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Amazon: The Importance of New Edition Primacy in Search Results

We received a note from Last Dragon author J. M. McDermott who notes that you might have trouble finding certain books on; specifically, it seems that for some titles Amazon is not showing the latest editions in search results. Even worse, he says that some of the editions being presented as new are actually used.

Read on to see what McDermott found (reprinted here with his permission) and let us know if you can shed light on this…


So, currently, Jason Sizemore and I have been trying to figure out what the heck happened that Amazon has almost made the latest edition of LAST DRAGON disappear from search. One can only find the paperback of LAST DRAGON by clicking around a lot towards the most expensive listing. What shows up in search is something called [Bargain Price] edition. Now, that’s a used, Out-of-print edition, right there. It’s not a new book. It’s a book that was printed sometime around 2007-2008, and it’s going to be old, crusty, and probably marked on. However, you wouldn’t know that from the listing. It’s being listed as if it’s just a bargain, new edition. It’s also given primacy in search functions.

So, it’s also murdering the search placement and impacting sales of the latest edition of LAST DRAGON, from indie press Apex, which includes author corrections, and amazing new artwork by my wife, who holds a degree in illustration from prestigious Moore College of Art & Design.

More importantly, because I don’t actually mind people picking up used copies of my books – that’s a great and wonderful thing – it is being presented to the customer as if they’re getting a great deal on a brand, new book.

I’m not the only one affected by this. Firefly Rain and Devil’s Cape are both impacted, also from the same original line of books that published my first novel back in 2008. I’m sure there would be more.

What we’d like to accomplish is a simple new search rule, for amazon: Latest Print editions get primacy in search.

There are lots of reasons why new editions should be presented first. For instance, corrections cannot always happen in the first edition in time. That’s another whole round of editorial polish to the second edition. Also, art and design might have changed and improved. Being a new edition, instead of a used one, the quality of paper and ink will be different, presumably better, and the customer should have a longer-lasting artifact in hand. Of course, the failure to find latest editions without diligence also means that the bottom line to publishers and authors is impacted, and it will likely chill the ability of publishers to reprint older titles, and chill the ability of authors to reintroduce their own work themselves, when search placement at Amazon is favoring the used and out-of-print editions. And, of course, selling something that is not new with a listing that indicates it is? Not cool.

I hope you can help us figure out what’s going on, because Jason and I are mystified, and we’ve gotten no good answers either from Jason’s distributors, or Amazon.


J.M. McDermott

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

13 Comments on Amazon: The Importance of New Edition Primacy in Search Results

  1. David Greybeard // March 20, 2013 at 8:11 am //

    Hunh? I don’t get what you’re all excited about.
    Amazon has been selling remainders and calling them Bargain Books for, well, EVER.

  2. J M McDermott // March 20, 2013 at 8:27 am //

    What has us excited is that these editions are given primacy in search. Again, it’s no issue at all that they’re being sold. The issue is that you’d really have to try and look to find the one that isn’t the “Bargain Book”. It’s fine and great and wonderful that those remainders are getting sold. But, they should be the second choice after the latest edition. Search should favor the new, print edition, instead of the old one. Customers should have to click through the latest edition to get to the bargain books.

  3. I woke up achy and cranky today which makes it a perfect day to send Amazon a sharply worded note asking them why I have to hobble out to B & N to find a book instead of using my Amazon Prime to get it mailed to me.If enough people notify them of moneys lost, they will figure out the problem with their search algorithm.

  4. Gerry M. Allen // March 20, 2013 at 3:05 pm //

    When I search for the mentioned books, the newest paperbacks show up first. Maybe it was a one-time glitch?

  5. Rick York // March 20, 2013 at 4:27 pm //

    Let me add another annoying thing relating specifically to Kindle Books. I recently wrote Amazon complaining that many of their eBook descriptions fail to note the original publication date.

    It’s annoying for a forgetful old geezer to buy an eBook and realize after a few pages that I read it years ago.

  6. J M McDermott // March 20, 2013 at 6:46 pm //

    Gerry: What you’re probably seeing is not the newest paperback. It’s just being sold to you that way. What I see when I search Amazon is a “bargain price” paperback. It’s a remaindered/used 2008 edition of the novel, from Wizards of the Coast Discoveries. The reprint, i.e. the latest print edition from Apex Books in 2011, is hidden from plain view and you have to click through a lot to get through to it.

