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Amazon Pushes Print-On-Demand Exclusivity

The intertubes have been flapping today about Amazon’s latest move to get its POD publishers and self-published authors to exclusively use BookSurge for printing their titles. The Wall Street Journal has the MSM story here (subscription required):

“It’s a strategic decision,” said Tammy Hovey, a spokeswoman for Amazon. What we’re looking to do is have a print-on-demand business that better serves our customers and authors. When we work with some other publishers, it’s not truly a print-on-demand business.”

Ms. Hovey, who said Amazon began to inform publishers of the new policy at the end of February, declined to provide specifics. She said she doesn’t consider the move an ultimatum.

However, one POD publisher, Angela Hoy, disagrees. In a discussion with her Amazon rep, John Clifford, she says,

Contrary to what he stated at the very beginning of our conversation, Mr. Clifford finally admitted that books not converted to BookSurge would have the “buy” button turned off on Amazon.com, just as we’d heard from several other POD publishers who had similar conversations with Amazon/BookSurge representatives.

And if a POD publisher has a significant list (Hoy’s is 1,500 titles) already with Lightning Source?

Since Amazon/BookSurge does not offer Ingram distribution (Ingram distribution is considered imperative in the industry for bookstore sales), any company that accepts the Amazon/BookSurge deal, who desires to keep offering Ingram distribution, may need to maintain two copies of the book files. Since the Amazon/BookSurge current specs don’t match the Lightning Source specs, future book files, both interior and cover, may need to be formatted separately. So, they would have to pay double the setup fees and might have to do double the formatting work as well…or pay designers to do double the formatting work.

In addition to placing an undue burden on smaller authors and publishers, from an overall industry perspective what does this do to Amazon’s relationship with Ingram? Already, Ingram does drop-shipping for titles that Amazon cannot supply via Baker & Taylor. Amazon’s own book inventory isn’t that steep, certainly.

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