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AMAZON.COM Trying To Force Out POD publishers.

I've already posted this in the Self Publishers group, but feel that it's of wider interest because it could affect anybody who is published with small presses that rely on lightningsource's POD technology to create books and place them on amazon.

One of the main allures of POD publishing has been the "amazon connection" and it's become almost the definition of what "published" means or what a "real book" is.

Now amazon is starting to jerk the "BUY" button from POD books (meaning those published by lightningsource, the only major POD printer) and only allow direct sales of books published on their BookSurge subsidiary.

I've been in the amazon offices and met execs and middle-management there. I've been screwed out of promised money by them...the kind of deal where you could win in court but it wouldn't be worth a couple of hundred bucks.
They are an arrogant company with very little conscience. Hopefully this idiocy will be reversed, but it's certainly a chilling wind for self-publishers.
One of several articles HERE

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I am overseas and maybe the idea I am putting forward on this can sound awkward, but I was thinking that writers and small press publishers are quite numerous.

How much would it take to create an independent hub (if everyone chips in, the cost per capita for authors and publishers to create and then maintain such a site would not be at all high) on the net where authors will be able to sell their books, promote them and have them available at the international public with little trouble?

It might need a bit of organising, but I think it would be worth it. With the correct publicity through blogs and other internet venues, not to mention promotion in other media, it could be a solution for not needing Amazon to be an established author anywhere or for the book to be considered 'real'.

I think it is unfair for any one enterprise/company/business to have such an enormous weight on the market.

Anyway, my two cents. We are based in Greece, so Amazon had been a no-deal for us from the start, what with the demands on percetage as well as shipping costs. We are still going strong regardless, and The Art of Veiling is a book readers greately enjoy. It just meant (and means) more work on our part in terms of exposure.
Not to be a wet blanket, but this idea surfaces every couple of years. I was involved in one of the early efforts, in 1996.

Quite frankly, it's a very daunting project. You need an extremely robust, high-bandwidth site capable of processing e-commerce from thousands of transactions at once. You need a way of ensuring that inventory gets shipped promptly from hundreds of publishers and a way of making shipping costs sensible if each publisher dropships, or else warehouse space (and labor) if the orders are aggregated for cheaper shipping.

And then of course you need some millions of dollars to kick in a marketing machine and prove to *customers* (not publishers) why it's superior to Amazon.

Not for the faint of heart.

I think a class action lawsuit, or for that matter, negotiation between Amazon and the at least three writers/publishers groups that have stepped in with public oppositon, is a whole lot easier.

Personally, I think the obvious solution is for Amazon to say they'll no longer purchase books form LSI at the short discount, but will still take them at the usual 40%. Then it becomes nothing more than a pricing issue.

Shel Horowitz, author,
Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers
http://www.grassrootsmarketingforauthors.com
Like Joe Hill once said, it's all about good organization. Aren't there a few million authors out there who are not published by big publishing houses? If each one donated a single dollar, you'd have your capital.

It's not a question of whether it can be done; it's a question of whether one wants to take the responsibility of doing it or prefer to have someone else do what they like and shape the market the way they like.

Still, Amazon is more of a threat and problem for those of you overseas, in the Americas. My suggestion was intended more for consideration for those who have been depending on Amazon for their sales.

And of course, aren't there alternative sites like Amazon who do not have this policy?
I buy from Amazon re-sellers all the time. I haven't had any more (or less) problems with them than I've had with any other internet vendors.However I heard about AmazingWatcher.Com which is a free website that will “watch” items for you on Amazon and let you know when amazon has them in stock at regular retail price.
That is why I am so glad to find this site and all of the alternative methods to get word out about my book. Wai-nani-High Chiefess of Hawai`i to be released soon. It is daunting, but I will find other avenues. We can help each other by letting all of us know what works for you.
Linda
Wouldn't you think that Amazon's relationship with BookSurge could constitute a conflict of interest? It seems to be shaping out that way.
I agree that what Amazon is doing is arrogant and rotten. It's interesting that they don't publish what they are doing or offer any rationale, no matter how specious. I haven't sold many books on Amazon, but I do consider being listed there important for publicity reasons. Many people use it for reviews of books they are interested in buying. Including alternative sites where one can buy a book in the publisher's information and the idea of having cooperatives who also sell books are reasonable responses of authors, especially if Amazon remains bull headed.
Worse the DID publish what passes for a rationale, this open letter on their site:


Open letter to interested parties:

We wanted to make sure those who are interested have an opportunity to understand what we're changing with print on demand and why we're doing so.

One question that we've seen is a simple one. Is Amazon requiring that print-on-demand books be printed inside Amazon's own fulfillment centers, and if so why?

Yes. Modern POD printing machines can print and bind a book in less than two hours. If the POD printing machines reside inside our own fulfillment centers, we can more quickly ship the POD book to customers -- including in those cases where the POD book needs to be married together with another item. If a customer orders a POD item together with an item that we're holding in inventory -- a common case -- we can quickly print and bind the POD item, pick the inventoried item, and ship the two together in one box, and we can do so quickly. If the POD item were to be printed at a third party, we'd have to wait for it to be transhipped to our fulfillment center before it could be married together with the inventoried item.

Speed of shipping is a key customer experience focus for us and it has been for many years. Amazon Prime is an example of a successful and growing program that is driving up our speed of shipment with customers. POD items printed inside our own fulfillment centers can make our Amazon Prime cutoff times. POD items printed outside cannot.

