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5 Reasons Why Smashwords is Better Than Amazon
I first started using Smashwords for finding self-published ebooks because I was ticked off at Amazon, but now, I actually like their website a lot better for many reasons. However, sometimes I think I'm the only one using Smashwords at all, which is pretty sad. So here's why I prefer Smashwords.
It Doesn't Hide the Free Books
Within the past few years, Amazon has hidden the free books. Unless it's in the top 100 free book list-- which leaves plenty of perfectly good books out-- it's practically impossible to find. They don't show them in the occasional emails they send to your inbox nor do they display them in the "Also Bought" and "Frequently Bought Together" sections. In fact, they are practically impossible to find unless you already know the name of the book you want to buy and not just browse free books. Smashwords, on the other hand, lets you sort out all the books that aren't free. So you can browse through your favorite genres to your heart's content without worrying about the dollars adding up as you download more and more books. They seem to even encourage you buying free books with the chipper little exclamation point they use at the end of the word Free in the listing. They are just as excited that you have a free book as you are that you have a free book and isn't that awesome?
You Can Get Books in Multiple Formats
At Amazon you have print, kindle, and audiobooks, and that's about it. Too bad you prefer PDFs, or using your iBooks app. But guess what? Smashwords lets you download in several electronic formats, yes, even kindle. Once you buy the book, you can download it in as many versions as you like and as many times as you like, so even if you lost your Kindle you can read the books. Once they are in your Purchased section, they are there to stay.
You Can Sort By Word Count and Price Range
Smashwords is much smaller than Amazon with a lot less users, so naturally there are a lot less reviews. Most books don't even have one review. But Smashwords makes up for that by adding more sorting features. Before you even click on a listing to read the 10% sample, you can sort by word count and price range. If you want a full-length novel for ninety-nine cents, you can find it just as easily as a short story for five dollars. A lot of the time the word count can help you determine the value of the book. Once I bought a three dollar "book" that only had ten thousand words in it and I was really angry at that because I felt cheated. That was my own fault, though. If I had looked at the word count before buying, I would have known it would have taken me only fifteen minutes to read and was therefore not worth the three dollars. By sorting by word count and price, you can get the most bang for your buck. And then when you buy, you can help the lack of reviews by posting one of your own.
I realize that there are plenty of longer works that aren't even worth the storage space they would take up on your computer. That's why there's a sample of the book you can read beforehand so you know for sure if you'll like that book. But sorting first will make sure you can get your desired length and price right off the bat.
They Aren't Jerks
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I know you are probably getting ready to say how you always get great, fast service from Amazon with reasonable prices and maybe get some rebuttals ready from the Amazon/Hatchette story. But I'm going to talk in my own personal experience about Amazon and I think they are jerks.
I have to admit, there are plenty of times when I've enjoyed the convenience of their system and binge-buying on box sets of books until my gift certificates run out and the fact that they sell practically everything is very convenient for getting gifts at the last minute (but honestly, Salvation Army can get you the gifts so much cheaper and so much faster so why bother planning ahead and paying more with Amazon for gifts?)
However, they can seriously be jerks in a lot of areas. Especially when people want to make money-- no matter how small--- off of them. First of all, I live in Maine, which has affiliate nexus laws. This means sales tax can be charged if I earn more than ten thousand dollars in affiliate sales in a year. Despite the fact that it would be a miracle if I earned that much in affiliate sales at all, Amazon freaked out and banned all Mainers from becoming affiliates. What the hell does that do for them? So there is a chance that sales tax is paid on it? Who cares? They would still be getting more money by keeping their affiliates in all states than they would by banning affiliates in certain states, including New York, Minnesota, and Missouri. They are just pissed at state governments and to get back at them they are punishing possible affiliates and hoping that we will be so desperate for their commissions that we rise up and protest. Their intent is very clear with the passive aggressive letter they sent to everyone when notifying Mainers that they were collateral damage in their war with government. You can read the letter and more about their protest of "unconstitutional" laws here.
Oh, that's not all. Last year I tried setting up an account with Amazon Mechanical Turk. This lets you do minor tasks like search something online or transcribe receipts for a few pennies. Despite filling out all the information they required for me to work on Amazon Mechanical Turk, I received an email a little later from Amazon Payments about me not omitting some dire information. I followed the link to the form in the email and filled it all out again. Again, I got the email. I did this three more times before I received notification that my Amazon Payments account was suspended and all the funds -- a whopping 25 cents-- was frozen. When I called them up to ask about this, they told me it was Mechanical Turk's problem and that there was nothing she could do. To be fair she offered to send a check for the quarter I had earned from Amazon. But I was determined to get my account unsuspended so I message Mechanical Turk, explaining the problem. They got back to me quickly, saying that my Mechanical Turk account was in good standing and that it really was Amazon Payment's problem. Too angry to talk on the phone, I emailed Amazon Payments and asked them what the hell happened. Both times I got a form email back saying that they were unable to verify certain information I had given them. They never specified on the information, nor did they tell me how to fix this, which irritated me to no end. By this point I had spent a good five hours trying to solve this inconvenience. After taking a day or two to cool down, I called Amazon Payments again and asked them what the hell was going on. I was told that there was nothing I could do to fix this, not now, not ever. All of it was suspended permanently. I couldn't even close my account. I could try setting up a new account with a different email address, but the results would most likely be the same. When I asked what information it was that they had a hard time verifying, the woman said (and I quote) "Just information."
Honestly, I don't even know what the hell happened with Turk and even if it's Amazon's fault. I've never heard of another case like this, so I probably did drop the ball somewhere even though I gave them all of the information they asked for and made sure it was correct. But the impossibility of someone giving me a straight answer about my account status makes Amazon jerks in my book.
If you want more examples of jerk-like moves by Amazon that affect more people than just, well, me, then you should check out the entire Wikipedia page dedicated to just that.
Do you like Smashwords?
All of the Books Are By Independent Authors
Who doesn't like supporting the underdogs? While Amazon is one of the biggest marketplaces for indie authors, they still have to compete with giants like Stephen King and Janet Evanovich. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which books were independently self-published and which were published by a publishing company, which is problematic if you love supporting self-published authors like I do. If I was going to buy traditionally published, I would order it through my local bookstore instead of buy an ebook from it. It's much nicer to browse Smashwords and get one of the indie books there than trying to find new self-published authors among all the others in Amazon.
To make things really fair among authors, Smashwords even has a covers off feature, so you can judge the book by its description and writing style instead of its cover. I never really use this feature, but it's there for those who really don't want to be swayed by marketing.
You probably know I'm biased based off my own experiences with Amazon that are more on the selling end and less on the buying end. Now that I have a Massachusetts address from college, I could set up an Amazon affiliate-ship, but I choose not to because I don't really like them and I don't want to deal with them. I do have an affiliate-ship with Smashwords. I also have an affiliate-ship with Indiebound but you'll probably not see me make an article about why Indiebound is better than Smashwords because Indiebound is only good for the truly committed to online shopping through local bookstores. I really do think Smashwords is more convenient for ebooks than Amazon, and it's more fun for me for the reasons above.