Friday, April 04, 2008

Amazon's Terrible, Horrible, No-Good Idea

The small and self-publishing industries are all agog lately over Amazon's latest--and in my opinion, very bad--business decision.

First, a little background. Many publishers have moved away from the traditional book production method of printing thousands of books at once. Instead, they use POD--Print On Demand--technology to print their books in varying sized batches, even printing one at a time to be shipped directly to customers.

Very many small presses (including mine, Little Dozen Press), vanity presses, university presses, self-publishers, and even large publishers who want to keep their backlists in print use POD. I use Lighting Source Inc, one of the best POD printers in existence, to print and ship my books. This is a very cost effective way for me to get my work in print and to readers, and also for me to offer publication to others.

In the past, Amazon has always listed and offered POD books for sale through their Web site, just as they do traditionally printed books. However, in the past week, they have revealed that this shall all change. You see, several years ago, Amazon acquired their own POD printer--BookSurge. And now, they have informed publishers who use POD that they can either use BookSurge to print their books or lose their ability to be sold directly from Amazon.

What does that mean for a small press like me? It means that if I want to be sold through Amazon, I must reformat my books, enter a publishing agreement with BookSurge that may cost upwards of $1000, and use an inferior printer--BookSurge does not have the quality or track record of LSI). The other option is joining Amazon's Advantage Program, which involves a huge wholesale discount and enough fees to cost me far more than it's worth.)

What do I think of that? Frankly, I think Amazon's making a big mistake. Their decision smacks of bullying. It puts severe financial pressure on publishers who use POD technology--enough pressure to potentially put some of them out of business. Amazon's stated reasons for their decision don't make a lot of sense, and they're not making themselves especially popular with the people--publishers, writers, and readers--who have made them successful.

The Amazon story was originally broken by Angela Hoy of WritersWeekly, who's doing an excellent job of tracking the whole thing here:

I'll be removing my Amazon affiliate links from this blog and from my Web site, although as of this moment Little Dozen's books are still available from Amazon. A week ago I was a big fan of Amazon--not anymore.

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Blogger Brittany Simmons said...

Oh no! That's horrible. I'm really disappointed. I guess that means no Romany books on Amazon, either. Bummer. Is there any way they might repeal this?

And I forgot to mention--I finally donated Worlds Unseen to the library last week, and they accepted it without a glitch. :-)

12:37 p.m.  
Blogger Ashley said...

Oh no!! This is horrible news! Thanks for letting us know about this, unwelcome as the news is. Perhaps we could still sell on Amazon, just list the books as being sold by us and every time we recieve an order, we can get a book from LSI and tell them to ship to the address of the person who ordered from us on Amazon. Ummm. That sounded confusing, but maybe you get the gist of it. I don't know all the details of selling on Amazon though, so maybe that wouldn't work... I'll have to look into it. Or contact Amazon and let them know how dissapointed I am in their decision and pray they change their mind.

8:13 p.m.  
Blogger fiadamom said...

You left out "Very Bad" ;-)
I'm new to you & your writings, but have enjoyed browsing your links. As a homeschooling mom of five still in the throes of the madness I enjoy a peek at life on the other side. (Please tell me that Algebra was no fun in your world too!) I also enjoy writing, but what with the 5 kids born in the 90's, I figure it'll be about a decade before I can finish anything!

10:16 a.m.  
Anonymous Carol said...

I too heard about Amazon's new idea from some self publishing blogs I read. As an accountant, I don't think it's a smart move. There is no way that Book Surge has the capacity to handle all the other PODs customers out there! Competition is a good thing! Monopolies are NOT!
My POD, Aventine, says it's business as usual for them and they think the dust will settle in time,whatever that means.
If the worst happens, Amazon just sent a lot of business to Barnes and Noble online, who still carries POD books! JMHO!

10:07 a.m.  

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