Last week, one of Amazon's "Daily Specials" for e-books was offering a $1.99 price on a wide selection of e-books from Hard Case Crime. The Hard Case Crime line, edited by Charles Ardai, has re-published a number of hard-to-find hardboiled works by writers such as Donald Westlake and Robert Silverberg, as well as new fiction in the hardboiled/noir tradition by a number of newer writers. It's one of the publishing companies whose output I like to keep an eye on, so I was tempted to buy and download a number of titles to my smartphone's e-reader app.
But... I've noted in the past that I don't like Amazon's business practices, so rather than spend money there, I hied over to the Barnes & Noble website to see if the same discounted prices for Hard Case's books were being offered there.
Well, they were, but it was a hard slog to find the Hard Case titles on bn.com. On Amazon's site, entering "Hard Case Crime" in the search window brought up a full list of HCC's available titles. Reset the filter for "Low To High Price", and all the $1.99 titles were shown grouped together.
Not so much on Barnes & Noble's site. Enter "Hard Case Crime" in bn.com's search box, and you end up with a scattered selection of ebooks, most with the word "Hard" in the actual title or in the description, and only a very few of Hard Case's books included.
B&N has an "Advanced Search" option available, with "Publisher" as one of the search categories available. So I tried that, entering "Hard Case Crime" and got... zero results.
Wait, what? Zero results? How could that happen, when the first, regular, search had at least brought up a couple of Hard Case titles?
So I went to the page for one of those titles that had come up in the earlier search, and went down to the "Details" section. Where I found that the listed publisher for the Hard Case title was "Titan".
Ho-kay. So apparently Hard Case has a deal with Titan Books for distributing and marketing their books, much like DAW Books has a deal with Penguin.
But to find Hard Case titles on B&N's site, you have to enter "Titan" as the publisher. If you don't know about the arrangement (I didn't until I ran into this), you can't search for Hard Case Crime under its own name.
When you do a "publisher" search for Titan, though, you end up with all of Titan's own titles (a lot of science fiction and other categories), with Hard Case titles mixed into the batch.
A list of categories appeared to the left of the search results, so I clicked on "Mystery & Crime" to narrow the search. And finally I ended up with a list of mostly Hard Case titles (a few books from other arms of Titan also appeared). Do another sort by price, and I finally had a list of the Hard Case titles on sale.
Well... not quite. I noticed that several titles I'd seen in Amazon's search results weren't included in the B&N results. One was David Schow's Gun Work. A specific search for that title brought it up on B&N's site, but apparently it's not categorized as "Mystery & Crime" or "Thriller" like almost all the other Hard Case titles. There were a few other titles in similar straits.
Why does Amazon give more inclusive, and a lot easier, search results? That's simple: On each product page for Hard Case titles on Amazon, after each title is the parenthetical addition of "(Hard Case Crime)". So entering "Hard Case Crime" even in Amazon's general search window will trigger a hit on all those parenthetical additions. Plus they list the publisher as "Hard Case Crime", not Titan.
I'd rather spend my money at Barnes & Noble than Amazon. But it would be nice if B&N didn't make it so damn hard.
(I'm sending a separate copy of this post directly to Hard Case editor Charles Ardai. This problem really needs to be fixed, because it means a damn good publisher is losing potential sales on the second-most popular bookselling site.)