I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Friday, July 03, 2009

Another thing to make me lose sleep....

Below is the screen shot of the Amazon home page when I signed in earlier today at a public computer. It's tiny, but if you click on it, you'll be able to see it better. Even small, however, you might notice that the world's premier online bookseller seems to have stopped pushing books. The main page does feature a prominent add for the Kindle, but everything else is electronics, sporting gear, music and movies. Not a single book is being offered. True, if you go there looking for a book, they'll have it. But to not have a single book on display on the splash page is a disturbing hint of the future for a writer such as myself.

Amazon was one of the forces that drove neighborhood bookstores to near extinction. Judging from the space they are devoting to their front page, they Amazon is firmly committed to no longer being an online "bookstore." Books are just an ever smaller part of their total retail package. I'm sure they'll always carry books, but if they don't bother to market them, it seems like we'll be on a downward spiral. They'll sell fewer books because they don't market them, and they won't market them because they don't sell.

Anyone want to tell me why I shouldn't be worried about this? Anyone? Please?


Drakonis said...

You already answered your question:


Lazy Bike Commuter said...

I think that bookstores are killing bookstores.

I was just in a Books & Co two days ago to buy the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson since I read on Hatrack.com that they're supposed to be good, and after wandering around for a while I discovered that the books are completely out of order and the selection isn't very good.

They had the second book in the series in paperback, but not the first. They only had the third book in hardback (and I don't normally buy hardbacks because they a) cost too much and b) are inconvenient to carry around).

On the bright side, while I was scanning the shelves for Mistborn I found Dragonseed, which I didn't know was out yet.

They only ordered two copies though (they left the "1 of 2" label on mine), and they didn't have Bitterwood or Dragonforge.

Bookstores aren't dying. They're committing suicide.

James Maxey said...

LBC, I'm happy they at least had Dragonseed. In my mind, that's the mark of a quality bookstore.

I have a lot of sympathy for some of the problems traditional bookstores face. Unlike Amazon, they have a finite space to display books. It can be tricky to guess the desires of consumers.

Of course, one thing that the big chains could do would be to hire more sales reps to man the floors and actually talk to people about what they are looking for. I've been in plenty of stores where the staff on the floor seems inadequate to deal with the customers actually on the floor.

Here's where I don't understand capitalism: We're in an economic slump, so businesses (not just bookstores) are letting people go or at least not hiring, because people aren't buying as much. But, in stores with less staff, customer service suffers, as the staff on hand has to stay focused more on the essentials like manning the cash registers and less time helping customers find what they want. Sales fall further.

It seems like, with unemployment at 10%, now would be the time for retail outlets to look at increasing staff. They can offer low wages and still get to pick from a larger, better pool of applicants than they will have in boom times. More staff would provide a better customer experience (assuming that training budgets aren't slashed) and sales would eventually trend upwards due to the investment.

And, if companies everywhere adopted this philosophy, unemployment would fall, driving up the stock market, making people feel comfortable shopping again, and businesses across the board would recover.

Anyway, back to bookstores, maybe if Amazon does de-emphasize books in the future, it might give them a shot at taking back some market share. You never know. A writer can dream.

Gardner said...


You've got a lot of nerve complaining about lost sleep! I finished Dragonforge last night. I lost several hours of sleep a night during the past week to get there. How dare you write something designed to keep me awake reading and then post this!

All kidding aside, this is actually quite horrifying. It's especially scary for me, since I've been putting off querying because my regular job has been going so well the past two years. When (if) I ever pursue the dream, will there even be a market? Yikes.

I'm sure it's even worse for published authors.


On Dragonforge - mad kudos. It had the tone of something like The Empire Strikes Back.

When Jazz started bemoaning environmental catastrophe, I got really worried you were going to sell out to that recently overused storyline. (Think "The Day the Earth Stood Still" remake.) Instead, you put her views in perspective and made her extremism villainous. Very good.

It took me a while to catch up on my reading list, but Dragonforge has convinced me to bump Dragonseed to the front of the line.


James Maxey said...

Gardner, I'm glad you enjoyed it. I liked writing Jazz because, in some ways, I understand entirely where she's coming from. There are times and places where I look at truly horrible things that people have done to the planet and I just think, "You know, the world would do a lot better without us." But, in a larger sense, I also have the perspective that all human activity is essentially natural activity. I.E., we're not acting unnaturally in modifying and sometimes degrading our environment. All species change the world around then; we're just shockingly efficient at it. But, from the perspective of the earth (assuming the earth had a perspective) the activities of humans are just roughing up the margins of the biosphere. The great wheel of life will keep turning whether we are here or not.