You can judge a book by its cover, or at least you can judge a product sold on Amazon by its photograph and all other information is irrelevant.
This is a warning to book fools like me.
After a Diane Arbus exhibition in Canberra, I became fascinated by the work of Lisette Model, a clear influence on Arbus. Seeking out a book of her work, I browsed for something secondhand on the internet. This was what I found on Amazon.
I have a Diane Arbus Aperture Monograph book, so this looked just the thing (and what a wonderful Coney Island image on the cover). As something of bibliophiliac gannet, I thought it best to not be excessive on my splashing out, and so I clicked on that page to choose a paperback version.
This is what came up.
I noticed that the picture was wrong, but presumed that was laziness and Amazon had just used another in the Aperture Monograph series. The title was Lisette Model Ltd (yes, LTD was an odd addition), but the description was for a book of Lisette Model’s work, the reviews were of a Lisette Model book, and Lisette Model was in the title.
Three weeks later, I received the book in the picture. I did not want the book in the picture. I wrote to the seller, Owlsmart USA and explained that I presumed a book called Lisette Mode etc etc would be a Lisette Model book, not one with no link to her whatsoever, save for a shared publisher.
“Thank you for your email. I’m very sorry for any confusion, however in checking your order, I see that the book ordered has Eugene Atget listed as the author. I’ve pasted an image below from the Amazon order page with the information highlighted.”
I wrote back, in between putting taking off a mini skirt and putting on an Isaac Newton costume, that’s the fun you have working with Eric Idle.
“I do not think it is acceptable that a product clearly described as a book about Lisette Model with Lisette Model in the title that had no link whatsoever to Lisette Model is a book about someone else. Please look at this link https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/0893810525/ref=ya_st_dp_summary
and tell me that you believe this is honest selling”
But they came back with this (anyone else getting flashbacks to Sunday nights watching That’s Life?)
Thank you for your email. I’m very sorry, but the item descriptions on Amazon are provided by Amazon. Also, in checking the link you had provided, it shows Eugene Atget listed as the author. Again, we are sorry for any confusion. If we can be of further assistance, please feel welcomed to contact us again.”
Though all other information from title onwards for another book, the only thing I should have based my purchase on was picture and author? I am an art idiot, so had no idea who Atget was, and for all I knew, Atget was a Lisette Model biographer.
And back and forth and back and forth. I may return the book, but I will not get back the postage costs etc and it is still considered my silly fault.
So, am I the idiot? (i must make it clear, am I the idiot on this particular transaction, I accept I am a halfwit on many other things).
Is this Amazon’s error? Does that page aim to sell Eugène Atget books? If so, how does the canny buyer know that asking for a Lisette Model book is the right starting point? Should OwlsmartUSA think, “hmmm, I can see how this mistake was made, let’s just refund”, or is the virtual marketplace now so authentic that it scams as well as any flash and canvas bazaar? (Footnote – Amazon have started dealing with this and hopefully they will repair the link as well).
If you like books, right ones or wrong ones, Josie Long and I have done many book shambles podcasts with actors, authors, comedians etc. You can find them all here, why not begin with Stewart Lee and end on Evie Wyld?