Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

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?

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

70 Comments

  1. Karen Scott
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 04:37:15

    This is obviously a pain for small press publishers but Amazon is looking out for number one, and it’s hard to fault them for that, objectively speaking.

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  2. Anon
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 06:24:19

    Without knowing a darned thing about the relevant market, it strikes me that this is an extremely silly move on Amazon’s part, precisely because it smacks of monopolization or attempted monopolization. I mean, if Amazon is responsible for a large percentage of POD sales–and I suspect they are–this is quite simply an illegal tying arrangement. I have to wonder whether their lawyers thought this through.

    Treble damages, anyone?

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  3. Angelle
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 07:01:46

    Antitrust litigation is very expensive and time-consuming. I don’t know that many small presses with enough money to go after Amazon.

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  4. Anon
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 07:15:55

    Surely they could get someone on contingency, particularly since the statute provides for attorneys’ fees and costs. And I suspect they could probably get someone quite decent, since this is a case that would get a lot of media attention.

    And the costs may well be lower than usual here, since the biggest cost of antitrust cases is the expert fees for determination of the size of the relevant market. Here, the litigants are the ones that have all the information. Lulu et al know exactly how much they sell through their own website versus how much they sell to Amazon. If the amount sold on Amazon is large, not only will it be easy to prove monopolization, it’s kinda going to be necessary to do so. If your choices are to risk the company on an antitrust suit or to lose 90% of your market and lose the company for sure, what do you think you’re going to do?

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  5. Alessia Brio
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 07:29:31

    I don’t see the small presses going after Amazon — but Lightning Source (perhaps leading a class action)? Very feasible litigation, there.

    I’m wondering how Amazon will handle the POD titles that are paired with their Kindle equivalents.

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  6. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 08:30:01

    If I’m remember right, Samhain’s books are stocked by Ingrams~I’m not sure it’s going to affect them.

    However, I think people should write amazon. LOTS AND LOTS of people should write Amazon. This decision of theirs is BS.

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  7. rebyj
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 08:32:11

    In issues like this, we’ll again see the power of bloggers I think.
    Get the word out and it spreads like wildfire. If enough people start talking about it the fat cats at the top might listen. Just google blog searching this topic a few minutes ago got 1000′s of hits.

    Personally, (not counting Ellora’s Cave ) I’d guesstimate that I’ve purchased 15-20 POD books online in the past 3 years or so. Is that average? Less than average? It may not be enough for me to really be considered a regular POD cunsumer with a right to comment about the issue.

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  8. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 08:46:03

    BTW, I did email Amazon about my disappointment over this issue.

    They certainly don’t make it easy to find contact info and I ended up having to use a form. However, they responded back and viola… an email addy.

    [email protected]

    This IS more of a customer service email, I think, but if you get detailed enough and ask that it be forwarded to the pertinent party, hopefully they’d get the point and do so.

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  9. carolyn Jean
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 08:57:31

    Thank you, Shiloh. That answers one of my questions.
    I buy all my books through Amazon, and I’m going to write and tell them I’m switching to another service unless I hear they reverse this policy.

    Suggestions please! What other book sending services do people like out there?

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  10. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 09:03:48

    Thank you, Shiloh. That answers one of my questions.
    I buy all my books through Amazon, and I'm going to write and tell them I'm switching to another service unless I hear they reverse this policy.

    Suggestions please! What other book sending services do people like out there?

    Barnes and Noble. Or you could find an independent online. There are a ton of indies that sell thru their websites and if they don’t stock a book, they’d love to order it. I try to buy from ndy bookstores whenever I can.

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  11. carolyn Jean
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 09:14:21

    Thanks.

    Oh, and just FYI, my email was returned to me. Apparently it has to be a customer service address associated with your account! It seems they don’t want book-reading and writing troublemakers spreading their email address around.

    But I just went to Amazon and kept clicking on ‘help’ and ‘email’ and got a form.

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  12. Angela James
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 09:15:30

    If I'm remember right, Samhain's books are stocked by Ingrams~I'm not sure it's going to affect them.

    We don’t know if it will or not but…it’s very possible, unfortunately.

    Even if it doesn’t, it’s discouraging because what if this had happened two years ago when we were first getting started? It would have affected our growth and I wonder how many small press publishers (not just epublishers, but small press publishers) will have greater difficulty growing.

    Certainly, Amazon wants what’s best for their bottom line, and I can appreciate that, but does it really help their bottom line to cut out a portion of the market entirely (because their fees? not cheap for small presses).

    At this point, only time will tell and since most of this has shaken down over the weekend, as it just started gaining momentum on Friday, I’m interested to see if Amazon will release any kind of statement on Monday.

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  13. Keishon
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 09:44:53

    This is obviously a pain for small press publishers but Amazon is looking out for number one, and it's hard to fault them for that, objectively speaking.

    What Karen said.

    Edited and removed the second part of my comment to say that I don’t really use POD services so I really have nothing of value to add to this issue. Sorry. I do feel for all those affected by Amazon’s move.

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  14. Jane
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 10:14:51

    I wondered about the tying but usually the tying means that you have to buy one product because it is directly tied to another and I’m not sure how that works with Amazon/Booksurge.

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  15. Rhianna Samuels
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 10:30:52

    I use Amazon to order most of my hardback books or trades. It would seem that they are growing thier bottom line, but at what price to the customers. It is a very large dissappointment, because they were one of the places you could find new, small press books without visiting a dozen sites. As an author I can find my way around, but someone new to the markets, a reader, will now be limited in thier selection if Amazon is thier common search ground.

