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U.S. News and Commentary



Wednesday
Apr092008

Amazon takes over as publisher AND provider by requiring POD titles to be published through subsidiary BookSurge

coffeebooks.GIFAmazon has many authors and publishers up in arms. Many authors use vanity publishing to bring books to market by using print on demand technology, and some small traditional presses publish their books this way too. Now both will have to publish through BookSurge, Amazon’s subsidiary. That is, you have to do it that way to get a buy button on your book page. The only other option is to join the Amazon Advantage program, pre-stock 5 copies of your book, pay $29.95 for one year membership and then pay freight or mailing costs to get the books to Amazon. Then you still cough up 55% of the sales price on each title. I tell authors like this all the time in workshops it’s going to be very hard for you to make money off your book. Now it will be worse.

Trouble is, you publish through Amazon, that’s going to cost you too—setup costs, printing costs and a percentage Angela Adair Hoy cites as 48% of the sales price. Founder of Writers Weekly, Hoy broke this story.

This isn’t going to hurt the big houses. But this practice will be detrimental to those who pay to have their own books published. It may also hurt authors like me who sign with a small literary press, with the press absorbing all expenses and hoping to make a profit. It will also hurt university presses.

Word on the street is that LuLu and iUniverse have already agreed to the arrangement.

If there’s no buy button on an Amazon page, then the customer only has an option to pick up the title through a reseller.

Hoy is still tracking this story. She has a great deal of information on her website at Writers Weekly, with special clearinghouse pages to stay on top of developments.

Will this offer an opportunity to online booksellers like Books-a-Million, Borders, Barnes and Noble, and to independents?

Some have mentioned the conflict of interest in Amazon’s latest venture. It’s my opinion some publishers will cave in and others will simply not list their books at the mega-conglomerate. Unfortunately, this move creates even more of a challenge for all those authors who dream of doing their own book and covering their expenses. I just don’t see how they can do it. Maybe someone will come up with a new site and a new bookselling model?

The Authors Guild is reviewing the anti-trust implications and The American Society of Journalists and Authors website has a notice on the organization’s media page that includes the following statement: “ASJA joins PMA, the independent book publishers association, which also has spoken out against Amazon's move to forcibly get business for its own BookSurge subsidiary.” Both ASJA and AG vet members with strict requirements for publishing credits, and both are influential in media.

Meanwhile, will Amazon's brand suffer in this effort to make a move towards increasing incremental profits? Authors and writers buy a lot of books after all.

 

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