Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief, Publishing Perspectives

My New Year’s Resolution is to Dump Amazon, And Why I’ll Fail

In Discussion, Resources by Edward Nawotka

I want to see my local bookselling community survive into the future, but dumping Amazon is proving difficult.

By Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-chief

If you’re anything like me you probably have several ereaders around the house. I’ve got several Kindles, dating back to the first generation, which now has a blown screen and sits — sadly — serving as a $400 paperweight, its “lifetime free wireless” chip silenced (I wonder if I can pry that thing out and it put it into something else?). There are three Barnes & Noble Nooks with in reach, one Glowlight model and the new Nook HD models around, which have been loaned to me…I have a Txtr Beagle that was given to me at a promo event at the Frankfurt Book Fair, but I can’t get to sync a single title via Txtr’s app. There’s my phone and the half dozen apps that can read books. There is the iPad…The stuff is stacking up, but since it all more-or-less syncs, it works for me in tandem.

So, why is my New Year’s resolution to dump Amazon for my ebook purchases? Well, like most other people, I want to see my local bookselling community survive into the future.

“…like most other people, I want to see my local bookselling community survive into the future.”

But I hate to say it, as much as many of us are reticent to give Amazon our business, they always trump the competition. Why? Simple. Convenience. They got there first, they have the majority of my library, and for a book critic like myself, I can one click to have a galley sent to me via NetGalley. That is very, okay, convenient. If I want to put a review ebook on any other device, I need to download it, launch Adobe Digital Editions, sync the device, etc…grrrrr.

Why Can’t You Order a Kobo Device Direct?

With the (re)launch of Kobo in the US market I was planning on switching over to a Kobo Glo. My allegiance to indie bookstores goes back to my days as an indie bookseller (until Barnes & Noble bought the company I worked for back in the early ’90s) and I’d like to see the two indies in the city where I live survive, but I can’t even figure out how to buy one, save for driving over to one of the stores (a not insignificant trip) and hoping they have what I want in stock. A Glo? A Mini? Both? If my shopping patterns are anything, both sound good to me.

But honestly, why can’t you order direct through Kobo’s site? Or can you? I can’t figure out how — all I get are multiple click-through screens telling me to “Learn more.” It’s simply absurd that you can’t order direct. With Amazon everything is one click and it’s done. The device shows up two-days later, assuming they have it in stock (which was a problem for several months after the launch of the Paperwhite). I suppose I could order a Kobo through BestBuy.com. But I’d rather spend my money at a bookseller. Which was the point of this whole “switch to Kobo” project to begin with.

Grumbling about the New Nooks

This Christmas I have been using a pair of the new B&N HD tablet devices. They are very appealing. Light, snappy, with great screens. Look at them in the store and you think, “ah, this really is for me.” That is not the case when you play with several of Amazon’s tablet devices in the small handful of retailers that still stock them (Staples, MicroCenter come to mind). Side by side, B&N’s devices are much nicer. And then you turn them on — itself a pleasant experience—and you think, “ooooh, I made the right decision.” And then you start using them…shame, but this is where the experience starts to fall apart. If you have an iPad, as many people who might be shopping this segment do, the tablet experience pales. Even if you have an Android device, the experience disappoints.

Specifically, B&N has touted the superior magazine-reading experience on their devices. Reading, for example, the New Yorker magazine, you find that it is is the same downloadable format as on the iPad — perhaps a bit lighter because of less interactive elements — but you can’re resize the text. There’s no “article view,” which takes an article and blows it out to a full screen-text only view (a nice feature on B&N devices, which incidentally, has only been pulling dated content — the “article view” on the New York Times home page pulls stories from mid-2012). And you can’t enlarge the size of the page at all. What gives? This is a bit of a deal-breaker here. No resizable text on a magazine — or at least certainly no intuitive resizing — makes no sense.

Oh, and these days, why bother subscribing to magazines via a bookseller anyway when you can use NextIssue to subscribe to the vast majority of major-title magazines for a reasonable fee? B&N, wisely, doesn’t offer the option to access this app on their platform — why would they? They want to sell you their own subscriptions.

Using the Nook for books is magic. Both of the HD devices are light and taller, rather than wider, then their competitors, which makes them easier to hold — this is especially nice with the HD+ tablet, as it give you a two page view. Lovely. And the Glowlight remains my go to reader. I’m so happy with it, I’ve bought three, because the first two seem to have had quality control issues and broke.

Amazon is Simply, Well, Convenient

Speaking of broke, I’ve spent a ton of money on e-books over the holidays. It is, after all, when I have the most time to read. But it’s surprising to me how, after trying to deliberately purchase books from Amazon’s competitors, they keep luring me back in. After all, so many blogs, critics and others continue to rely on Amazon as an affiliate company, one they link to in order to garner a few pennies or dollars should I purchase the book the recommend. What’s more, yes, it’s a simple fact, Amazon is almost always cheaper. They are pros at putting on sales and helping you find them — their “Daily Deal,” offered in four categories almost always has something appealing. In contrast, B&N offers just a single “Daily Find,” which is often also appealing, but as a single title, is a far more limited choice.

And there’s the Amazon lending library, which is very — sorry for the repetition — convenient.

Oh, and lest I forget, I’ve been buying books from Amazon since 2007 (and as far back as 2000). They have a library of books that I’ve licensed in my servers. I’m stuck with them no matter what I do.

I suppose I’m trapped proverbial walled garden.

So tell me, am I simply being lazy by not putting my principles into practice, of wanting to switch but finding the effort and expense involved too daunting and/or disappointing? Have you tried to make a switch? Have you succeeded?

Let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.