    I can see lightning Source raising thier head and sniffing, the scent of battle on the air. This could get very interesting. And as most of us know, interesting doesn’t bode well for those considered collateral damage.

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  16. DevonM
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 10:51:46

    This whole thing just sucks. As an author with a POD book, I can tell you that nearly ALL my print book sales have been through Amazon. This will be yet another huge hurdle for those of us not published mass market and I can see it throwing a monkey wrench in all the recent growth of the micro presses.

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  17. Ciar Cullen
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 11:40:33

    Frankly, it’s rather depressing on a personal level, and I’m having trouble separating the fact that all my Amazon listings are possibly in jeopardy. Pretty soon there will only be one big company: TimeWarnerAmazonWalmartComcastExxon and we’ll buy everything from them.

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  18. Mireya
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 11:48:51

    I haven’t purchased any books from Amazon in over a year. I stick to Borders and Barnes and Noble. As to ebooks, I don’t care about Kindle, so I don’t intend to switch to Kindle any time soon. I am very happy with my Pocket PC, thank you very much. Additionally, on a personal level, as a customer, it pisses the HELL out of me to have my choices taken away from me or when people try to “hardsell” stuff to me. This applies at the mall too (the second I enter a store and I get a salesperson coming after me, I head out the door). I stopped liking Amazon a long time ago and I took my business elsewhere, ’nuff said.

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  19. Lauren Dane
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 12:01:23

    In talking about this rather obsessively with friends (also lawyers who talk about this stuff obsessively because we’re well, obsessive by nature) I’m not sure anyone’s got a case.

    Many retailers carry exclusive brands – essentially what they’re doing is creating an Amazon brand for their POD books. Monopolies are not illegal, they’re just regulated carefully (or they should be but it depends upon the administration and the flavor of the regulatory tenor at any given time). Their argument would likely be that customers have other options even if those options aren’t as easy to use or as attractive.

    However, some of their behavior in “encouraging” small publishers to move to this service sounds rather heavy handed and that sort of thing can be illegal depending on the way pressure was used, etc.

    This will be interesting to watch. What makes this so problematic (and juicy for Amazon or any other large market share/monopoly) is that this stuff takes YEARS to work through the system and the big guys get bigger while the smaller companies go bankrupt while this all shakes out.

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  20. MS Jones
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 12:41:27

    For an alternate place to buy books, I suggest Powell’s, a large independent bookseller. They also give away a $20 gift certificate every day to commenters.

    Maybe the Ja(y)nes and the Bitches can figure out a way to link to them instead of Amazon.

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  21. Jan
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 13:10:21

    Thanks for the tip MS Jones. For some reason I always thought Powell’s was a Canadian store.

    This really bothers me too. I don’t blame them for wanting to make money, but there’s a point where it starts to make everything they do suspect. When the biggest online book seller decides to try to be the biggest book producer, that’s just a big problem for me. Gee, I wonder if their books will be given favorable treatment?

    I didn’t like their ways with Kindle, and now I think I’ll shop elsewhere. I already switched to other stores in England and Japan because of the way Amazon acts there, and for manga I buy independent. I guess now it’s time to do it for the rest of my books too. I just removed Amazon from my quick link bar and put Powell’s there instead.

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  22. veinglory
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 13:16:29

    I am, at this point, suspending buying anything from Amazon. So far the presses affected are not favorites of mine (Publish America, WCP). But it rubs me the wrong way and although it is slightly more tedious I do have alternatives. I ma trying to decide which to go with B&N, Powells, will Borders get their non-Amazon beta site live any time soon?

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  23. MS Jones
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 13:51:38

    And another thing! Powell’s is sponsoring a contest to attend a publishing conference at Simon Fraser University in Canada: tuition, air-fare, and lodging will be paid for the winner of a 250-word essay. Deadline is April 30, conference is for 2 weeks in July. From the website:

    “In this challenging, exciting, and industry-driven workshop, over 30 of North America’s top publishing professionals from companies large and small work with participants in a simulated publishing house and share their insights about this exciting industry, including exactly how you might land your dream job. For two exhilarating weeks, you’ll work side by side with the top minds in publishing in a combination of stimulating lectures, hands-on workshops, and group and individual book publishing projects at SFU’s Harbour Centre in the heart of beautiful downtown Vancouver, British Columbia.”

    So all you POD publishers, get writing! Crank out a 250 word essay about how Amazon is the 800 pound monopolistic gorilla about to crush the tiny POD peeps!

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  24. rae
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 14:21:24

    Amazon is looking after the bottom line, can’t fault them for that. I don’t see people flocking to boycott Apple because of their restrictive practices. If anything it is the reverse.

    I will not be boycotting Amazon. They are one of the cheapest book suppliers here in the UK. I’m not paying postage to B&N or Powells only to get stung by customs after waiting weeks for books to appear.

    This is going to sound harsh but I don’t care about really care about pod books, I wasn’t going to buy them anyway.

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  25. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 14:24:45

    I used the address Shiloh listed to send an email and got a message saying that that email address does not accept incoming messages. However, it did say:

    If you need to contact us about a different issue, please visit http://www.amazon.com/contact-us to send e-mail to customer service. Please be sure to use the e-mail address associated with your Amazon.com account when you contact us.

    So, apparently they will not accept email from anyone but existing customers.

