Not so Amazing Amazon

I have like many of you been a customer of Amazon, and loved the options available as a consumer. Over the last few years there have been different discussions on some of the designer lists regarding practices by Amazon from the perspective of a self publishing designer…one that has self published a book.

While at TNNA during a dinner conversation, we were discussing POD (print on demand) and opportunities out there for those designers interested in self publishing a book.  Cat Bordhi has her seminar on that topic every year and those who attend are very inspired. I have seen Margaret Fisher’s self published book, Seven Things That Can Make Or Break A Sweater in the booth of my distributor Up North Fiber Art Supply, and it is very well done. It came up in the conversation that Amazon now has POD services and that the books are well done. I went to Amazon’s site to try and dig up some information and ended up doing a web search. What I found was very revealing.

The services are provided by Book Surge, a small company that was purchased by Amazon. Okay, I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is that they will, unless the POD books are through their company Book Surge, turn off the  “buy” button on authors Amazon.com book pages if they do not switch from their current POD provider to BookSurge.  Amazon gets paid twice, essentially…for the printing of the book and then like they normally do for the purchase. If you don’t want to go this route, you can pay them to warehouse your product and pay whatever associated affiliate fees there are. BookSurge charges 48%, I think I read.  I don’t remember all of the details, but you can read about the details at different web sites including Writer’s Weekly. This is News is a little more than a year old, but it is news to me. There was a lawsuit against Amazon as of 5/19/2008 but I don’t know any updated information past that. They (BookLocker, the ones who filed the lawsuit) are still awaiting the judgement of the case.

This goes against the mission statement of Amazon. While they are free to purchase a POD company if they wish, when reading the details about what transpired and how they went about things, it was not very transparent. Do this or we will punish you. Do this so we can earn 48% off of you, or we will punish you. BookLocker authors have been encouraged to change their links on book pages from Amazon to Barnes and Nobles. While you cannot just put a book on Amazon and expect it to sell with no marketing from you as the author, you do not have to have Amazon forcing you to either pay set up fees (and all other related fees) twice to have files with BookSurge and then whoever you normally work with, nor do you have to be forced to switch to one POD supplier – theirs – with no choice. Barnes and Noble offers free shipping on orders over $25, and they don’t strong arm anyone. This started with Amazon/BookSurge making phone calls (therefore no hard copy to implicate) to Lightening Source customers, letting them know the benefits of switching and if they did not the “buy” button would be turned off. Lightening Source is of course owned by Ingram, and having your POD book listed by Ingram makes your book available to all bookstores, like Barnes and Nobles.

You can view the complaint on-line, filed in Bangor Main by BookLocker. com (they are awaiting the ruling of the judge). I am simply amazed.

I will think long and hard before purchasing from Amazon again myself. I don’t have a problem with them owning a POD company. I DO have a problem with them in essence becoming a publisher, not just a retailer, and demanding that all authors switch to them if they want to continue to use Amazon as they have. You have to switch to us, and pay for everything all over again to set up your digital files, and by the way we will charge you more. And if you don’t switch to us we will make it more difficult for your customer, and we will charge you even more.

To top it off, there are some complaints of the product being of lesser quality. While I have no knowledge of that point, that is what is being claimed by some. If Amazon removed that restriction regarding having to use their POD services my thoughts would be more power to them, let the market decide. As it is, they are taking the decision out of the market and putting it in their pocket.They are trying to straddle the fence between retailer and publisher, and as the largest retailer of books on-line they are creating a monopoly for themselves.

Peace and Knitting, JoLene Treace

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One Response to “Not so Amazing Amazon”

  1. richard hoy Says:

    We finally got an update on our case yesterday (August 26), a year-and-a-half after we filed suit.

    Chief U.S. District Judge John Woodcock Jr. has denied Amazon.com’s motion to dismiss.

    Denial of the motion to dismiss means BookLocker can proceed with its antitrust case.

    All the details, including the judge’s order, are here:

    http://antitrust.booklocker.com/?p=33

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