Simply put, we can provide a better, more timely customer experience if the POD titles are printed inside our own fulfillment centers. In addition, printing these titles in our own fulfillment centers saves transportation costs and transportation fuel.

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.

Might Amazon reconsider this new policy?

Only if we can find an even better way to serve our customers faster. Over the years we've made many improvements to our service level for consumers. Some of these changes have caused consternation at times, but we have always stuck with the change when we believe it's good for customers. An early example: many years ago we started offering customer reviews on our website. This was a pioneering thing to do at the time. The fact that we allowed *negative* customer reviews confounded many publishers -- some were downright angry. One publisher wrote to us asking if we understood our business: "You make money when you sell things! Take down these negative reviews!" Our point of view was that our job was to help customers make purchase decisions. It made sense to us to stick with the customer-centric position of embracing customer reviews, even negative ones.

Another example: a few years ago, we made the decision to offer used books, and to make those used copies available directly alongside the new editions. This caused significant consternation, but we stood by the decision because we were convinced it was right for customers. Sometimes a used book will do and it can sometimes be had at a significant cost savings relative to a new book. We stuck with the customer-friendly decision.

Our decision with POD is the same. Once a book is in digital format, it can be quickly printed on modern POD printing equipment. It isn't logical or efficient to print a POD book in a third place, and then physically ship the book to our fulfillment centers. It makes more sense to produce the books on site, saving transportation costs and transportation fuel, and significantly speeding the shipment to our customers and Amazon Prime members.

We hope this helps those who are interested understand what we're working to do and why. We believe our customer-focused approach helps the entire industry in the long term by selling more books.

Sincerely,

The Amazon.com Books Team
Reeks of repentance and co-operation, no?

I seriously doubt this is an anti-trust matter. Perhaps some sort of restraint of trade. It would be interesting to find out what the structure is like of their contracts with POD publishers to put them on their site. My guess is, not much. But the publishers have assured customers that they will.
Linton,
Thanks for bringing me up to date. Do George and Dick work for Amazon or it for them? Sounds like suspiciously similar specious reasoning.
Joe
Wanted to share what I recieve froom on another group about Amazon. Also the top paragraph is my comment on something else that was sponsered by Amazon:

I have another interesting point to add to this Amazon nightmare. If you remember last november/december, Amazon ran this contest, Breakthru Artist, requesting people to enter ( the first 5,000) for a chance to be published by CreateSpace and available by, quess who? Amazon.. You heard about the first round of semifinalist (supposibly 800) in January and the did announce the winner last week. anyways, the prize for those not selected into the semifinals is a galley of your book with no services (editing, layout outside of theirs, cover art - a plain yellowish color with faint waterwheel, etc). i'm not sure if you publish thru them, what the cost would be. CreateSpace is a POD publisher on it's own from what i was able to gather but am now wondering if they are part of Amazon or are pulled into this also? some other food for thought for those who participated in that contest.

Diane J Newton wrote:


ATG WWW E-mail Antitrust Seattle wrote:

Subject: AGO Antitrust Complaint: Amazon.com/Booksurge/Publish-on-demand
Date: Mon, 7 Apr 2008 10:01:06 -0700
From: "ATG WWW E-mail Antitrust Seattle"


Greetings,

You are receiving this message because you have contacted the Washington State Office of the Attorney General in regard to Amazon.com and its use of its publish-on-demand service, Booksurge.

In order to properly process your complaint, we will need you to fill out the attached complaint form and provide us further information. I have also attached the link to our online form from our website which contains the same form for a speedier transmittal.

https://fortress.wa.gov/atg/formhandler/ago/AntitrustComplaint.aspx

Thank you for contacting the Washington State Office of Attorney General and we look forward to receiving your additional information.

Antitrust Division
Washington State
Office of the Attorney General
800 5th Ave, #2000
Seattle, WA 98104

-----Original Message-----
To: ATG WWW E-mail Antitrust Seattle
Subject: Please investigate Amazon.com

To whom it may concern:

I have great concern about actions currently being taken by Amazon.com. Amazon has traditionally made its platform open to independent authors using publish-on-demand (POD) services provided by numerous companies. Now, Amazon is moving to exclude any author who does not use Amazon's own POD service, Booksurge. Many, many authors have had problems with Booksurge, including not getting paid. In addition, authors who do make the transition will be forced to charge more in order to cover the costs of using Amazon's printing services in addition to the fees Amazon charges for selling products on its web site. To force all indepenent authors to use a single, inferior service, a service owned by the same company providing the marketplace, that will also result in higher prices for consumers, seems to be a good fit for the following anti-competitive activity described on your web site:

Business mergers and monopolistic practices that would result in reduced competition and harm to consumers.

Amazon controls such a large portion of the print-on-demand book market that by forcing authors to use its print-on-demand service, it is reducing the number of POD options to one. The harm to consumers comes in the form of products of poorer quality (as evidenced by the large number of complaints about the Booksurge service) and higher prices. I respectfully ask that you take a serious look at this new practice by Amazon.com and make a fair judgement about whether or not the company is in violation of the antitrust provisions of Washington's Unfair Business Practices-Consumer Protection Act.





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Yes, CreateSpace is owned by Amazon

Shel Horowitz, Grassroots Marketing for Authors and Publishers
http://www.grassrootsmarketingforauthors.com

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