    When I went to that page, there is a button on the lower right side that says “contact us.” They wanted me to sign in as a customer which I was happy to do because I’ve ordered a ton of books from them over the years.

    I ignored the reference line asking about my order and clicked on the “other” questions when it wanted to know the type of email.

    I sent my email and received a “thank you” so apparently they did get it.

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  26. B
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 14:38:06

    This is going to sound harsh but I don't care about really care about pod books, I wasn't going to buy them anyway.

    That’s easy enough to say if you’re not interested in being a published writer. But anyone who is published or has tried to be will know just how ugly the industry can be. Some genres are worse than others, but over all, it’s not a very open place.

    In the end, this will only serve to narrow the industry, to make it more closed. Frankly, I don’t like the consequences of that one bit. I’m seeing it enough as it is in my own genre. As a writer and a reader, it’s frustrating. I hate going to the bookstore and searching endlessly through the same crap. I shudder when I read about people who have absolutely no business being on bookstore shelves, but are there anyway thanks to who they know.

    POD carries a stigma, but it doesn’t have to. It’s not impossible for such things to be quality. But if those companies have the legs cut out from under them like this, how will we ever know?

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  27. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 15:22:43

    Rae: POD is a technology, not a business model. It is the process by which a book can be digitized and then printed. EVERY PUBLISHER IS MOVING IN THAT DIRECTION. By using print-on-demand, the publisher (or its designate) can wait until they have an order before printing the book. This eliminates costly warehousing, shipping, and handling of returned stock.

    Trying to improve their image, the vanity presses co-opted the term “POD.” However, it is not only self-pubbed writers who take advantage of the technology. Lots of small presses and e-publishers do as well.

    The reason New York has such a hold on the publishing industry is because for years the majors were the only game in town, meaning they owned the means to production.

    That is now changing because of the Internet and digitization. However, if Amazon succeeds in this grubby, greedy move, THEY will position themselves as the new monopoly.

    You should care about that. There’s a lot of innovation and quality work coming out of small, independent publishers.

    I am published by a major, but–even if it is inconvenient to me personally–I want to support the continuance of independent publishers everywhere. That’s why I wrote Amazon and will no longer use their services.

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  28. Helen
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 17:05:37

    POD is a business model, but not a very realistic one right now for volume sales. (My last print run, for example was 175,000. Some of the “big” authors have print runs of around half a million.)

    The print publishers do need something other than the antiquated process of shipping books to retailers and then taking returns. However, if an electronic system comes into play, which is what would have to happen for POD technology to really kick in, watch for authors to start demanding royalties on all those books being endlessly re-sold at UBS.

    If you want to boycott Amazon, then go ahead. Do what your conscience dictates. But know, also, that the numbers are against you.

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  29. Nora Roberts
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 17:41:21

    ~However, if an electronic system comes into play, which is what would have to happen for POD technology to really kick in, watch for authors to start demanding royalties on all those books being endlessly re-sold at UBS. ~

    I don’t understand what one has to do with the other. A different system, if one is ever put into play, wouldn’t change my opinion that a consumer is perfectly free to sell or buy their books to and from a UBS.

    Why would it?

    Also, while I have a nice, healthy first print run, the second printing is smaller and based on demand. The third, and so on the same. I wouldn’t say it’s pure POD at that point. I’m not that savvy about the system, but the publisher orders the second printing to correspond with the numbers generated to them by their accounts.

    Now, as someone whose husband runs an independent bookstore, I can say–with confidence–he would not be able to take chances on new authors, new books, small pubs and presses without the return policy. In order to stay in business, should publishers eliminate returns, he would have to stick with known sellers only. He has to pay his staff, the other overhead, and so on. He couldn’t risk ordering three or four copies of a title from a new, midlist author, for instance, then eating the full loss if and when they didn’t sell for him.

    While, certainly, no author’s career would be made or broken by his store, he does routinely order new names, midlist books, across genres. If he wasn’t able to do this, those potential sales, that potential exposure, would be lost.

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  30. veinglory
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 18:00:31

    Quite. I spend a lot of time reviewing self-published books but I am tired of the ‘new world order’ rhetoric. Currently the main game in town is traditional distibrution, followed by Amazon. I think Amazon could use a little competition. I am hoping the Borders online store now in beta will be it.

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  31. Angela James
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 18:05:53

    POD is a business model, but not a very realistic one right now for volume sales. (My last print run, for example was 175,000. Some of the “big” authors have print runs of around half a million.)

    On the other hand, there are plenty of NY trade print runs that never hit 15-20k but POD sales that do. Not every book published–whether NY or POD–has volume sales.

    And stepping away from romance or fiction considerations for a moment, there are niche publishers out there for whom print runs aren’t feasible. POD isn’t all about epublishing. POD is about a means of getting books in print that otherwise wouldn’t make it there because a print run isn’t feasible because of the nature of the book, the size of the company or something else.

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  32. Nora Roberts
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 18:07:05

    ~but I am tired of the ‘new world order' rhetoric.~

    It’s nice–for me–that somebody else said it.

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  33. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 20:09:46

    Nora’s mention of an independent bookstore is very valid here.

    Everyone bemoans the passing of independent bookstores. There are fewer of them today then there once were because of three trends: (1) Big box stores like Wal-Mart and Target that sell best-sellers at deep discounts, cutting the margins that the independents depended upon to help them keep mid-list and newbie authors on the shelves; (2) The large bookchains like B&N, that buy in bulk, can offer great selection at lower prices than most independents can manage; and (3) The Internet which now permits readers to instantly find a used book and purchase it instead of a new book. Once, you had to run around town looking for the used book in half a dozen stores. Now you can find one in minutes online.