    This cuts Jason Sizemore, owner of Apex, off at the knees, so to speak, and is dishonest to customers seeking a brand new edition. It discourages people from buying the actual new edition under the false illusion that a beat-up remaindered copy is the latest paperback.

  7. To get the Apex print edition on the list, I had to include apex in the search box. I’ve noticed this problem with other books–some from big 6 publishers too. I’ve always put it down to deficiencies in the amazon database, which is far from perfect. The remaindered edition is in an amazon warehouse (only 1 left in stock, they say). I infer from the availability note on the Apex edition, which says “Usually ships in 1-3 weeks,” that it is NOT in an amazon warehouse. Do you suppose that affects how the search results pop?

  8. Mike Slivinski // March 20, 2013 at 10:37 pm //

    The new edition is always (as it is in this instance) listed under formats on the same page as the “bargain book” along with it’s publication date. Personally, I almost always buy the “bargain book” as saving 10 to 20 dollars is more important to me than receiving a newer edition. In my experience the books are indeed a new copy with a remainder mark and as of yet have been free from crust. If it’s not in new condition Amazon pays for the return shipping and refunds the purchase price as soon as you ship the book.

    Perhaps the problem is really that in this newer market where old editions are more readily available three years is too soon for a new edition of the same book. When Apex reprinted Like Death (Tim Waggoner) which was closer to six years since the last edition there were only a few copies of the old edition listed on Amazon and those were in poor shape, I remember because I purchased 3 copies to get one that was in decent condition but even then I still all together spent less than a fourth of the price of the new edition. Would I have loved to pay for the newer edition and support Jason and Tim? of course but, I would rather have an extra ten bucks to spend on my kids. I think many consumers are going to be of the same mindset.

    So while I understand (and sympathize)that having the new edition get front page treatment is in the best interest of the publisher and the author it does not necessarily reflect the majority of people buying the book, many of whom would rather save a few bucks than have the latest and greatest edition. The availability of old editions is something publishers will have to take into account before reprinting a book.

    • But the issue isn’t that the remaindered edition is listed. The issue is that a standard search on Last Dragon McDermott leads to a page that shows ONLY the remaindered edition and the Kindle version of the Apex edition plus a link to an audiobook. It does NOT show the new Apex print edition, so the customer isn’t offered a choice between the remainder and the shiny new edition with illustrations, which many customers may prefer, believe it or not. And it should. Now it would be interesting to find out whether once someone buys the one copy allegedly left of the remainder, will the same search pop the new edition? If it does, then it’s reasonable to assume that amazon is stacking the deck in favor of stuff it’s got cluttering its warehouse.

      • Mike Slivinski // March 20, 2013 at 11:09 pm //

        It does show the Apex edition. It’s listed under formats. You do have to click the little plus sign next to the paperback edition which is how amazon signals there are other editions available. Perhaps that should be expanded by default so everyone sees it.

        • Yes, on the main Last Dragon (Discoveries) page, the remainder pb has a plus sign next to it. Clicking on it adds the new Apex pb to the list. Clicking on the plus sign is NOT an intuitive thing to do to find NEWER editions of a book. And this is what any author and publisher would be concerned about. The search list and the main Last Dragon page should both list the new edition, if not preferentially, at least without additional clicking. The more I puzzle about it, the more I think it has to do with relative availability. I’ve been buying books (literally by the thousands) from amazon for 16 years, and I’ve done a whale of a lot of searching, and it’s never occurred to me that I would have to go through extra contortions to pop the newest edition of a book. This is a serious limitation, especially if one buys scholarly works, especially since the listed publication date often has nothing to do with the actual date of publication. And no wonder some publishers/authors will include the phrase “author’s preferred edition” in the book title.

  9. J M McDermott // March 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm //


    Today, this looks fixed for my entry, and I have everyone to thank for that. But, searching around to other books, it’s not fixed for everyone else.

    It looks like the case where the squeaky wheel got the grease.

    Search matters. All publishing is web publishing, and we learned early on that maximizing placement in search is key to thriving on the internet. Amazon is the largest bookstore in the world, and proper placement in search matters, there. As readers, we need to be able to trust the search that we do to lead to the books we want. New edition primacy in search is the best way to ensure that.

    Please continue to look around, when you search for books, to make sure you are finding the latest edition, and please make noise when you discover that your search leads you to old, remaindered, and used books first. Those should be the second choice, after the new editions.

    Thanks for your help, and don’t stop when you encounter this issue again with other authors.


    J. M. McDermott

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