Saturday, February 20, 2010

Not even close, guys

Often, Amazon's recommendations are reasonably useful, but this one isn't even close. Come on, guys! If the recommendation feature decays into nothing but noise, it's self-defeating. I'm sure someone said, "Hey, if we make the recommendations more general, we'll sell more books." Nope; if I get a few more like this, I'll just turn on an email filter that deletes Amazon recommendations unread:
Dear Customer,

As someone who has purchased or rated "Deke!: An Autobiography" by Donald K Slayton or other books in the Engineering > Aeronautical Engineering category, you might like to know that "Multi-Sensor Data Fusion with MATLAB: Theory and Practice" is now available. You can order yours at a savings of 20% by following the link below.

Multi-Sensor Data Fusion with MATLAB: Theory and Practice by Jitendra R. Raol

List Price: CDN$ 160.95
Price: CDN$ 128.76
You Save: CDN$ 32.19
For those who don't know, Deke Slayton was a key figure in the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs.
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Friday, November 27, 2009

It only took a decade, but ...

Back in June 1998, I met with the then-manager of author relations for at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle. It was an opportunity to tell her what was wrong with's online book-review system (in my humble opinion), which had been thrust into the marketplace without any consultation with writers' groups.

I outlined numerous difficulties with the way the system was then set up, including most egregiously that although the author has the guts to put his or her name one what he or she wrote, reviewers could hide behind pseudonyms, and there wasn't any way to verify that they even owned the book in question.

One by one, Amazon has slowly but surely come around to agreeing with me on each of the points I raised. They added a "Real Name" flag to reviews the authorship of which could be verified, and now they've finally added a flag that proves, within the limits of their abilities to verify the information, that the reviewer actually owns the book (or product) in question, something they're calling Verified Purchase Reviews, described thus:
When a product review is marked "Amazon Verified Purchase," it means that the customer who wrote the review purchased the item at Customers can add this label to their review only if we can verify the item being reviewed was purchased at Customers reading an Amazon Verified Purchase review can use this information to help them decide which reviews are most helpful in their purchasing decisions.

If a review is not marked Amazon Verified Purchase, it doesn't mean that the reviewer has no experience with the product – it just means we couldn't verify that it had been purchased at Amazon. They may have purchased the item elsewhere or had some other interaction with it. If we could somehow validate their experience with the product, we certainly would. The Amazon Verified Review label offers one more way to help gauge the quality and relevance of a product review.
Only took eleven years, but, hey, we SF writers are always ahead of the curve ;)
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Thursday, September 10, 2009

FlashForward bookstore display stands

Woohoo! In cooperation with ABC, Tor Books in the United States has produced terrific floor-display stands (sometimes called "dumps") for the new mass-market edition of my novel FlashForward, which is the basis of the TV series premiering two weeks from today.

Here are a couple of shots of the stand in a Barnes and Noble in Syracuse, New York, as taken by my friend Dennis Pettit.

(Real RJS trivia buffs will recognize "Pettit" as the name of Afsan's apprentice in my 1994 novel Foreigner; that Pettit is named in honor of Dennis.)

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Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Banff Book & Art Den closes

I've often taught science-fiction writing in week-long courses at the Banff Centre in the ski-resort town of Banff, Alberta. I'm sure my students remember The Banff Book & Art Den -- the one bookstore in Banff -- as fondly as I do.

Quill & Quire is reporting that the store closed its doors for good last week ... another great independent gone, but, interestingly, not because of direct in-the-same town competition from a big chain (although, of course, as a resort town, lots of its business was from people who were just passing through and did have options to shop elsewhere). It was a beautiful store, on multiple levels, with lovely, polished hardwood floors. I'll miss it.

(And Calgary -- the nearest big city -- lost one of its great booksellers recently, too.)

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Calgary McNally Robinson closing

The great downtown Calgary bookstore McNally Robinson, on the open-air mall Stephen Avenue Walk, is closing on August 1, 2008.

Calgary's economy is booming -- wages are high, rents are higher -- and a small-margins business like bookselling can't make a go of it in such a prime downtown location.

I'm really sad about this. Not only was I very fond of the staff -- who had always treated me extremely well -- but it was a truly beautiful bookstore: three storeys, with a lovely spiral staircase, a restaurant, and a great, spacious patio on which many a wonderful book launch had been held (including the one for Danita Maslan's Rogue Harvest, published under my Robert J. Sawyer Books imprint). I have wonderful memories of attending events at the store -- my own, and those of other authors -- and of just browsing or of chatting with the knowledgeable staff. It's a real loss.

(The McNally Robinson chain is doing fine, with another store opening in two weeks in Winnipeg, and one opening in Toronto 13 months from now. The Calgary branch was not one of those that contributes to the Locus bestsellers list.)

Today's Calgary Herald has more.

The Robert J. Sawyer Web Site