Amazon vs B&N - a bookbuyer's view

Over the past six years, I have occasionally reassessed my affiliation with Amazon, especially vis a vis Barnes & Noble (one cannot be affiliated with both).

My key criteria are (1) which carries more Civil War titles; (2) which has the higher hit per search ratio and (3) which is more likely to have a publisher's book description posted.

As late as 2000, Amazon won each test. As of today, I would say (1) Not sure, leaning towards B&N; (2) B&N hands down (3) Slight edge to Amazon.

To do my book searches, that is to hunt down info on new titles that I know exist, I generally have to have two browsers open, with one set to each book site. Amazon often does not find the book by title or author (or it chokes its returns with irrelevant titles) - even if the book is in its database. So my workflow looks something like this:

* Search B&N for title or author. Too often, there is a quick hit but the page lacks a book description. I take the ISBN (book number) and

* Search Amazon by ISBN. This produces the search result that a mere title/author search cannot or will not. Usually there is some descriptive text.

Five years ago, it was rare to find an Amazon book page lacking descriptive text; now, I find myself turning to B&N for this almost as often as to Amazon.

Is the Amazon database clogged with non-book items? Is it tied up in third-party-seller inventory and sales info? My instinct tells me this is going to get worse, not better.

And if you think we bookbuyers are the only ones affected, have a look at what independent sellers are exeperiencing.