Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Amazon gets down and dirty

Recent blogs about Amazon's change in policy regarding POD publishers are mainly correct. As a writer published by Outskirts Press, a print-on-demand publisher, I've been reading with interest, and some skepticism, about Amazon only selling books published by PODs who use BookSurge, Amazon's printing partner. Well, the situation appears to be true.

Amazon has posted an open letter, dated March 31, 2008, to "interested parties" on its website, Amazon.com. The letter can be found in Press Releases - Print on Demand.
Essentially it says that Amazon is requiring that print-on-demand books be printed inside Amazon's own fulfillment centers. The reason given is that books can be shipped more quickly to customers, a "key customer experience focus for us."

BookSurge is not specifically mentioned as the primary printer, but because it is an Amazon company and putting any other printers in Amazon fulfillment centers would be impractical, any POD publishers not using BookSurge would be shut out.

There are some other statements about Amazon not requesting exclusivity, and how books can be stocked as long as the speed of shipping is not compromised, but, in reality, if BookSurge is not used as the printer, publishers and authors will not be sold on Amazon.

I'm sure that's not the end of the story. Much gnashing of teeth and waving of swords will occur, so a quick resolution of this seemingly one-sided business decision made by Amazon will not be forthcoming.

As for me, I've asked my publisher, Outskirts Press, to make some sort of announcement to its authors about the situation and prognosis for the future. I believe the publisher needs to protect the author and, if necessary, work with the author in coming up with ideas that can meet Amazon's declared intent of speedy shipment of books. Amazon even suggests a way in its letter.

The bottom line is that the finalized books must be of the same quality regardless of the printer being used. And Amazon must not be allowed to compromise that quality because of a business decision.

Schuyler T. Wallace