Glitch Forces Amazon to Stop Selling Comic Books

At first, Wednesday night's news that Amazon (AMZN) had removed buy buttons for all comics and graphic novels distributed by Diamond Comics Distributors sent an alarming shockwave of déjà vu. Would this be another replay of Macmillan's battle with Amazon last month to force the retailer to up its e-book prices beyond $9.99? Or was there some even larger battle brewing, since Diamond distributes the comics behemoth Marvel and well-known independents like Dark Horse and IDW?

The answer is more prosaic. Amazon's move corrects a glitch that had its origins over the weekend, when the retailer's top 100 sellers were suddenly dominated by comics and graphic novels, all of them distributed by Diamond. Hundreds of titles were offered at staggering discounts, which, as Publishers Weekly reported, saw high-end hardcover boxed editions -- normally offered for $100 or more -- priced at $14.99 or less. Naturally, customers took great advantage, and rumors flew that thousands of orders had been placed for these below-bargain-basement products.

The glitch appears to have been Diamond's fault, the result of a data error. After a couple of days, Amazon corrected the prices and canceled many -- but not all -- of the weekend comics orders, which depleted the retailer's entire stock in record time. To appease those who thought they were getting a great deal only to lose out at the last minute, Amazon offered $25 gift cards.

The problem is, they still aren't certain which customers bought books at the reduced price, and in order to fully tackle the glitch issue, Amazon invoked the buy button removal gambit once more. The move is temporary, but as a source told Publishers Weekly, "There is no timetable for when this will be completed." If Diamond was to blame for the Amazon price mishap, they may have another headache on their hands -- the same massive price drop seems to be happening at Barnes & Noble's (BKS) website, too.