The Sporadic Beaver

Amazon Case #34451451

May 24, 2012

Tags: Amazon, Beaver Street, Kafka

Regular readers of this blog are aware that the paperback edition of Beaver Street: A History of Modern Pornography has been unavailable directly through Amazon U.S. since its publication here last month. Though Amazon has made the Kindle edition available, and is allowing outside vendors to sell the paperback edition, they claim that they themselves do not have the right to sell the paperback edition in the U.S.

Since becoming aware of this problem, my publisher, Headpress, the distributor, SCB, and I have repeatedly told Amazon, by e-mail, by telephone, and by letter, that they do have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

Amazon continues to insist that they do not.

Yesterday, in fact, I received a phone call from a woman at Amazon Author Central. She told me that the reason Beaver Street does not have a “buy box,” as Amazon calls the button you click to buy the book directly from Amazon, is because Amazon does not have the right to sell the book in the U.S.

I told her that Amazon had received a letter from the distributor over a month ago confirming that they had full distribution rights for Beaver Street throughout North America. I read the letter to her.

The woman repeated that Amazon does not have the right to sell Beaver Street in the U.S.

The conversation went around in circles. I told her that dealing with Amazon was more frustrating than dealing with the IRS.

The woman gave me a case number: 34451451. She said that this number should be used in any future dealings with Amazon.

When I hung up the phone, I felt as if I’d just played out a scene in a Kafka novel—probably one that doesn’t have a buy button.

I know this much: When any corporation, large or small, is unable to solve simple problems quickly—and adding a buy button to Beaver Street is about as simple as it gets—it’s symptomatic of deep-seated systemic problems throughout the corporation.

I look forward to discussing case #34451451 with Amazon at the BEA next month.