Saturday, December 03, 2005

Amazon morality question

When I started this blog I promised myself that I would be crafting beautifully put together daily pieces, pithy and worthy of a hard-back collection later when my cardboard box of novel fragments transmogrifies into a shelf of published novels. Or at least, I thought I'd aim for that and at the very least I'd be fulfilling the 'write everyday' dictum. ( Which in my house translates into the ' if-you-think-about-writing-every-day-well-with-your-day-job-thats-pretty-good-going-all-by-itself-have-a-day-off-to-reward-yourself' dictum). You will see from the dates of the entries that I failed the daily test. (I'll leave you to post a comment in relation to beauty and pithiness, but bear in mind that my fridge is bear of all comfort food save for a half bar of emergency cooking chocolate. ).

In my defence, I do have an excuse. I spent most of the evenings last week sitting on the bed in a Premier Travel Inn room in Birmingham, with no internet access and only a donated coffee cake and dire TV for company and a blizzard going on outside. During the day I was teaching trainee solictors how to survive being a family lawyer. In the evenings... well actually, I was writing. It seems that boredom, lonliness and a surfeit of espresso flavoured butter cream might actually be quite creatively stimulating. Especially when writing a scene about a woman who is an unhappy comfort eater. ( I am looking forward to writing the scene where she wins the lottery). So, I have the first four chapters of my novel knocked into a state I am happy with for now as a first draft and having written every day for three days... well, a girl deserves a treat. So I walked fifty yards up Broad Street in the snow and went to an early showing of In Her Shoes, chosen over a couple of other possiblities because I recently discovered Jennifer Wiener's blog - she wrote the novel on which the film is based.

So now I want to buy all her novels. The good news is that I can do so without bankrupting myself because, remember when Amazon sent me an email saying that they duplicated an order and here was a gift certificate for the inconvenience of posting it back? Well they duplicated the gift certificate email too. Now I can tell you that the Consumer Protection Distance Selling Regulations) 2000 Reg 24 ( No I am not making this up) allows me legally to deal with the 'goods' as if they were an absolute gift to me if they were sent with the intention of me acquiring them. But is that the same as an apology being sent twice? But actually that is only the first morality question of the title. The morality question refers to my previous mass purchase of books because I liked an author's personality.

In 'Swallowing words' I said I was going to go and buy One Marian Keyes book. I lied. I bought five. At once. Even thought I know I will not read them before my Christmas books arrive and I already have a shelf of unread books. Which glutonous behaviour is the equivalent of eating a whole box of chocolates at once. Which is why I only have cooking chocolate left. But anyway. I scoured Amazon marketplace and filled my basket with the cheapest copies available in good condition. Then I had a morality moment. If I was buying these books because I liked the author was it the equivalent of a Glasgow kiss to indicate my affection for her work by paying a penny to a second hand dealer for her books? Should I not be buying them new and giving her royalties? So I opened a new browser window and logged onto Amazon again in my husband's name and filled his basket with new copies to see the price difference. And there was a bit of a difference. Not one the size of our EU rebate but one that would buy quite a lot of Cadbury's Flakes. So I dithered for an unreasonably long time then pressed the checkout button to order the second hand ones.

And then I went to Birmingham and felt guilty. I had defrauded my new found friend. ( Note to self: Only stalkers really think that someone is their friend becuase they sounded so nice on their audio book recording). Scrap that: I had defrauded a fellow author of her hard earned royalties, which were all the more due to her becuase of her clever marketing plot of sounding so nice on her audio book. And that's when - sitting amongst the coffee cake crumbs on my budget hotel duvet, that I thought that perhaps I had crossed the line from being a reader who wanted to write to a writer who reads. I had not yet crossed the line from writer to crusader which is why I was still able to put the question of the morality of Amazon discounts and the destruction of the world of small booksellers as we know it to the back of my mind, but still, I felt terribly guilty. So I had another slice of cake and vowed to post good reviews for the books. But I still felt guilty. So I had another piece of cake and scattered some more crumbs ( Premier Travel Inns do not come with plates) and vowed never to behave in this scurrilous way again.

Then my husband rang.

He wanted to to know why he had just received an email indicating that a large pile of chick-lit novels were about to be charged to his credit card. Ooops.I promised to pay him back and then I didn't feel so guilty anymore, so I had a piece of coffee cake to celebrate. And then I was so sugared up that I decided that I would buy her next collection of journalism pieces 'Further under the Duvet' full price. From a bookshop. After all, If I am going to be writing these pithy well rounded pieces, I need to learn the craft. Which may well make the book a teaching manual. Which, could possiibly, just, make it tax deductable and in effect the same price as a second hand one anyway. So Marian Keyes should be happy with me, my bank manager should be happy with me and I should have saved the cost of the dry cleaning needed to remove these coffee cake crumbs from the seat of my jeans.

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