Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Controversies abound in the "print on demand" business


There has been some controversy over Amazon’s entry into the supported self-publishing print-on-demand (POD) business (a bit like what agents used to call “cooperative publishing”), with BookSurge. At first glance, the various pricing options appear reasonable to me, in comparison to other services (iUniverse, xLibris) etc. Amazon mentions relationships with LexisNexis and Morgan Claypool.. Amazon also offers short run printing, something comparable to what we used to call “book manufacturing” when I was self-publishing my first book with a print run in 1997. Apparently Amazon gets the ISBN number. Here is a typical reference on how the process works, “My first Amazon BookSurge self-publishing project,” http://www.actasif.com/bookproject/page2.htm

There is a challenging article in Writers Weekly from March 27 2008, “Amazon is telling POD publishers – Let BookSurge print your books, or else …”, here.
It isn’t hard to imagine what follows, foul cries about monopoly and antitrust. I’ve checked by own books (“Bill Boushka”) and those of some other iUniverse authors and found all the Amazon links to purchase working in a normal way there. Mine are available in a normal way, in stock, with next day delivery. (I don’t see “Amazon Prime” right now; I’m not sure if that matters.) The article claims and admission from an Amazon exectuve that “this” is happening, but that books would remain on the database from resellers (which has been controversial, too, because it cuts down on new print sales, particularly for books that are overpriced).

iUniverse has “strategic alliance” with Barnes and Noble, and Books-a-Million. Apparently iUniverse and Barnes and Noble are owned by the same holding company.

Borders is partnered with Amazon. If you go to the Borders website and search for a book, you will get the Amazon listings.

Angela Hoy, publisher of BookLocker and Writers Weekly, has some tips on self-publishing in her March 21, 2007 article, “How some POD publishers milk authors,” link here. One of her strongest points is that authors not hand over any rights. She doesn’t mention indemnification clauses (just as in the traditional publishing industry) which could be dangerous even if they are rarely actually invoked in practice.

Angela says that BookLocker publishes less than 5% of submissions. Her publishing page is http://publishing.booklocker.com/ and she has an article “The Print On Demand Industry’s Dirty Little Secret” here.

All of this is, well, interesting. Inevitably, expect to see more consolidation and merging in the POD business (as with iUniverse and Author House, recently).

Update: Jan. 28, 2009

iUniverse has introduced a "Bookstore Premier Pro" self-publishing package, on the comparison chart here. The least expensive is the Select, but it is considerably more expensive than the least expensive package was in 2000.

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