    While everyone cries about the loss of the independent bookstore, we continue to buy new books from the Wal-Marts and the big bookchains and buy used from the Internet. So we contribute to the problem.

    The same thing that is happening to independent bookstores will happen to small, independent presses if moves like this one by Amazon go unchecked.

    And, I stand by my earlier comment that POD is a technology, not a business model. It is a tool used by publishers–large and small. That technology makes it possible to print the book when the order is in hand rather than print them on spec, warehouse them, ship them and deal with the returns if all are not sold. POD will eventually replace the current system simply because the current system is very inefficient and relatively expensive.

    Last summer from June to September, the New York Library had an Espresso Book machine on display. It could print and bind a 300-page book in minutes at an expense of $3 a copy. I understand the Book Industry Study Group is holding their annual conference on May 9 in New York. There will be a presentation on the Espresso Book Machine there.

    The technology is still crude, but it’s getting better with each iteration. The cost of an Espresso machine is now below $50,000–compared to $100,000 from a year ago.

    This is not rhetoric. POD is coming on fast. Jeff Bezos knew what he was doing when he bought BookSurge, Mobipocket, and Audible and developed the Kindle. He is positioning himself and his company. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with him strong-arming the smaller e-publishers and independent presses.

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  34. Alessia Brio
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 20:20:31

    This is not rhetoric. POD is coming on fast. Jeff Bezos knew what he was doing when he bought BookSurge, Mobipocket, and Audible and developed the Kindle. He is positioning himself and his company. I have no problem with that. I do have a problem with him strong-arming the smaller e-publishers and independent presses.

    Yes. Amazon is a big enough conglomerate to invest in making BookSurge an attractive CHOICE of printers for small press instead of steamrolling over the competition. There’s no need to be a playground bully. Just lead by example.

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  35. GrowlyCub
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 20:29:45

    Maybe I’m naive, but isn’t 175,000 a pretty darn large print run for a romance? I haven’t really talked numbers with folks on the inside in years, but I seem to remember that mid-list print runs were nowhere *near* 175,000. Helen, I’m curious, what’s your last name?

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  36. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 20:36:26

    Alessia: EXACTLY!!!

    There is precedent for making Jeff Bezos of Amazon play nice with other children.

    He patented the one-click purchase system and then set about going after others who copied that method of making it easy for consumers to purchase items without going through the long rigamorole of check-out.

    Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Associates took him on, publishing an open letter on his blog that sparked enormous outrage on the Internet. Here is a quote from The Industry Standard from March, 2000:

    Under fire from Internet activists for seeking and enforcing patents that could choke the growth of online commerce, Amazon.com (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos decided to play nice and called for patent reform legislation.

    In an open letter posted Thursday on Amazon’s Web site, the executive said he hoped his proposed measures for software and business model patents would lead to “fewer patents, of higher average quality and with shorter lifetimes . . . We are going to work on changing the playing field, but we are not going to tilt it against ourselves,” Bezos said in an interview.

    . . .[O'Reilly's] letter sparked more than 400 e-mail messages that Bezos described as “passionate” and “very reasonable,” though some of them called for a boycott of Amazon. After three lengthy conversations with O’Reilly, [Bezos] decided to take action.

    O’Reilly praises the move: “I am really impressed that [Bezos] took this to heart.” He adds that although he didn’t call for a consumer boycott of Amazon, more than two-thirds of respondents to his letter did. O’Reilly also says he believes Bezos was sincere. “I don’t think Jeff was responding to the fact that it was hitting him in the pocketbook.”

    I think Tim O’Reilly (who once studied for the priesthood) is a very nice man.

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  37. Amazon…what are you doing? « Trivial Pursuits
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 20:55:55

    [...] Dear Author has a much more concise post about the mess. And if you’re disgusted by Amazon’s decision to run the known universe, you can contact them and let them know you’re unhappy about this POD mess. [...]

  38. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 21:01:41

    Yes. Amazon is a big enough conglomerate to invest in making BookSurge an attractive CHOICE of printers for small press instead of steamrolling over the competition. There's no need to be a playground bully. Just lead by example.

    I think this bit calls for a round of applause. Well said, Maya.

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  39. Jane
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 21:06:11

    I think one of the problems is the convenience of the whole thing. Amazon, for bloggers and any website, really, is so much more convenient to use. For a customer, the Amazon Prime shipping is convenient.

    I understand the whole concept about buying independent, but a) I have no local indies that actually stock romances and b) to link to an independent, other than maybe Powells, would not even be feasible because most independents don’t have links for each and every book reviewed.

    As a blog owner, it puts me in a real bind. Like I said in the post above, Amazon referral structure is the only real way that we monitize our blog and it is done so only for those who use Amazon as retail source.

    If another bookstore had a referral fee, I would make the extra effort to link to that bookstore but as far as I know, Amazon is the only one so we continue to use it.

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  40. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 21:09:44

    If another bookstore had a referral fee, I would make the extra effort to link to that bookstore but as far as I know, Amazon is the only one so we continue to use it.

    Actually… Powells has some sort of service.

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  41. Jane
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 21:25:53

    Shiloh – I’ll look into that.

    Growly Cub – I think that I read some midlist authors do have print runs that high. She may be a Harlequin author or something like that. There was a story where I read that a midlist author had print runs in the low 6 figures but never made a list.

