WTF? Have they lost their marbles? I see a monopoly lawsuit in their future.
Some Print on Demand (POD) publishers are privately screaming “Monopoly!” while others are seething with rage over startling phone conversations they’re having with Amazon/BookSurge representatives. Why isn’t anybody talking about it openly? Because they’re afraid – very, very afraid.
Amazon.com purchased BookSurge, a small POD publisher/printer back in 2005. Amazon also lists and sells titles for the largest POD printer, Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingram (the large book distributor). According to their website, Lightning Source serves more than 4,300 publisher clients and has more than 400,000 titles in their system.
The above is just the beginning of a well-written and supported article about Amazon.com’s recent policy change. The article, Amazon.com Telling POD Publishers – Let BookSurge Print Your Books, or Else…, is written by Angela Hoy, co-owner of BookLocker.com.
Reports have been trickling in from the POD underground that Amazon/BookSurge representatives have been approaching some Lightning Source customers, first by email introduction and then by phone (nobody at BookSurge seems to want to put anything in writing). When Lightning Source customers speak with the BookSurge representative, the reports say, they are basically told they can either have BookSurge start printing their books or the “buy” button on their Amazon.com book pages will be “turned off.”
As I understand it, Amazon.com is saying that in order for a POD book to be listed for sale on their site–listed as in bought from them vs bought from a second merchandiser–that book MUST be printed by their own printer, BookSurge. This effects a lot of small publishers, including Regal Crest Enterprises, which uses Lightning Source.
He claimed the people who worked for BookSurge back then are probably all gone (but that didn’t explain the more recent complaints). He made his sales pitch, talking about percentages and such, and said many POD publishers are resisting their attempts to convert to BookSurge. Mr. Clifford also said BookSurge’s aim was to help Amazon customers get their books faster.
What he didn’t say was that Lightning Source not only packages books for Amazon customers in boxes that feature an Amazon.com return address label, but also drop-ships those orders directly to Amazon customers at Amazon’s request. Hmm…
He stated several times that books not converted to BookSurge’s system would be “taken down.” Since that wasn’t exactly what we’d heard, I asked about books that perhaps weren’t selling well, that aren’t good candidates for converting to BookSurge (books that would remain for sale through Lightning Source, but would never be converted to BookSurge due to the time/expense involved).
Contrary to what he stated at the very beginning of our conversation, Mr. Clifford finally admitted that books not converted to BookSurge would have the “buy” button turned off on Amazon.com, just as we’d heard from several other POD publishers who had similar conversations with Amazon/BookSurge representatives.
Mr. Clifford said authors of those books could participate in the Amazon.com Advantage Program, meaning they would have to pay Amazon $29.95 per year PLUS 55% of the list price of their book, as well as buy and then send those books to Amazon directly for them to warehouse and ship to customers.
Holy cow! They are on drugs! Proof positive!
Ms. Hoy offers some advice to writers:
1. Remove all Amazon.com links from your marketing materials – website, ezine, blog, email signature, press releases, articles — everything.
2. Change those links to your book’s page on BarnesandNoble.com. To obtain that link, search for your book’s title at http://www.bn.com. All Booklocker.com print books are on their website.
3. If/when the booklocker.com “buy” buttons are turned off on Amazon.com and you feel your button absolutely must be on, please contact Angela to discuss how we can help you participate in their Advantage program.
4. Don’t forget to contact Amazon to tell them what you’re doing in response to their horrible actions!
I’ve removed the Amazon.com link on the BGCFA page. I’ll do a search later to make sure that was the only place I had it. I am writing this post and will spread the word via a forum or two. And I’m going to check out BarnesandNoble.com’s website. And I am going to write some calm emails to Amazon. The article provides links to contact info. The article also provides a list of other posts/articles about this policy change.
Decided to add on a clarification. POD is a term used by both legitimate and not-so-legitimate publishers. Print-On-Demand is where a book is kept in electronic form and only the books ordered are printed. This saves on warehouse space and cuts down on returns by bookstores. Publish-On-Demand is what vanity publishers are known as. This means they will publish whatever you send them. They don’t buy it from you; you pay them. Some offer editorial services (for a fee) and some offer book designers (for a fee). Some Publish-On-Demand publishers are legitimate, such as LuLu. Others are scams, such as PublishAmerica. The difference is that with LuLu, they don’t pretend to be a “real” publisher. They tell you upfront what the costs are and what they will and won’t do for you. PublishAmerica says it is a “real” publisher and offer an “advance” like “real” publishers do. (sorry, but $1 isn’t an advance).
At any rate, Regal Crest is a Print-On-Demand publisher. BGCFA sits in a hard drive somewhere within Lightning Source. A bookstore, such as Star Crossed Productions, decides they need to restock this book. Lightning Source prints out the copies they need and ships it. No warehouse, no dusty books pining away for a buyer.
Most small publishers use this method to try and keep overhead costs down. Print-On-Demand is more expensive per book to print than traditional printing but the savings is in storage, inventory upkeep, etc. These are the people Amazon.com is screwing. And it is the authors that are getting screwed, too. Authors like all of us with RCE. And as Ms. Hoy says in her article, we authors buy and read books, too. And we have friends and family.
As of yet, Amazon.com hasn’t said anything in response nor have they said anything in writing concerning this policy.