Saturday, May 3, 2008

Amazon and Me

I’ve started and abandoned several ideas for postings, primarily because by the time I decided what I wanted to say, the landscape had changed. The publishing industry is morphing into a new beast and as a member of that industry, I am watching with fascination and admittedly, some unease. First, however, I need to address the Amazon situation.

During the last week of March, 2008, Amazon announced that unless certain publishing companies (mine included) use Amazon’s printing company, Amazon will not sell the book. An article in Business Week pointed out that Amazon’s real goal is to print ALL the books it sells on a print-to-order basis. Why? Because warehousing is costly. If Amazon switches to a print-on-demand business model, it will save millions of dollars in warehouse and labor costs. It’s a smart business move on their part and they have the marketplace muscle to pull it off.

There’s one big problem. Amazon’s print company, Booksurge, is not a good printer. iUniverse (my publisher) and others switched to Booksurge’s competitor because of quality issues. The Internet is full of complaints about Booksurge’s poor quality. (Some copies of my first book, Greased Wheels, had green pages that matched the cover.) In addition, Booksurge cannot meet the current demand for the titles it prints. How will it handle the additional production load?

Amazon is playing rough. Unknown to me at the time, during a period in January, the “Add to Cart” buttons on my book pages were removed. In the first week of April, the “Add to Cart” buttons went dark on all the books from a publisher called PublishAmerica as Amazon proved its power.

The marketplace told Amazon what it thinks of Booksurge. It’s unfortunate that Amazon chose to use threats and manipulation to get print business instead of competing honestly for it by providing quality, service and value.

As I said in my first post, as a writer, I deal with communication. For this story, there’s been precious little. I haven’t seen this reported outside the publishing world, with the exception of the Business Week article. Why not? This affects every publisher, every writer and every reader. Consumers will pay the same price for a book of potentially inferior quality.

My bottom line is this: I want to assure my fans that my books are available at many other book selling Web sites. My titles are listed at Baker & Taylor and Ingram Group so they can be ordered through any bookstore. Please remind your friends and fellow readers that Amazon is not the only place to buy books. As things stand now, if they order from Amazon, I cannot guarantee the books will ever ship. By the way, Barnes and Noble has a $25 free shipping program, too.

As always, thank you for your support. Happy reading!

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