Amazon.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.
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
Amazon.com puts the screws to small publishers
Amazon Puts the Squeeze on Publishers
Amazon The Monopoly
Amazon trying to screw small presses?