Monday, April 07, 2008

Amazon Screws Print-on-Demand (POD) Publishers

You don't need road manners if you're a two-ton truck.

Amazon proved the truth of this adage this month when it issued new contracts forcing print-on-demand publishers to use its service BookSurge to print books.

For anyone who doesn't know, print-on-demand (POD) is a long-tail technology that allows publishers to print and sell books one at a time, in response to purchaser orders. You still wind up with a physical book that is shipped to you, but it didn't exist until you placed the order.

A number of mostly small or medium sized companies have popped up to serve this market, and while printing a few copies of any individual book is not an especially viable business model, in the aggregate, it makes for a workable business. Writers who want to self-publish can get their books to interested readers. Books that have gone out of print at traditional publishers find new life in the POD world, and readers can buy them without having to search for used copies. Online booksellers like Amazon take a nice cut of the purchase price, as they do with every sale. Everyone benefits.

Only Amazon has decided this isn't good enough and is now insisting these smaller POD companies are longer entitled to print their own books--at least not if those books are to be sold by Amazon. They must use Amazon's service instead.

Here's a link to an ASJA press release about this. At times like these, it's nice to remember that there's another two-ton truck on the road: Barnes & Noble, whose BN.com site is comparable to Amazon in many ways. Maybe time for a switch...?

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