Amazon Pricing Scams

I don’t know if Amazon is directly behind this or it is some other puddle of scum. Just wanted to give a heads up to my customers. One thing is for certain, Amazon is definitely complicit in this, not weeding out the scum.

Pricing scam image
Pricing scam

Please note the north of $1500 price for my logic book. I also don’t know how someone branded it “collectible” since it is still available new from the publisher (me). Guess you gotta say something to pull off a $2400 scam.

I suspect a large piece of this fraud has to do with Amazon Prime where customers get one free one every so often and they “try to make it pay” by selecting the highest priced item listed.

Unless these scammers are selling used/review copies as new, I also don’t know where they are getting their inventory. I don’t fill any Amazon orders. The original ISBN is for the original printing done with real ink on a real printing press is different from the IngramSpark POD version.

Original logic book image
Original Logic book

As you can see, the original book has a $15 list price. It is still available from Barnes & Noble as well as other reputable retailers.

alternate sellers on barnes & noble image
Alternate Sellers on Barnes & Noble

These vendors advertising “new” are most likely selling the POD version. I’ve never shipped new inventory to them and they seemed to pop up once I put a version of this book on IngramSpark POD service to get it into Books-a-Million. It will be a toner printed version instead of ink.

The “like new” seller will most likely be selling you a review copy someone unloaded. It should be an ink print and have the original ISBN.

Just passing along a heads up about yet another Amazon pricing scam.

If you want to be certain you got an original ink print you have two reliable choices.

  1. Purchase directly from Barnes & Noble (not alternate). I supply the BN warehouse directly. Sometimes they second source via Alibris if rush shipping is requested.
  2. Visit Alibris and purchase directly from Logikal Solutions. This method ensures you got legitimate inventory which really is first run new.

The Indie Book Store Solution

This is part of a discussion I started on Linked-in. Since it is important I thought I would post a version of it here for those who don’t belong to that group or Linked-in.

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Lots of places have tried various methods of solving the Indie book store survivability problem. Most Indie book stores actually list inventory on-line with Alibris or Abe or somewhere else. I have read some claims that a large percentage of their business, especially for very old and vintage books, has come via these channels. All of these sites seem to be lacking the last little bit.

“Consignment” is a filthy-nasty word for most. When dealing with Indie book stores it is fraught with peril. Some authors who have tried it claim no two have the same terms, etc. What sparked my memory of this was some “service” emailing me years ago which was offering to let me “rent” shelf space at their stable of Indie book stores. I don’t remember if the number of stores or the genre(s)/markets they cater to were ever discussed. I just remember that it sounded like yet another way to turn authors upside down, emptying out their pockets.

I’m not the only one who thought it sounded like quickly separate an author from his/her money. I went searching for the “service” with multiple search engines and came up dry. I did stumble across the article I posted in the initial discussion and was intrigued by the street cred of the original author. I joined in to some of the discussion there and the real solution formed in my mind.

James Patterson’s feud with Amazon is the stuff of legend now. A good number of authors, myself included, will do no business what-so-ever with Amazon. What big name authors going indie and unknown indie authors do not currently have is a reliable method of getting “splash space.” The next logical step is for some site which not only allows Indie book stores to list all of their inventory for sale, but allows them to uniformly rent “just inside the door upright cover facing table space” to vendors/authors where they don’t have to compete with Amazon.

I have heard many times that table space you first view when walking into a Barnes & Noble (and probably other chains around the globe) is all rented space. The major publishers pay to have a book positioned there for some length of time. Perhaps they also do it for Indie book stores, but I have to doubt they really pursue the indies.

The site needs to be the clearing house for payments both ways and enforce a uniform consignment code.

  1. All consignment space is on one or two tables directly in front of the door so customer has to see when entering.
  2. Each book stack is topped with an upright front cover facing door copy.
  3. Standard wholesaling margins apply.
  4. Each store is allowed to specify genre and content restrictions so a children’s book store doesn’t get porn sent to it, etc.

On the author/publisher side:

  1. Each title must be from an actual print run, not POD.
  2. Author does no business with Amazon
  3. Each title has been can be verified to have been edited by professional editors, not self-edited or “friends & family” edited.

Yes, I have listened to the moans and complaints and “rationale” from self-editors and POD users, and quite honestly, it doesn’t apply. The Indie store allowing you to rent such coveted space (vs. a shelf in the back room the public doesn’t visit) is putting their reputation on the line. They need a professional product not a Wal-mart quality thing. They also need the table to be full of products which people cannot browse in-store for a while then buy on Amazon for less.