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  42. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 30, 2008 @ 21:42:23

    I think this bit calls for a round of applause. Well said, Maya.

    Shiloh: Thanks, but that was Alessia’s quote. [grin]

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  43. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 06:38:28

    I think this bit calls for a round of applause. Well said, Maya.

    Shiloh: Thanks, but that was Alessia's quote. [grin]

    Oops…. *G* Well said, Alessia!

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  44. Jennifer McKenzie
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 07:35:34

    Amazon is a big enough conglomerate to invest in making BookSurge an attractive CHOICE of printers for small press instead of steamrolling over the competition. There's no need to be a playground bully. Just lead by example.

    But why bother to invest money to make their POD services attractive when you can just push the competition out?
    Amazon is looking out for number one and I shrug at that actually. The thing that concerns me is that they have an agreement with these small press publishers that they’ve decided to break. That smacks of dishonesty.

    Most people may not know that Amazon has a special agreement with Whiskey Creek Press that isn’t the Market Place option, nor the Amazon Advantage option. It’s a special agreement developed for an epublisher that does print books.
    This agreement requires a purchase of three books by the author, one of which is torn up and used for the “Inside the Cover” feature. (It’s an OPTION for the author that I happened to choose).
    Now, that option is not on my book and the other two (purchased to keep in Amazon stock) are no longer available.
    I’m not surprised. I took the option because I thought it would make my book easier to purchase. A common misconception. Amazon is the first place I look for books and I’m a little irritated that they just changed my book’s options without notification. But I’m not surprised.
    I suppose it’s too much to ask that a corporation would honor its agreements. But I’m not bitter or anything. LOL.
    I don’t understand the policy really. They could have just done this for new titles and not worried about the ones already there. It’s not like I’m running out to sign up for Booksurge.
    I do appreciate the other authors and readers that have shown support for those of us affected.
    We’ll see what happens from here. I don’t think I’ll be choosing the Amazon option for my upcoming sequel.

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  45. Diana Castilleja
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 08:01:56

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/protectPOD

    Not sure who is sponsoring the petition but I caught it this morning on the Writer Beware Blog.

    I’m not in print, and I don’t have a book on Amazon, so I have no beef, BUT I do not want a corporation ruling how my personal book business is done.

    Feel free to pass this on.

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  46. DS
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 09:39:33

    Whoa, wait a minute– what’s this?

    The announcement this month that the nation’s leading bookseller, Barnes & Noble, will buy the leading wholesaler, the Ingram Book Group, for $600 million is just the latest move in a shifting field of distribution networks.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F00EEDB1630F93BA25752C1A96E958260

    ReplyReply

  47. Angela James
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 09:47:34

    That article is dated from 1998?

    Anyway, that deal never went through.

    ReplyReply

  48. DS
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 09:57:40

    Sorry, didn’t look close enough at the date.

    ReplyReply

  49. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 10:11:39

    Antitrust concerns were raised by the Department of Justice and that deal was scuttled.

    ReplyReply

  50. M. R. Sellars
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 10:19:57

    Whoa, wait a minute- what's this?

    The announcement this month that the nation's leading bookseller, Barnes & Noble, will buy the leading wholesaler, the Ingram Book Group, for $600 million is just the latest move in a shifting field of distribution networks.

    That is from an article originally published in 1998, back when B&N actually was trying to purchase Ingram.

    How did you come up with that one? Did it just pop up in a search or something? Just curious, because I haven’t seen that article floating around for quite some time… :)

    EDIT: Have to love Internet lag – your reply popped up on my screen after I posted. Sorry.

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  51. kirsten saell
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 15:40:52

    Okay, so everyone switches to Booksurge. What then? Ingram/Lightning Source is interested in getting the books they print into the hands of booksellers all over. But how interested is Amazon/Booksurge going to be in putting my book on the shelves of other retailers? Why would they be interested? They’re in the process of making themselves the only game in town. Sure, it’s nice to have your book available on Amazon, but there’s more to getting an author’s name out there.

    Wasn’t that fond of Amazon after the whole Kindle thing–as a Canadian, I think I’ll keep my online business exclusively with Chapters Indigo or Powells from now on.

    And to Helen–I’m guessing your first print run on your very first book was considerably less than 175 000. From what I gather, most midlist authors have significantly smaller runs than that–if they didn’t the whole industry would have tanked long ago under a mountain of returned covers and pulped pages.

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  52. Nicoel Suzanne
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 16:45:56

    I think there are several problems at Amazon and on the net that this will address.
    People trade e-books and don’t pay for them without realizing somewhere in the night an author goes to bed hungry. In some instances this surely is not an exaggeration, we all know how some of our favorites got their rough start. Kindle could solve this and Amazon isn’t stopping anyone from developing their own stuff. Amazon allows home-sellers to sell books even with horribly bad service, no shows, and damaged product. One-cent books have been ruining the market (I used to sell books before our home burnt down)and with one cent books, you might as well head on over to paperbackswap, which I think also has been ruining the market and forcing authors to go to bed hungry at night. (little violin JK) With Kindle, no more e-book trading, and if they shove out bad home-sellers, or at least make the bottom line price a LOT more than one cent, which amazon does not collect their fee from (35% of one cent is zero) home-sellers only made 35 cents a book from shipping but when you sell a ton of cheap books a day it adds up, this could end up being a really good thing. More printings for authors and rights holders, more money for Amazon doing away with one cent book home-sellers, and a much more competitive and profitable market for independent brick and mortar stores who will now be able to make great money selling with Amazon, and have a shot at profit with no more home-sellers. Change can be good, and you might find you are hiring more employees to sell&ship on eBay and Amazon and the like.
    Who knows, maybe a nice day at the book store might even become the norm again.

