Amazon May be on Receiving End of Internet Justice

Amazon incurring ire of authors and publishers and could lose customersAmazon.com is forcing smaller independent publishers to print their “print-on-demand” books through Amazon’s own BookSurge unit. If the publishers don’t comply, they’ll have their Buy buttons taken down from the Amazon.com site.

In other words, Amazon is saying ‘you can sell your book through us but ONLY if you use our Booksurge unit to print it.’

The news hit the Web a few days ago. Authors and smaller publishers that rely on print-on-demand technology as part of their business models, are not amused. In fact, they’re outraged and the Internet is abuzz with the issue. The commentary is not complimentary toward Amazon.

Isn’t it ironic that a company that owes its growth and market power to the Internet may see the other end of Internet justice, as word of mouth spread by the Internet turns against Amazon?

Small Business Implications

To understand the small-business implications of this issue, consider what print-on-demand is.

Print-on-demand (POD) is a way of publishing books where the books are printed in small quantities as needed. Print on demand is attractive to authors and smaller publishing companies because they do not have to incur the costs of large print runs up-front or storing inventory.

Print-on-demand technology completely alters the economics of getting a book published. With print-on-demand, new authors or those writing on niche topics or appealing to small audiences have an outlet for getting published. They’re no longer held hostage to the big publishing houses and the need for mass-market appeal. Quite a few business books are published by smaller publishing houses using print-on-demand technology to make the books financially feasible.

Angela Hoy, Publisher of Writer’s Weekly, brought the issue under the spotlight on March 27 when she wrote:

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.

She goes on to point out that:

“… [T]hey 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.”

The book information would remain on Amazon, and people could still order the book from resellers (companies that list new and used books in Amazon’s Marketplace section), but customers would not be able to buy the book from Amazon directly, nor qualify for the coveted “free shipping” that Amazon offers.”

The Backlash Against Amazon

In a matter of 3 days, Google Blog Search shows the news has been written about by over 80 blogs. Mainstream media sites including the Wall Street Journal and Washington Post have also carried the news. Forums and discussion boards are lit up over this issue, too.

Up to now, Amazon has evoked warm and fuzzy feelings from authors and smaller publishing houses. Amazon.com became known as an open marketplace that just about any book could get access to. If Amazon stops being the open marketplace, they may lose those adoring independent authors and publishing houses, and with them the buyers they drive to Amazon. It also could open the door a crack for a competitor to make a move (Barnes & Noble?).

Considering that most of those affected negatively are writers or publishers, their main response to date has been to write about their outrage. And being creative, the titles of their articles are colorful. I’m sure we’ll hear more on this issue, and it may even turn into an antitrust lawsuit. If you are an author, publisher or someone considering publishing a book, this is a situation you will want to watch.

In the meantime, for more on this topic, read:

Amazon not playing fair
Amazon puts the Squeeze on POD Publishers
Amazonian bullying
Amazon.com puts the screws to small publishers
Amazon Puts the Squeeze on Publishers
Amazon The Monopoly
Amazon trying to screw small presses?

13 Comments ▼

Anita Campbell - CEO


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses, and also serves as CEO of TweakYourBiz.com.

13 Reactions

  1. Hi Anita,

    Oh, that is not so good….

    It does seem that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    I think no matter how enlightened, there comes a time when you really need to deal a heavy hand to your partners just to keep yourself growing….. I have seen that in many companies. Your partners become your competitors as you try to elbow yourself into thier business….

    I hope things get sorted out….

  2. Anita Campbell

    Hi Wilson, isn’t it ironic that the companies that not so long ago were themselves the upstarts and the iconoclasts, turn into the very kinds of businesses they set out to be different from?

    Anita

  3. It’s sad to admit but money almost always changes everything. This has to be very disappointing to smaller authors. The “on demand” option that attracted them to using Amazon may be what drives them away also. I only hope that power & greed don’t drive Amazon in the wrong direction.

  4. Yvonne DiVita

    I have to wonder if Amazon really cares. As I said on my publishing blog. Ahablog.com , this is NOT good customer service, as they (Amazon) claim. This really only benefits Amazon. Think about it: what if I want to have my self-published book printed by a friend or relative with a POD service…does that mean I’ll be banned from Amazon? Why?

    I hope everyone watching realizes that this is much bigger than it seems. Amazon is the bully in the playground trying to squash competition. I always thought that in the U.S. competition was good.

    Thanks for writing on this, Anita. We need to keep spreading the word.

  5. Anita Campbell

    Hi Yvonne, yes, I think it’s important to spread the word on this issue. I know how much entrepreneurs, freelance writers and small businesses rely on Amazon as an outlet for their business books. And the print on demand model is central to that.

    Amazon really has been a godsend to them up to now. Would hate to see that close up.

    Anita

  6. I really dislike seeing this type of “monopolizing trend” taking place on the net these days. I feel it’s taking place with another large internet based company, as well, but won’t mention any names here.

    It’s like these companies forget how they first started out – and who it is that actually made them what they are today. They have taken something that was unique about them, and simply destroyed it. How is that a good business decision? They’ve destroyed one of the things that made them stand out above the rest. Now. . . what’s so special about Amazon? What makes them stand out above the rest now? Nothing apparently.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out. . .

  7. I, like everyone else, am curious to see how this plays out. I think Amazon still has a chance to redeem themselves. They’re no different than anyone else. We all make decisions sometimes that sound good at the time, but it’s not until after the consequences of that decision start to hit home, that we realize what a BAD decision it was. There have been plenty of “major players” to screw up, per say, and still come out smelling like roses. So, we’ll see. I hope they do the right thing.

  8. Rachel, I think the power and greed has already set in and if the decision was a BAD one they would never admit it. But I also hope that they do the right thing—we will see!

  9. Amazon is not a monopoly in the book printing business. My guess is that Amazon will cave in after the company has received some bad press. You will soon get new, creative ways of printing-on-demand. Take http://www.blurb.com as one example.

  10. I hope it will come true one day

  11. I don’t know too much about the details of this act, but one thing I can say is that I hate when big companies try to take advantage of the little guys. I hope Amazon gets enough bad publicity and is forced to re-evaluate their terms.

  12. Well, if we take into consideration that “books” are their main business, I find it perfectly normal that they take this new policy.

    In the other hand, Let’s see if they are “good” enough for small publishers who rely on small costs of POD books to have a little success.

    Kindest Regards,

    Alex.
    online web stores

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