Recently, Amazon made changes to their almighty Algorithm. In the past, most algorithm changes were invisible to readers and made only authors switch the way they were doing things.
This one affected everyone.
The primary aim of the change–as far as anyone can tell, that is, because Amazon never speaks aloud–was to force shoppers not residing in the United States to shop at their “local” Amazon.
There are millions of shoppers outside the US who use Amazon.com as their primary bookstore. Amazon.com was once the only ebookstore, and we all opened our accounts there. When my Amazon.CA store opened, I didn’t bother switching over, because everything was already set up on the .com store. I wasn’t the only shopper who didn’t want to be deprived of ebooks and print books I could only buy on A.US.
Amazon have been gently coaxing non US shoppers to move to their local store for years.
The latest change in algorithms was designed to force non US shoppers to their local store. What Amazon did was make A.US books available on local store sites invisible to non-US shoppers.
So, for example, my book Time and Remembrance, which was released on the day this started, disappeared from the store (as far as I could see), and only the print version was available.
There was a severe and very loud reaction to this ghosting process:
- authors like me panicked and screamed about our new releases not being available.
- many books were still showing available, which made us even more uncertain about what was happening.
- many US readers were also unable to access books on A.US.
The last point demonstrated that the algorithm change was uneven and buggy.
Amazon made even more changes a few days later and now non-US shoppers can see books on A.US, but they cannot buy them.
Those US readers who were also accidentally included in the original change are also experiencing issues with buy buttons disappearing…still.
What this means for you.
If you are a non-US shopper, then the easiest path is to switch to your “local” Amazon, whichever one that is. Amazon.com will auto-switch your account if you go into your dashboard and click the Manage My Content link.
Unfortunately, it means you will have to pay more for your books, as the prices on the local sites are more than the exchange rate would deem they should be.
Also, there is no longer any family library facility — so you cannot share your books with family members (a major pain point!).
On the other hand, if you’re able to buy print books on your local Amazon (I can’t, for instance), then you won’t have to pay extra shipping.
If you have no local Amazon store, then you must speak to Amazon directly about where you will be permitted to shop from now on.
To test if you are being shunted to your local Amazon, click on this link to jump to my book, Time and Remembrance, on A.US. If you cannot see the price and buy button, there should be a link that suggests you continue shopping on your local store. Here is what it looks like for me:
If you are a US Shopper, and you see the above or a similar message, then you absolutely must contact Amazon and talk to them about having your location adjusted so you can shop on A.US.
If, however, you see a price and the buy button, then Amazon has correctly identified you as a US resident, and you’re good to go.
An Alternative Idea
If you, like me, are peeved at being told where to shop and being forced to pay more, then you may want to consider shopping on alternative venues. You can browse on Amazon, but buy your books from, say, Smashwords, who will provide a Mobi file for your Kindle reader — if the author of the book uses Smashwords, that is. (I don’t, by the way.)
If the book you want to buy is a Kindle Unlimited title, then you’re stuck, I’m afraid. There is no alternative but to buy on your local Amazon, as the title is not available anywhere else.
For my books, you also have the option of buying directly from me, and uploading to your Kindle. I charge only the US price, not the inflated “local” price, and I’m more than happy to have you buy from me directly, as I don’t then have to pay Amazon 30%+ of the price. So it is a win-win in this case.
Longer Term Solutions
This is the first time Amazon have directly interfered with the shopping experience. You may want to think about long term solutions to being channeled into buying decisions, as they have demonstrated they have no objections to herding shoppers and limiting availability of goods as it suits them.
Here’s some tips and ideas:
- Learn how to side-load books to your Kindle
This will free you from shopping only on Amazon and lets you upload books from any source.To figure out how to do this, plug in “how to sideload books onto” and then add your eReading device or Kindle app version number. There are tutorials everywhere, in text, images and video, which teach you how to do this.
It is an invaluable skill to learn.
- Browse and/or buy books from other stores.
This requires some research and testing, to see how other stores deliver books and if you can sideload them to your Kindle after converting them. It will give you a degree more independence, once you’ve figured out a couple of alternative stores that work for you.
- Buy directly from publishers and authors
This is likely to be the best of the long term solutions. More and more authors and many publishers sell direct from their own sites, often with deals and discounts attached, to encourage you to continue to shop with them.This is the solution I will be using as much as possible in the future. I will browse on Amazon, then plug the book title into Google to see where it is available, elsewhere.
TIP: If the author or publisher doesn’t offer the book on their site, and you can’t buy it at your local Amazon, try contacting the author or publisher directly and offering to pay them via PayPal for a copy of the book.
Of course, you can also continue to shop and buy on Amazon. Amazon does have far more titles available than any other store. However, browsing on A.US and buying somewhere else gives you the best of both worlds.
Get the news that no one else does. Sign up for my newsletter.
For a short while, you get a bundle of ebooks, free, when you sign up, as a Starter Library. Details here.