    Won’t this keep the little guys doing what they do best–giving new authors a shot at the bottom of the totem pole? Established authors can just do their own publishing, and hire promoters.
    Plus with e-pubs taking maybe 4% of all submissions, won’t BookSurge up the number of new and crazy idea authors getting their stuff out there and making more money?

    I don’t know if this will fix everything that I had noticed to be seriously wrong with the system. If you can’t “trade” music legally, how can you trade books? That is still cutting out all of the people who make fun literature possible. If it takes riding on Amazon’s coattails to get this snafu addressed, because they have the money to do it, what is wrong with that?
    People should not be able to sell books in new condition without a license. People should not be able to profit from used books, without at least some of the proceeds going to the rights holders. Of course you run into that whole library sale issue, but it only benefits everyone to raise money for libraries. Many libraries are failing and suffering, isn’t raising the price of what books are worth, a good thing? For all?
    Is this not the law of the Verse, good profit=good product, less profit=inferior product?
    And not for nothing, but it really steams-ma-beans when I see something someone poured their heart and soul into selling for one cent, and the author is a hair away from eating Ramen noodles and losing their home. There is a lot of growth and time needed, and when they aren’t seeing much of a profit, why should they keep fighting a losing battle?
    A writer knows one thing, they must write.
    (Hands out tissues)

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  53. Emma Collingwood
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 17:01:20

    I use a “Books On Demand” service. However, I call it “Common Sense Print” rather than “Vanity Press”. I’m realistic enough to know that I write for a niche audience and could never sell enough books to be of any interest to a big-name publisher.

    As I live neither in the UK nor the USA, I had to do my sales the “No Amazon” way for the last couple of months. Means: I sell my work almost exclusively through my website, and it’s a lot of work. Really, really a lot of work, and I know that I would sell far more books if people could simply click that little button over on Amazon. I also had to learn that one automatically loses a lot of credibility if one can’t tell readers and reviewers “my book is available on Amazon”. Availability is often equalled with quality.

    As I never expected to sell half a million books, this way of doing business still works for me. But I can’t see “doing it all myself” as a general alternative for authors. I wouldn’t know who could compete with Amazon. A very annoying, very disappointing and very frustrating situation.

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  54. Maya Reynolds
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 18:11:01

    Nicoel: Actually the music industry is beginning to realize their DRM (digital rights management) approach is not working.

    Random House Audio recently hired a firm to watermark all the eMusic audiobook files and then hired a watchdog service to report on whenever illegal pirated copies showed up on file-sharing sites.

    Their intent was not to find out whether piracy happens but instead whether there was any correlation between DRM-free distribution and an increased piracy rate.

    They did not find a single incident of the watermarked titles being distributed illegally. This find was consistent with the results the rest of the music industry has found during the past six months.

    The music industry is moving toward DRM-free distribution. That is likely to impact the e-book industry’s approach.

    Am I saying that no one ever illegally shares an e-book? Of course not. But what if that sharing creates a new fan who will buy books in the future?

    I know that I only buy used books when I’m wanting to try out a new author and don’t want to spend $22 on an unknown. But once I decide I like that author, I buy their books new from then on.

    If I had to guess, I’d say we’re moving toward less restrictions, not more, but with value added in some other way.

    There’s an interesting group called The Institute for the Future of the Book funded by two very large foundations (MacArthur and Mellon) out at the University of Southern California. They have a project called Sophie that is actually a plan to reinvent the book.

    Not limited to an electronic book that can be read on a computer screen, Sophie is a social engineering experiment as well. Recognizing the success of such websites as My Space, Sophie is an attempt to create documents that could live and breathe on the Internet and where readers could interact with each other and with the author.

    The business models are changing along with the technology.

    ReplyReply

  55. Alessia Brio
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 18:22:12

  56. Katrina Strauss
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 18:34:05

    I love how Amazon keeps reiterating that these changes are being implemented for the sake of “the customer”. I’m all for customer service but…this is bull. They can spin it all they want but they are doing this for the sake of Amazon.

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  57. Shiloh Walker
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 21:10:01

    I love how Amazon keeps reiterating that these changes are being implemented for the sake of “the customer”.

    *G* me, too.

    I'm all for customer service but…this is bull. They can spin it all they want but they are doing this for the sake of Amazon.

    That’s my take, too.

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  58. kirsten saell
    Mar 31, 2008 @ 21:38:18

    From the statement:

    Another question we’ve seen: Do I need to switch completely to having my POD titles printed at Amazon?

    No, there is no request for exclusivity. Any publisher can use Amazon’s POD service just for those units that ship from Amazon and continue to use a different POD service provider for distribution through other channels.

    Alternatively, you can use a different POD service provider for all your units. In that case, we ask that you pre-produce a small number of copies of each title (typically five copies), and send those to us in advance (Amazon Advantage Program-successfully used by thousands of big and small publishers). We will inventory those copies. That small cache of inventory allows us to provide the same rapid fulfillment capability to our customers that we would have if we were printing the titles ourselves on POD printing machines located inside our fulfillment centers. Unlike POD, this alternative is not completely “inventoryless.” However, as a practical matter, five copies is a small enough quantity that it is economically close to an inventoryless model.

