Amazon won’t carry any print-on-demand books unless they are produced by Booksurge, the online site’s own POD printer. This is clearly an attempt by Amazon’s Booksurge to steal market share from their arch rival Lightning Source, which produces the majority of POD titles for companies like iUniverse and PublishAmerica.
This news has, of course, rocked the vanity press industry. POD "publisher" Angela Hoy’s Writer’s Weekly blog was the first to break the story, which has since been picked up by Publishers Weekly, The Wall Street Journal, Writer Beware, and many other publications and blogs. Hoy reports:
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."
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.
Amazon confirmed the story to Publishers Weekly:
An Amazon spokesperson explained that the new policy will allow the company to "marry" books with other products that a customer might buy at Amazon, which would be combined in the same package. She said for publishers that don’t use BookSurge for pod, they can still use Amazon’s Advantage Program (which works on a consignment model) or third party vendors to sell their pod books.
This could have a devastating impact on scams like PublishAmerica. Hoy reports:
As of Thursday, the "buy" buttons for the vast majority of PublishAmerica books were removed from Amazon.com. The books can now only be purchased by resellers.
PublishAmerica issued a press release today that states, "PublishAmerica will not comply with Amazon’s ultimatum, and will not allow that company to dictate who will print PublishAmerica’s books, and at what conditions."
I can’t say I’m shedding any tears over Amazon’s attempt to corner the POD market…especially if it cuts into the profits of scammers like PublishAmerica. If the POD scammers can’t promise suckers that their books will be listed on Amazon, this will seriously undercut their ability to lure gullible, aspiring authors into the fold. Why? Because "resellers" are highly unlikely to stock POD vanity press titles…which means only the vanity press websites will be selling them. Why is this a problem for POD titles? Well, how often do you visit the PublishAmerica bookstore when you are looking for books? There’s your answer.
(Thanks to Joshua James for the heads-up).
UPDATE: Predictably, the vanity presses are screaming about this, accusing Amazon of attempting to create a "monopoly" and engaging in "restraint of trade" and "anti-trust" activities.
I don’t get it. Sure, it’s a strong-arm move to boost Booksurge’s business…but how has Amazon created a "monopoly" or engaged in "anti-trust"
activity with this policy?
There are many other book retailers on the
web — like Barnes & Noble, Chapters, Wal-Mart and Borders — that
will continue to "stock" and sell POD titles produced by Lightning
Source, Lulu, etc.
Besides, Amazon will still list titles produced by other POD
companies…they just won’t sell them directly any longer or include
them in their free shipping program.
The POD outfits also have their own websites where they can offer
their list of titles directly to consumers…though I would argue there
aren’t that many consumers of POD books to begin with.
Granted, there are some reputable companies that rely on POD
to produce their books (Point Blank is a good example of one) but "self-publishing"/vanity press companies
like Authorhouse and PublishAmerica account for the majority
of the POD business — and their "consumers" are primarily authors, not
I can see how companies utilizing POD to print their books might be
irked by this news, but the vast majority of Amazon’s customers won’t
notice or care.