Friday, 23 May 2008

Amazon, Gawd bless it

Non book dealers probably don't know about Sheppards, who publish a directory in which most dealers appear. We get a weekly newsletter from them about the latest shenanigans in the book dealing world, and this little nugget appeared in the latest edition:

News came in tonight that The Long Riders' Guild Press, publisher of Horse Travel Books, the largest treasure-trove of equestrian exploration wisdom ever seen has some 300 titles in print. The royalties from many titles are donated to worthy causes and the company is proud to be a pioneer with the new Print-On-Demand (POD) technology. A few weeks ago The Long Riders' Guild Press became one of the victims of an unprecedented bid to seize control by Amazon. The Long Riders' Guild Press is determined to fight this as Amazon's move may well cause many publishers to disappear.

You might wonder what on earth Amazon could possibly want with a niche publisher - after all, Amazon sell the books on their site anyway, don't they? There are hundreds of small, niche, publishers out there using POD technology - are Amazon after them all?
It seems that they are. Amazon have their eye on the POD (print-on-demand) market. Well, rather more than their eye. They are making active efforts to make sure as much as possible is theirs. Previously, all POD titles had a Buy It Now button on their books on Amazon's site, but now Amazon have demanded that unless they are published through Amazon's own POD operation, BookSurge, the Buy It Now button for the title on the Amazon site will be disabled. This means the books will no longer be available directly via amazon, but only via re-sellers. To publishers, that Buy It Now button really matters.
There's a very clear exposition here. More info here, and a lot more here. I, as a second hand book dealer, sell a lot of stock on Amazon, and like most other dealers, sell there though I'd rather not as it costs me. A lot - which is one reason why I try and sell as much stuff as possible through my website, but the reach of janebadgerbooks.co.uk is nowhere near that of Amazon, and so I still have to use them. The same is true, I'm sure, of the POD publishers, hence the iniquity of the Amazon tactic. Booklocker say:
By forcing publishers to sign their extraordinarily oppressive contract, Amazon gains the power to charge publishers whatever printing and distribution costs it desires, as well as controlling the retail, discount and wholesale prices of the books it prints, and, through this contract, automatically positions itself to control the market.
Amazon have published an open letter here. Our only motive, they seem to say, is to speed things up for our customers, and publishers can always use the Advantage programme (there are considerable cost implications for anyone wanting to do this - there are, of course, for anyone who uses BookSurge, but it's worse if you use Advantage.)
Small publishers like The Long Riders' Guild are far more than a publisher. Websites and operations like theirs don't just happen: it needs the money from its publishing arm to make the research happen. It's like my own website. That wouldn't exist if it weren't for the bookselling: and the bookselling wouldn't be as good as it is without the website. They need each other.
I hope that Amazon has mis-read its customers. I am prepared to wait for quality (Booksurge has known quality issues), and most of all I'm prepared to wait for a book if that means that small publishers can continue to seek out the excellent and the peculiar with passion. Amazon is driving this one from the wrong end.

2 comments:

Juliet said...

You are so right about Amazon approaching this from the wrong end. Thanks for the update and all the links. Much food for thought.

Jane said...

I'm ashamed to say I had read about this some weeks before - it wasn't until something specifically equestrian was mentioned that I got up and found out more. Shame on me!