There is quite a bit of chatter in the industry about survival of Indie book stores given high costs of store rent and utilities combined with “everyone trying to sell everything on Amazon.” This type of site solves both problems. Not only do the book stores get a cash flow to cover the cost of keeping the doors open, they get unique content which will not be sold on Amazon for at least 12 months (with the stipulation scammers hawking review copies as new will always be there.)

Authors should not expect to break even or turn profit on the rental of such prime space, but it will get them more exposure than they can get otherwise. During off-peak season the price should be somewhere between $300-$600 (depending on amount of foot traffic store has). Yes, November, December, May and June would have “prime” rates because Christmas and pool season are prime times.

Before this discussion devolves into yet another conversation about the low quality of POD, just stop. Even if there were some magic pixie dust which could make a POD book of the same quality as a Web run or a sheet fed run, the one thing you cannot get around is the COST. The per-unit cost of POD is astronomical (leave the multi-colored textbook argument in the closet.) A service such as this won’t give the Indie bookstores anything which is both unique AND appealing if your paperback novel _has_ to have a list price of $24 so the store can have a 40% discount and you can still earn a few cents per copy.

The Indie book store still needs to compete on price, but now it is price within a genre not price on a title. If they can retail titles in the same price range as the ones from the major publishers, but ones which simply are not available on Amazon, they have something. If every book on that table is twice the price of every competing title on Amazon, all you have done is help pay their rent. You have not helped build their business and you won’t be selling any copies. You may not realize it, but you aren’t going to sell any copies.

I certainly don’t want to create such a site. I’m too far into my IT career to take on something like that. Hopefully Abe will see the light. Perhaps that person working on the other thing will take it up? Maybe some young IT student reading this from their college dorm will pursue the venture funding. Perhaps someone will put this notion forward at Apple since physical books not sold on Amazon do not compete with any line of Apple’s business?

Watching the Sun Set on Amazon.com

There are financial blogs which pay people to make pretty pretty graphs without providing any real information, and then there are blog posts which have actual information.  You can either have pretty pretty graphs with no information or you have to read.

Years ago I said Amazon.com was entering its final stages and now others are finally agreeing with me.  Take a good look at Sears.  You remember Sears don’t you.  The company which invented the mail order catalog business or at least was the first to take it to a massive scale.  A company which continued to bring in pathetic excuses for management whizing their money away on things like The Sears Tower and Prodigy.  You know, the company which then went bankrupt at the catalog portion of their business while others thrived with mail order.

Sears is today where Amazon.com will be in less than five years.  Yes, it took Sears decades to devolve into a ghostly image of what it once was, but Amazon’s demise will happen at Internet speed.  It has not choice, it is only Internet.  Finally other analysts are starting to say the same thing.

That article does lack a bit of IT knowledge, but it has the major points correct.  It’s not that brick & mortar retailers finally got their software correct, though.  It has a lot more to do with the fact physical retailers can purchase complete and customizable eCommerce software packages from tiny companies like IBM and Oracle.  Then they just have to turn on those feature consumers want such as “free ship to store” so they can do the one thing Amazon.com can’t do on a bet.  Get the add-on sales due to impulse/convenience purchasing consumers do while at the store to pick up their order.  Oh come on, you’ve all done it.  You go into one place to pick something up then remember you need/want something else which this store happens to carry, OR you are at the counter with your item and see the check-out counter display.

Contrary to popular belief, Amazon.com isn’t Barnes & Noble’s problem.  Lack of foot traffic is Barnes & Noble’s problem.  Web wise bn.com has a pretty good presence.  The real problem is the lack of foot traffic in the stores.  Culturally, not that many people “spend the day at a book store” anymore.  I have said this many times and will say it again.  Barnes & Noble needs to get into the DVD by mail rental business allowing in-store exchanges just like Block Buster did.  Block Buster could not make it work for many reasons, the two biggest were management and one-trick-pony.  Barnes & Noble doesn’t need that portion of the business to be directly profitable.  It just needs to sell the people other things when they come into the store to exchange a movie on a rainy weekend.  After a couple of months/years, it will become habit for the customers to “think of going to Barnes & Noble.”  That thought doesn’t happen much any more.

I’m old enough to remember when AOL and Prodigy were busy mailing more floppies in a given year that their were people on the planet.  Heck floppy sales plummeted at the consumer level because people kept finding ways of removing the protection and formatting those floppy disks.  Not everyone who got the disks own a computer so they would bring them in for their co-workers.  Sigh, then AOL started sending CDs out and the magnetic media recycling frenzy ended.

How many of you know that at one point in time you could actually buy a house via the Sears catalog.  I remember hearing those stories as a kid.  You could actually order a house and every thing to assemble it (sans the tools) would show up at the shipping address.  Yes, some assembly was required and yes, they came with assembly instructions.  If memory serves me correctly it wasn’t just a pile of boards and singles but was a bit less than the trailer/modular homes you see today.  It was some level of prefab in between.