    I am slightly mollified by this–if it’s not just lipservice. Even if it’s just a way for them to save face now that everyone’s all pissed off…

    ReplyReply

  59. A new review! And some thoughts on Amazon and selling books « My Most Boring Life
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 04:55:31

    [...] you have already read about Amazon’s recent move which mainly concerns authors of “Print on Demand” authors – like myself, for example, [...]

  60. Maya Reynolds
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 10:35:03

    There is an interview online with Jerry Simmons, a former VP of the Time Warner Book Group.

    He is asked: “How do you predict the long-term effects of this as it relates to the small author and publisher?”

    His answer: “The long-term effects for the author and publisher are devastating. With Amazon strengthening and securing their place in the distribution and sales channel, they can do anything they want. The next move will be to squeeze these small authors and publishers for placement fees, advertising fees, and eventually higher discounts. When you give in once, it never stops, this is the way of the publishing world and booksellers. It will get to the point where they start to lose money on each book sold. Only then will Amazon back off, but you can bet they are going to push authors and publishers to the wall and take every possible nickel out of the equation.”

    You can read the entire interview here.

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  61. Jane
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 10:40:09

    Which, in turn, will push readers to buy from the secondary market where Amazon makes a good portion of $$, right?

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  62. Maya Reynolds
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 10:46:54

    Jane: You’re right on target. And remember a writer earns NOTHING from a used book. This move is going to hugely impact writers everywhere.

    Also, yesterday’s Publishers Weekly reported Ingram’s has made a deal with On Demand Books, the manufacturer of the Espresso Book Machine, the machine that can print and bind a book in 15 minutes.

    What do you want to bet Amazon knew that deal was pending?

    ReplyReply

  63. Jane
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 10:50:17

    I thought Ingrams had a special deal with Amazon so that it wasn’t subject to the new POD agreements.

    ReplyReply

  64. Maya Reynolds
    Apr 03, 2008 @ 11:20:25

    Jane: This is the first I’m hearing that about Ingram. Where did you hear it? The Ingram CEO was not complimentary of Amazon in a statement.

    I’ve said repeatedly on my blog that the large publishers are at enormous risk in a digital world. They are no longer the sole owners of the means of production, which means they are no longer the only game in town. And Amazon is very cleverly moving to take over that game.

    I think this whole thing is about Amazon positioning itself vertically, making it the dominant power in the publishing industry.

    Vertical integration means owning pieces of all parts of the chain. Amazon started out as a retailer. Then it moved into wholesaling others’ products. And finally into manufacturing (BookSurge). Not content to own a part of the manufacturing business, it is now using its retail clout to make its publishing arm more dominant. This is a case where the sum of all parts is worth far more than the individual parts alone.

    Amazon now owns pieces of all parts of the chain leading to the consumer:

    Manufacturer => Wholesaler => Retailer => Consumer

    Vertical integration is about cost and control. Companies who vertically integrate are trying to assert greater control over their business. The obvious benefit is that they can capture the profit margins at each step along the chain. They can also make it harder for competitors if they can gain access to a scarce resource.

    If we stand by and let Amazon do this, it is just the first step.

    I’ve been so frustrated by the willful blindness of writers, who brush this off as “a POD issue.” The smug contempt of the commenters on Lee Goldberg’s Writer’s Life made me want to scream. Sure, they are not impacted today. But, give Amazon a bit more time and then see what happens.

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  65. Monica Burns
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 21:20:31

    Vertical integration is about cost and control. Companies who vertically integrate are trying to assert greater control over their business. The obvious benefit is that they can capture the profit margins at each step along the chain. They can also make it harder for competitors if they can gain access to a scarce resource.

    If we stand by and let Amazon do this, it is just the first step.

    You’re absolutely right on this, Maya. Amazon’s actions affect more than just writers. It’s a ripple effect through out the entire economy. Maybe not at first glance or immediately, but over a period of time it impacts everyone and eventually comes full circle. Put a small press or writer out of business and you affect all the people that small press or writer went to for services or items. When those vendors/service providers lose money, they have to cut back. That in turn affects others. It’s that six degrees of separation thing. I understand Amazon’s desire to make more money, to grow their business, but they’d do better to build a partnership with small press than cut them off at the knees. It wouldn’t be that hard to court small press with incentives.

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  66. Blonde Zilla
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 23:15:24

    I really wish this made sense to me, but it doesn’t.
    If and I mean IF a small press goes out of business its because they were living fat using Amazon’s site selling their books, and didn’t roll with the punches.
    I have read writersweekly, Angela is a smart woman, but she also runs her own little press. (booklocker) I mean hello? Talk about having self interest in the forefront here. Had she and the other’s who are screaming bloody murder seen this coming in 05 when Amazon bought their own press, they could have positioned themselves to use all this press to their advantage and get some serious new customers into their own web. They didn’t so I can’t really have any sympathy for them. Ellora’s Cave did, and they aren’t sweating it so much.

    I have seen person upon person ask about these emails they are getting in their boxes about Amazon taking over the world, and they just don’t get it. Change is good unless you are on the wrong side of it, and ill management has left you unready for the inevitable. Hey, if you can’t plan for the future, hire someone else to do it for you?
    All Amazon is saying is “sure you can still sell books here, but you need to use our press for POD because we now own a press and it is a MASSIVE conflict of interest to sell your books here and not use our press. Honestly, I don’t see a thing wrong with that aside from maybe people who should have been investing in their own companies are going to lose money.
    And not for nothing but the “little presses” should have seen this coming back in 2005. It’s not like they didn’t have time to do something about it rather than ride along on Amazon’s coattails. Buy your own press and sell as a reseller. DUH?

