Sunday, March 30, 2008

The 500-Pound Gorilla

Amazon recently decided that any POD (Print on Demand) books must be printed by their own printer, BookSurge. Here's the long article by Angela Hoy of BookLocker in Writers Weekly explaining what it means. But, here's the short form of how I understand the problem.

"So what?" you might wonder. It's a huge deal to not only self-pubbers, but also to a lot of tiny presses that use POD for their books, but happen to be using LightningSource, another of the big POD companies. Lulu, a self-pubbing site, for example uses LightningSource.

What will Amazon do for the huge number of POD books already on their site? They will remove the Buy Now button (meaning the sale is direct from Amazon, who will then order the book and send it to the customer). Still confused about the problem? Those books not purchaseable directly from Amazon can only be sold through 3rd party vendors. While some of the 3rd parties undercut the Amazon price, they do have a set (by Amazon) shipping cost applied while Amazon has their Shipping Free on Orders Over $25.00. This difference, naturally, sets the Amazon price slightly lower than the 3rd parties.

Amazon has made the first step by cutting the Buy Now buttons off any books from PublishAmerica. While PA is worthy of loathing, everybody can feel sympathy for the poor folks who self-pubbed through PA. Unlike other self-pubbing companies, the authors are caught in a seven-year contract, so they can't even take their business elsewhere.

Now, I bought my own ISBNs for "Tales of a Texas Boy" so I'm free to take my book away from Lulu and sign up with BookSurge if I'm inclined. Biggest problem is that the file formats are different and I'd have to figure out how to convert them all over again.

As an experiment, I signed up for CreateSpace, also an Amazon possession, to see if I could get my book into their format. Well, not too successful so far and I'm waiting on an answer from their Customer Support as to why exactly they decided my 6"x9" book was suddenly and without my say so converted to an 5.25"x8" format (trim size is the name for this). And the selector for trim size is disabled so I can't change it back. Of course, my uploaded files are in 6x9 format. And, trust me, that's not so easy to just change.

Then, there's distribution. BookSurge doesn't list books in Ingram, because Ingram owns LightningSource. However, Ingram is the main list from which bookstores select what to carry. BookSurge mainly supplies only to Amazon. That leaves Barnes & Noble and Borders out of the picture for anyone going with Booksurge.

I'm hoping that Lulu, iUniverse, and other legitimate self-pubbers, along with the small presses, are not caught up in Amazon's attempt to take over the world. Can you spell "anti-trust lawsuit"? Amazon might have a surprise coming if they attempt to monopolize the market.

On the other hand, maybe they just hate PublishAmerica.


  1. Peeyew!! I smell SPAM!!!

    This looks like a tough call either way. Cutting off PA books does seem unfair to the authors, but selling PA books lends legitimacy to what appears to be a rip off company.

  2. Bye bye Barb. Have a nice flight (in re: removed spam)

  3. Ahhh... It smells much better now!! ;-)