I don’t tell you the “order a house” story to prove just how close I am to the great check-out counter of life, but to educate you whipersnappers about just how large and pervasive Sears was at the time.  _Everybody_ knew Sears.  Most bought at least some things there.  Only people with computers and/or dumb phones know about Amazon.com or at least purchase from there.  Yes Virginia, there is still a large segment of American consumers who have neither a computer at home nor a dumb phone.  Some cannot afford them, but, most of that segment simply don’t want them.  As much as I hate Wal-mart I have to admit, even they have figured this out.  How do I know that?  Take a really good look at all of the ads they run for basic cell phones with big buttons and no texting/Internet capability.  That segment of consumers watches television but does not shop on-line nor do they stream movies.

One final note about Barnes & Noble here.  In order to get that most cherished of market segments to do the DVD rental by mail with in-store exchanges, they need to have terminals either in the rental area or in the coffee area where customers can browse the main movie selection and update their list.  Come on, you will sell them coffee and something to munch on while they are doing it.  They might even see someone reading a book and purchase one on their way out.

No people, Amazon.com has hit the rocking chair of their existence.  Unlike Sears, they won’t have lengthy “golden years.”  Not that many people have “golden years” which are golden.  We tend to look back at life in our 20s-30s as that time.

Barnes and Noble Missing Major Revenue Stream

Let’s be up front here. There is simply no way I’m going to purchase an Apple product or give Apple money. Did that years ago because a contract required it and I will never do it again. Given that, it should come as no surprise to you I’m considering the purchase of a SanDisk Clip Sport MP3 player. Looking to purchase one rather soon so I have plenty of time to load “space music” on it before my contract ends in a few months.

I’ve already posted about the CD player which died on the way out here, lack radio stations along the way and worthless content of Sirius satellite radio, so the decision is boiling down to these options:

  • Massive data plan for cell phone to use Pandora.

  • MP3 player to plug in.

  • Cross fingers and hope real hard current CD player doesn’t die from a chuck hole like the last one.

Even if I chose the last option and it turned out to stay alive that leaves me with other problems.

  • The center counsel can only hold so many CDs.

  • No method of shuffling CDs to mix it up.

  • Rummaging for CDs while driving isn’t really the safest thing to do.

CDs are great for short drives but tend to be a real problem on 3+ day drives. Of course 3+ day drives are a much larger problem if you come from an area which has really great local radio and drive across areas which, radio wise, are a desert.

One thing I have come to like about Pandora is the shuffle. I’m not hitting anything to make it shuffle. What I mean is the Higher Intelligence Agency channel/class/whatever they call it may not play HIA music but it does play a lot of stuff very close to an in some case just as good as HIA. It’s a limited market yet they manage to shuffle between artists in such a way as to keep it fresh.

Let me explain it another way. I like Gordon Lightfoot. I like almost every song on his greatest hits CD I own. What I can’t do is start at the beginning of that CD and make it to the end. I need his music like the radio used to play it, once every couple of hours. In truth, when coding or on long drives I don’t listen to songs with words. Short drives fine, but not long ones. The “space music” stuff keeps me going and doesn’t seem to make me tired like music with lyrics. I assume it is because the brain is doing additional processing for the lyrics and 8+ hours of that takes a toll.

Now that I’ve made the decision to purchase an MP3 player and load it up with music the question of “where” to obtain the music comes in to play. My first thought was to purchase from Barnes & Noble. They sell my books and I try to be a loyal customer when it comes to things they sell where I’m willing to pay first run price. I phrased that oddly because I don’t consider dumpster diving through the Big Lots $5 or less DVD bin being disloyal. I’m not looking for a particular movie just something to kill one or more evenings with which has a $5 or less price tag. I certainly went to BN and paid full tilt for my “Farscape” 15th Anniversary collection.

Imagine my shock when I found you can download Nook books but not music. Seriously? There are canned packages on the market for commercial music download. You add some servers, another disk storage array and sign a few contracts. Badda-bing badda-boom you are an on-line music retailer. Obviously there is money in it, just look at iTunes. You can even choose to do a phase 2 once you open the music download business on your Web site. Phase 2 would be to put little kiosks in your stores so customers can purchase and download music while in store. Didn’t you already do this with Nook?

Quite possibly the saddest part of all this is if you dig hard enough you can find the artists themselves have retail sites. I went to BN.com looking for Lindsey Stirling. She is quite possibly the most gifted musician I’ve heard in the past decade. I could purchase physical CDs, then go to the hassle of ripping it to my netbook using the USB CD player then USB it over to my MP3 player (once I purchase) – or – I could search the Web for Lindsey’s site.