    BookSurge is hiring a sh*tload of people on every job site out there including myspace, are expanding and that is a good thing for the economy. Real people getting real jobs. (can’t believe you played the economy card, grrr)
    So yeah, this might cut into your profits, but your still getting the benefit of big Amazon traffic getting your books out there, which you are still able to make a profit on. Trim the fat.
    Most publishers, little and big, tell their authors; self promote, have websites and blogs, get the word out, join groups, write blogs, etc etc.
    Well if you have to do that anyway, why not just fork over the 1300 and have Amazon/BS do it for you for your 40% profit, and when people buy through your links you get up to 50%. Just before this was announced they are letting authors keep another 10%… Talk about genius.
    Let’s see. 50% profits or 20-30% and 7% from a small publishers?
    Isn’t that what your all afraid of? Authors can just do it themselves and they don’t really need your little vanity press?
    That Amazon is going to better deal you and make it easier and more profitable for writers to just go through them, with the same or less effort.
    They have built an empire as the “Microsoft of books”, they let everyone use it for years as they pleased. You guys all saw this coming for years.
    Now you are going to be up in arms?
    Uh, ok.
    Why don’t all you little publishers get together and start your own Amazon? Buy your own presses, print the books that are sold as they are purchased and just do it that way? Because its a lot of trouble? Can I get a boo hoo here?
    (passes tissues around)

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  67. Maya Reynolds
    Apr 04, 2008 @ 23:55:49

    Blonde Zilla said:

    I have seen person upon person ask about these emails they are getting in their boxes about Amazon taking over the world, and they just don't get it. Change is good unless you are on the wrong side of it, and ill management has left you unready for the inevitable.

    Let me direct you to an interview with Jerry Simmons, a former VP at the Time Warner Book Group, who talked about Amazon’s strategic move.

    Simmons was asked the question: “How do you predict the long-term effects of this as it relates to the small author and publisher?”

    His answer: “The long-term effects for the author and publisher are devastating. With Amazon strengthening and securing their place in the distribution and sales channel, they can do anything they want. The next move will be to squeeze these small authors and publishers for placement fees, advertising fees, and eventually higher discounts. When you give in once, it never stops, this is the way of the publishing world and booksellers. It will get to the point where they start to lose money on each book sold. Only then will Amazon back off, but you can bet they are going to push authors and publishers to the wall and take every possible nickel out of the equation.”

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  68. Maya Reynolds
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 00:11:48

    BTW, Publishers Marketplace had this on their website:

    Time to Sue Amazon?
    Organizations are lining up to complain about Amazon’s recent move to require POD publishers to use Booksurge if they want their product sold directly by the e-tailer as in-stock merchandise. The Authors Guild says in a statement “we’re reviewing the antitrust and other legal implications of Amazon’s bold move.” And the ASJA says it “will urge the Washington state attorney general’s office to investigate whether Amazon’s move constitutes restraint of trade or otherwise violates anti-trust laws.”

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  69. Maya Reynolds
    Apr 05, 2008 @ 12:34:09

    Press Release from the ASJA:

    BIG, RICH AMAZON NOW GOUGING INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS — AND WRITERS, MOST OF ALL

    The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the nation’s trade association for freelance nonfiction writers, is disgusted with Amazon’s announced move requiring that all print-on-demand (POD) books sold on Amazon’s site be printed by their own print-on-demand house, BookSurge.

    As of April 1, Amazon is requiring small publishers to sign a contract agreeing to such demands.

    At first, Amazon representatives denied they were threatening small booksellers with having the “buy it” buttons for their books turned off if they didn’t sign on the dotted line. Later this week, Amazon admitted the move, as reported in Writer’s Weekly and The Wall Street Journal. The contract being offered to print-on-demand publishers, which ASJA officers have seen, also includes a confidentiality clause forbidding disclosure of not just specific contract terms, as is typical, but any discussion at all. Thus, small publishers who have signed the contract may not say so, much less reveal the pressure they were under.

    In addition, Amazon is punishing publishers who sell their books at a discount from cover price directly on their publisher’s websites. It is taking that discounted price as the book’s “cover price” and then applying their own discounts accordingly.

    “We applauded when Jeff Bezos and Amazon gave small publishers and even writers who self-published a way to get their books before the public,” observed ASJA President Russell Wild. “With these grabby, strong-arm tactics, Amazon negates all that — and the years of goodwill it has built up with writers, who ultimately will bear the brunt of any price increases in the printing of independently published books.”

    ASJA joins PMA, the independent book publishers association, which also has spoken out against Amazon’s move to forcibly get business for its own BookSurge subsidiary. The writer’s group also will urge the Washington state attorney general’s office to investigate whether Amazon’s move constitutes restraint of trade or otherwise violates anti-trust laws.

    Russell Wild, ASJA president, 610-530-0078
    Salley Shannon, ASJA vice president, 301-740-2819

    ReplyReply

  70. Amazon Subject of Antitrust Suit | Dear Author: Romance Book Reviews, Author Interviews, and Commentary
    May 23, 2008 @ 09:03:30

    [...] discussed a tying suit briefly in the comments when the news of Amazon’s requirement to use its POD service or [...]

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