 comments on “When Amazon doesn’t work: the tale of one book

  1. All I can say is, Freakin’ Amazon. 😉
    Congrats on the slashdotting on Learning Unix for Mac OS X Panther! What kind of critter is that on the cover? A Siberian Husky?
    I knew a Siberian once, but she wasn’t husky by any means. Well, maybe her voice. A little.
    What’s that? Ice water in room 301? That’s impossible! This is Coconut Beach, no snow, no ice!

  2. Yes, it’s a Siberian Husky. Given all the weird animals on O’Reilly books, we were relieved when the Macintosh series got dogs. Much less peculiar than reptiles, virii, or whatever else they have. 🙂

  3. Yes, Dave, be glad you got dogs… Oracle got… BUGS?!?! What’s up with that?
    Incidentally, not only do I love the title, I got the book (Wicked Cool Shell Scripts) and it is awesome. It will sell a boat load whenever it becomes available on Amazon.

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