It’s still unclear — to customers and publishers, in any case — what caused the error that led to the drastic discounting of high-priced hardcover collections on March 6-7, forcing the online retailer to remove the buy buttons for all titles supplied through Diamond Book Distributors while the problem was fixed.
For the week that the buttons were gone from the website, customers were unable to buy Diamond-distributed titles directly from Amazon. That means visitors to the retail site could purchase books from publishers like Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW, Image and Oni Press only through third-party sellers. (SLG’s Dan Vado and AdHouse’s Chris Pitzer spoke to Robot 6 last week about the effect the removal of the buttons could have on their companies.)
Publishers like DC Comics, BOOM! Studios, Viz Media and Fantagraphics, whose titles are supplied to the book market by different distributors, were unaffected by the pricing error and subsequent removal of buy buttons.
Some have speculated that the glitch, which also affected the Barnes & Noble website to a lesser degree, was a result of a data-entry error made by Diamond. However, neither the distributor nor Amazon have commented publicly on the situation.
Word of the deeply discounted prices — some $100 Marvel omnibus editions were selling for as little as $8.24 — quickly spread online, leading to a mad rush to take advantage of the deals. Although Amazon filled some orders, it canceled most of them and issued $25 promotional discounts to affected customers.
Using “cocktail napkin-style math” and a lot of guesswork, Todd Allen calculated the glitch could end up costing Diamond somewhere between $100,000 and $400,000. However, barring a highly unlikely public statement from Diamond, we’ll never know whether Allen is in the ballpark.