Amazon Flexes Its Market Muscle
So, this Amazon thing. It sounds bad. For those who might have missed it, Amazon decided to stop stocking Print on Demand books that do not use Amazon’s own service, Booksurge. I’m not sure who falls under a Print on Demand service. I have always viewed PODs as any publisher who has print books but does not have a print run. This can vary from printing to order (i.e., if the bookstore orders 1000 copies, the publisher prints 1,000 copies) or it can be a simple as a book that is printed, bound and shipped upon each individual sale.
Small print publishers like Samhain and Whiskey Creek Press use POD services but in different ways. Samhain partners with Ingrams that prints stock to fill orders and keeps some inventory on hand. Ellora’s Cave used to do it this way but bought their own printing presses. Whiskey Creek Press and NCP use POD in yet another way but it appears that some of those booksellers retail agreements with Amazon are in jeopardy. Whiskey Creek Press and another epress, Pawprints, have seen the “buy” links on their book pages disappear. Samhain and Amber Quill Press books seem to be unaffected at this point.
For how long, though, only time will tell. The largest POD printer is Lightning Source (owned by Ingram). Lightning Source sells over 400,000 titles on Amazon according to LSI’s own site. Publish America has over 30,000 titles on Amazon.
This should be expected, as Kassia Krozser of Booksquare, states. Amazon is trying to create a publishing empire. Not just a retail publishing empire, but a publishing empire. For example, Amazon used to sell ebooks in differing formats including Adobe and MS Reader. I believe that it used Lightning Source as its fulfillment for those books. In 2005, about the time that Amazon bought Booksurge, it also bought Mobipocket. Some time in 2006, Amazon stopped servicing and selling its ebooks. It sent out a notice to all readers to download their ebooks or lose them forever. Fast forward to 2008 and we have the Kindle and its super proprietary software and the only way to read a Kindle book is on the Kindle itself. Want to read a book on the Kindle? You email it to yourself and it is stored on the Amazon servers. As Krozser writes:
Your content is being locked to their device. Your content is being locked to their service. They get to set the terms . . .
Currently, Amazon will turn your bytes and bits into a published book for $299.00 (this is the cheapest service). You are entitled to 35% royalty on all retail services sold on Amazon.com and then fulfilled by Booksurge.
In the meantime, Amazon makes it attractive for bloggers to use it services. For each book that someone buys through a Dear Author Amazon link, we get a 5-6% referral fee. This is the one way that we monetize our blog without being too intrusive (at least I think it isn’t intrusive). It’s also easier to use Amazon to link to books because so many developers have put together Amazon related tools for bloggers. When Sarah and I were debating how to make a list of the 64 books that were part of the DA BWAHA tournament, I was disheartened because of the time I thought it would take. Instead, Amazon had the software for Sarah to make a DA BWAHA store in just minutes. I made one for Dear Author over the weekend. We are participating in feeding Amazon business because a) we get a monetary benefit from it and b) it is easy to use. (As an aside, we haven’t submitted the DA blog to be a paid for service on Kindle.)
As a reader, Amazon’s move bothers me for the reasons I can’t articulate because I can’t foresee all the dangers. I can see a decline in small press publishing. Small press publishing is really important. Honestly it is small press publishing that drove the erotic romance market into mainstream publishing. How long would it have taken for that sub genre to grow if small print publishers hadn’t taken those chances and shown it could be profitable? What is the next sub genre that the small presses will make popular?
The move to require everyone that uses some kind of POD service to pay Amazon will have some deeper portent in the future. Amazon is thinking ahead, are you?