I received an email update the other day from Indigo (nee Chapters … oh, if only you’d stayed single, Chapters! I liked you before you were hitched at the shotgun wedding!), pimping their iRewards club membership. Which, fine, I’m coming due. Of course, this time they put a different spin on it. Buy within this ten day period, of which five days have already past, and you’ll get 20% off! Even though you don’t come due until the end of the month sometime, buy now and save $5! Up until recently, there was always a $5/20% offer available. Now it’s become time-sensitive. Feh.
Originally, back in the day, you received a 10% discount on your books, and for every $100 you spent you were given a coupon that you could put towards the purchase of more books. Huzzah. Wonderful. Then they raised the prices. Okay, to be expected. Then they phased out the coupons-per-amount-spent offer, and instead you received a bunch of coupons up front when you bought your membership, each time stamped so they couldn’t be used all at once, and bundled with discounts at others places, some of which were of no use to me. And as I watched the shelves devoted to science fiction and fantasy shrink, as did all the book space in the Chapters store in our area, as I had to hunt for titles, beg and plead, I started turning to Amazon.ca.
I didn’t want to go that route – I would rather support Canadian businesses, I assure you. But if you can’t find it, where else are you supposed to go? I had already gotten into the habit of using the Amazon search engines to find the title, grab the ISBN and then go search on Indigo’s crippled little website. And then when Indigo gets my order wrong, when they still don’t carry as many titles, and I find myself buying more and more of my stock from Amazon out of necessity, I look at my little iRewards card and wonder, is it really worth it?
For the first time in 10 years, no, it isn’t.
Amazon competes with the price even figuring in the discount from the iRewards cards, and competes on shipping, on selection, on everything else. It just doesn’t have a store. And they market to me, which is something Indigo has never bothered to do. While I get the same selection of mass emails from Indigo on a regular basis (Women’s ChickLit and Bestsellers, stuff I never pick up), I get targeted ads from Amazon for SF and Fantasy titles, which is what I buy.
What is the point of an iRewards card if my purchases are not being tracked? Or, if they are, would it kill them to put something together that targeted my spending habits? Wouldn’t that, I don’t know, get me to buy more of what I’m buying now? I mean, Holy Cats, what are they doing with their market research?
I’d been thinking about this topic for over a week now, but I’ve been spurred to write it after reading a couple of other blogs, notably here at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist, where you can get the details. In brief, author with proven track record releasing a sequel to a book that had to go back to press two times to keep up demand for the title will not have the latest book available at Borders, period.
And I see the same thing at my “local” superstore. I see titles stocked once, then gone. I see series missing the first three installments. And now that I’m better informed as to what should be out there, I get angry. I see the SF and Fantasy section get crowded into ever smaller spaces, overrun with media tie-ins. They have sections in the literary books for award-winning titles, why not the same in the other genres? Why not spotlight what’s good all over? I get angry, seeing all the wasted potential and wish that we had something like the Bakka Phoenix Bookstore in Sudbury.
But of course I ask, would it even be profitable?
We had one bookstore, independent, specializing in occult titles. They’re gone. The small Coles bookstore, a subsidiary of Indigo, carries mostly bestsellers, as there isn’t room for much more. I loved that store as a kid, and only now, as an older reader trying to keep up on both the new writers coming out and those that have shaped the genre in the last twenty years, I realize how much I missed – and wondered if it was even there to begin with.
What I worry may have happened twenty years ago is sure as hell fact now – you don’t get to see it all. The book publishers shouldn’t be making it harder to find books. It should be easy. It should be trip-over-a-rock-there-you-are-easy. Everyone else is making it easy – tv, movies, video games, all of it – making it hard will just put you out of business.
So for now, it’s Amazon.ca for me. They market to me, they have the widest selection. I’ll miss the store, but I can rely on the used book stores for that browsing experience as I try to catch up on the vanished mid-list. I’d say “Sorry,” to Indigo, but I don’t think she cared I was customer.