Click on the store link. Then purchase the digital album.

I just find it odd that BN.com hasn’t gotten into the music download business. This is an IT issue and IT issues can be solved, especially when there are canned packages already on the market. (I’m pretty certain Lindsey didn’t write her own.)

What I would really hate to find out is that Barnes and Noble is where the DEC sales resistance force found refuge. Kids today don’t remember DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation.) They were the original owners of the operating system created by God, OpenVMS. There were several demi-god created operating systems which preceded it, RSTS/E, RSX-11, RT-11 and others. The last three I mentioned are of particular importance because of the story I’m about to tell.

Some time between the peak of the PDP hardware line and the massive growth of the VAX line hardware engineering created a Micro-PDP. The timing is important because IBM had not yet released the IBM PC with that god-awful couldn’t-be-loved-by-its-own-mother x86 chipset. I forget the size. It was much smaller than the Micro-PDP they sold years later and it was slated to sell for about the same amount as original IBM PC/XT/AT line.

The main difference here is the PC line had a wretched architecture, near worthless OS and no application software. The Micro-PDP could run anything already available for RSTS/E, RSX-11 or RT-11 because it could run all three business class multi-user operating systems AND they came with a real version of BASIC, not a cheap hack. Indexed file support was native, not a $500+ add on package. DEC marketing took a look at the thing, then took a look at all of the quarter million dollar full cabinet PDP systems in inventory and said no. They were not about to market something which would cut into their sales commissions.

Why is this tail relevant?

A similar tale is told of Barnes & Noble and ebooks. I’m sure much of it is urban legend but it does seem to fit the history. I just hope the same tale isn’t why they don’t have a music download business raking in oceans of money and keeping the company in the black. DEC marketing thought they were wise to avoid any business line which would cut into their cash cow. DEC doesn’t exist anymore. INTEL, which should have been a washed up chip maker before they started is now a massive company and Microsoft torments consumers every minute their PC is turned on.

Discount DVDs – The Factory

This Saturday I visited the local Big Lots and dug through their bins of $3 and $5 movies. This pursuit has become quite regular since Block Buster ended its DVD by mail business and I have found a suitable replacement. No, Netflix is neither suitable nor a replacement.

I don’t mind buying up “end lot” DVDs. There appear to be actual “new” DVDs appearing in this market. I don’t mean first run, I mean “new” packages. There seems to be an increasing number of multiple movie DVDs showing up in the $5-$7 price range. Many of these are really old movies which seem to be making another run at financial prosperity by getting bundled together. I picked up a 12 military movie package, as well as a 4 movie and 5 movie action set. True some are B-grade, but I hadn’t seen most of them.

It is nice to see studios coming to the realization that unlimited high speed Internet simply doesn’t exist in 80% of the country. Once the full price full package set runs its course they either put the movie in a cheaper package or bundle it with other similar genre movies in a package at a cheap price. I’m sure this trend will go away if unlimited high speed Internet ever actually rolls out to the country, but I’m also pretty certain that isn’t going to happen. It’s all about quarterly profits, not providing service. Now that DVD by mail is pretty much gone I expect there will be a big up-tick in the sale of low price point DVDs.

Do the math. I used to pay $20/month for DVD by mail from Block Buster. Since Netflix has offended the majority of consumers, they aren’t an option for the bulk of the population. Until someone like Barnes & Noble steps into the DVD by mail with in-store exchanges market low priced DVDs are going to move. At the time Block Buster ended their business I had over 200 titles in my list. I would have had more, but they had a policy of not replacing movies when the last copy was damaged, or so it appeared.

The great thing about the low price DVD bins is that they contain both coal and diamonds. While I may watch quite a few movies, I certainly haven’t seen all I wish to see. Due to stations like Fox running Iron Man and Transformers constantly I’ve probably seen those movies 20 times. Even in the $3 bin I’m not going to pick them up because they are always on. Maybe 10 years from now, if the networks quit running them, but not now when I can watch them close to 20 times per year.

My current diamond is a movie I had never heard of called “The Factory” starring John Cusack. I must confess to always liking Cusack. Even in bad movies he is good. Thankfully this movie was fantastic. I don’t know if it went straight to DVD or what, but watch it! I write many things which end up going places people weren’t expecting, but this knocked me out. Part of me wishes I could have seen it in a theater with surround sound. The part of me which finds it difficult to avoid going to the bathroom for 2 hours while drinking those massive sodas they sell isn’t, but that’s a story which comes with age.

I give this movie both thumbs up and every star vote allowed. It is well worth the time. Sit back with a glass/box of wine and relax knowing you will get blown away.