Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Annoyance of Amazonian proportions

When people ask me if I dislike Amazon, I find myself struggling to explain my issues with the website that for so many years has been my primary source for books, discs, and DVDs (as well as potato peelers, utensils, bedsheets, and more). I can't easily go into my dislike of their pricing methods, or the way I've always felt the reviews are slightly skewed (in this, though, I suppose I have only myself to blame). Disliking their "Best of the Month" feature is a matter of my own personal taste, and my personal views on the Kindle are perhaps not singular, but are not shared by most. Then, of course, a story like this comes along (via A Momentary Taste of Being).
Eric Engleman, who covers Amazon for TechFlash and the Puget Sound Business Journal, reported yesterday on a six-year-old patent, granted last week, which, according to Engleman, “describes a system of paying to electronically preview ‘one or more chapters, sections, pages, paragraphs, or sentences from a work’ with variable fees based on the genre or publisher, or ‘consumers’ past viewing behavior or purchases.’” Amazon, at least according to the language of this patent (which credits Amazon C.E.O. Jeff Bezos as one of its inventors), expresses concern that the current preview model—which includes an especially handy word-search function—may discourage customers from actually buying books.
I suppose I'm so frustrated by this story because it looks like just another example of Amazon trying to charge for ridiculous things (or, additionally, charge excessively). I am saddened to think that Amazon's latest money-making patent might actually work, much in the way their setting of eBook prices (unfairly high, no matter what publishers would like to think) lead consumers to getting used to something pointlessly and unfairly expensive.
As was mentioned at The Book Bench (and A Momentary Taste of Being), there is much stupidity in this move. When I go to a bookstore, pick up a book in my hands and plop down on the floor, I get to flip through as much of the book as I want. Heck, I can always finish the book if that's my aim, even if I don't for fear of this. Charging for something so limited as a ten-page preview is just... dumb. Worse is the idea that people will in fact chalk up money for such a scam. While Amazon is clever for trying to cash in on convenience, it seems inappropriate to constantly be coming up with new ways to limit our access to knowledge. This also seems like a foolish move from a practical standpoint. I have purchased numerous books based on the fact that I could preview them. I won't pay to preview - I just won't buy.

For all the price "friendliness" of Amazon, the convenience of having books shipped straight home, and the many years of loyal use, I have to say - this time, guys, you're going too far. It won't be worth it.


  1. I am curious to see how this develops. They will just drive me into a store. There is no way that I would pay for this.

  2. Dear Bibiblio,

    As I point out--the patent may be used for a clipping-like service, not necessarily for previewing books. There's a lot of possible reasons for such a patent; however, on the surface of it, it certainly does not look good.



  3. Ack! I hadn't heard about this. If they make people pay for book previews they will surely drive people away.


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