Thursday, December 08, 2005

Amazon Bashing

Lovers of the mystery genre are a lucky lot to have The DorothyL web site, an astoundingly active discussion forum named for legendary writer Dorothy L. Sayers.

This moderated forum is lively, informative and always interesting. But I'm continually amazed at a steady drumbeat of Amazon bashing there and elsewhere.

Amazon has its flaws. And given my preferences, I'd rather wander and browse the shelves in a well-stocked book store, especially a friendly independent with good inventory and staffed by knowledgeable people.

But I can't keyword search the physical shelves and often I am looking for books too obscure or slow-selling to be stocked in a physcal store. Amazon allows that.

Amazon offers a backlist of books that no physical book store could afford and thus allows continual residual sales of books that would otherwise be OUT of print. And if it is out of print, there are links to secondhand booksellers who can usually fill the need.

Of course, there are online alternatives to Amazon, among them Barnes and Noble and Booksense. Borders online has been coopted by Amazon. Powell's has a great site as does Alibris and Abe.

I've been pulling for Booksense for years, hoping this site for independent book stores would succeed. But independent booksellers are ... well, independent and not always in tune with the buying public. The Booksense site is awkward to use and fails to offer many of the search, shipping and account management capabilities as Amazon does.

So, give your local independent a first try (if you feel welcome there) and develop your own online sources. But despite Amazon's flaws, it deserves some respect for offering valuable services found nowhere else.

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