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POD Braces Itself Against Amazon 69

Posted by Zonk
from the oh-so-demanding dept.
OMNIpotusCOM writes "As we've previously discussed, Amazon is in the process of taking the 'Buy' buttons off of published on demand (POD) books that were not created by Amazon's in-house publisher, BookSurge. PODdy Mouth has been reporting reactions throughout the week (including an open letter from Amazon), culminating today in letters to Amazon and their board by the Author's Guild, Small Publishers Association of North America, and the Publishers Marketing Association. Possible lawsuits are looming ... is it enough to change Amazon's mind?"
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POD Braces Itself Against Amazon

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  • by sakdoctor (1087155) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:48AM (#22986634) Homepage
    What is up with Amazons latest strategy?

    In the past there was always products sold by amazon, and then a link to 'used & new' which I never touched because when I go to amazon, I'm looking specifically to by a NEW item from amazon themselves, and for amazon to take direct responsibility if there are any fuck ups.

    Now they are trying really hard to blur the lines between their own products and those of other vendors.
    I only noticed this after I bought an item which I had no reason to believe was *not* coming from amazon, when I got an email saying:

    Would you like to leave RIP_U_OFF_4_THE_LULZ feedback on your recent purchase?

    This is not a good direction, but hey, they practically have a monopoly on cheap online books so what am I gonna do.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by alen (225700)
      for cheap tech books, bookpool.com is the way to go. way cheaper than amazon
      • I always check bookpool (and recommend them) but the last few times I've checked, the books I wanted were out of stock.
    • by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:06AM (#22986694) Homepage

      In the past there was always products sold by amazon, and then a link to 'used & new' which I never touched because when I go to amazon, I'm looking specifically to by a NEW item from amazon themselves, and for amazon to take direct responsibility if there are any fuck ups.

      That's funny, because I always go straight for the "Used and new listings". For CDs, third-party sellers like Caiman or NEWBURYCOMICS are better value than than Amazon itself. To give an example appropriate for this week, Messiaen's opera Saint François d'Assise [amazon.com] is over $10 cheaper by choosing Caiman than ordering from Amazon itself. Yet, the product is exactly the same: a nicely wrapped, brand-new CD (and Caiman doesn't ship cut-outs).

      If I could deal directly with these third-party sellers and cut out Amazon, I would, and maybe I'd save a dollar more. But getting them from Amazon is convenient. And if you are worried about a third-party seller screwing you over, from the community feedback you can get a good idea is the third-party seller is reputable. For CDs, I've never had any problems with either Caiman or NEWBURYCOMICS, while a couple of minor sellers have disappointed me on occasion.

      For books, the high cost of shipping from third-party sellers often cancels out the savings, unfortunately.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MBGMorden (803437)
        Half.com is eBay's basic counterpart to Amazon's service that you describe, and I use it often, but sometimes there are issues there, and for certain things I can agree with the OP in that I want to deal with a COMPANY, not another user.

        For example, there was a point where I was just too afraid to order a season of Babylon 5 off of Half.com for the simple reason that many of the listings were of the Chinese version. Now, in an interesting twist there were in English with Chinese subtitles (that you didn't
    • by IBBoard (1128019)
      I'd noticed a similar pattern. Amazon used to stock a huge proportion of the books they listed, now you hit a lot of listings and all you get is a "new/used" link to some company of unknown quality. They're all traders registered with Amazon, so the new quality should be the same (and can be a lot cheaper) but why the shirking of responsibility for actually selling stuff?

      POD sounds like a good idea, but forcing a single supplier seems like potential commercial suicide (probably not for such a big company, b
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        A couple years ago, Amazon started allowing third party sellers to create product pages (what Amazon calls detail pages) on the Amazon site. More recently, Amazon started allowing sellers to create pages for pre-ISBN books (books that were published before the ISBN system became standard).

        I.e. many of the books that don't have an Amazon presence would not be listed on the site otherwise, because the book itself is out of print and Amazon can't get copies from the publisher.

        I'd be interested in seeing an ex
      • by alen (225700)
        inventory risk

        why spend your capital to buy niche products that may sit in the warehouse for months when you can rent website space to let someone else take the risk. this way you can spend your capital to buy up top 40 CD's and bestseller books that will sell more copies
        • why spend your capital to buy niche products that may sit in the warehouse for months when you can rent website space to let someone else take the risk. this way you can spend your capital to buy up top 40 CD's and bestseller books that will sell more copies.

          Amazon didn't carry inventory of POD books, that's why they're called Print On Demand. They get printed when there's a retail purchase.

          Major wholesalers do carry some minor POD stock so they can ship overnight
      • by mgblst (80109)

        why the shirking of responsibility for actually selling stuff?
        Money. Amazon know it can make more money by getting rid of its warehouses, and acting as a middle man, aka ebay.
    • by Oktober Sunset (838224) <sdpage103NO@SPAMyahoo.co.uk> on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:46AM (#22986836)
      Ahhh, good old RIP_U_OFF_4_THE_LULZ, now there's a good old fashioned bookseller you can really trust.
    • by empaler (130732)
      I especially love that they seem to be completely unable to ship me anything I want. 9/10 of the items I've recently tried to purchase from Amazon UK, US or DE (Germany) have been labelled 'Currently, this item can only be shipped to the [insert country I don't live in here]'.
      Endless fun, especially since I'm logged in, which means that they automatically know that I don't live in [Britain|USA|Germany]. GAAAH!
      • What country are you in?
        Australia gets everything fine. From the .com site anyway.
      • by TopShelf (92521)
        Endless fun, especially since I'm logged in, which means that they automatically know that I don't live in [Britain|USA|Germany]. GAAAH!

        Just because you're signed in doesn't mean you can't order product and have it shipped somewhere else, right?

        You'd be surprised how many country-based restrictions exist on book product. Amazon, for example, may get distribution rights for a particular book only for certain countries, and that publisher has someone else (perhaps a local firm) that services that foreign mar
    • The savings are not THAT much more than what you can get elsewhere. I stopped buying anything from Amazon when they patented the 'One Click Buy' way back and I have bought nothing from them since. I've payed a couple of bucks more here and there for books, but hardly enough to make it worth doing business with such an ethically bankrupt organization.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      This is not a good direction, but hey, they practically have a monopoly on cheap online books so what am I gonna do.
      Well, there is powells.com (which is the website for a bookstore in Portland, OR) and abebooks.com, which is a conglomeration of independent bookstores. And that's just off the top of my head. Seriously, there are quite a number of other choices. You just have to look.
  • *duh* (Score:5, Insightful)

    by theaceoffire (1053556) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:50AM (#22986640) Homepage
    I am gonna go way, WAY out on a limb here and say "No".

    No major company would willingly piss off this many people and customers without carefully considering how it would affect them (Not if it plans on remaining a major company).

    They probably have estimates of how many lawsuits are likely, their probability of success, how many donuts they are gonna eat during the trials...

    That said, SHOULD they change their mind? I think that forcing your customers into one path tends to piss them off, especially if your forcing them into a path that is extremely profitable for you (AKA MS Vendor lockin).

    It might work in the short run, but it could damage Amazon's brand name.
    • Re:*duh* (Score:5, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:20AM (#22986744)

      No major company would willingly piss off this many people and customers without carefully considering how it would affect them (Not if it plans on remaining a major company).
      Microsoft, Sony, and eBay leap to mind...
      • ^_^ They F*ed up, but I promise they did a cost analysis before starting.
        They just got it wrong... in some cases VERY wrong.
      • So few companies care. For example, my company was recently bought by larger company. First thing they do is start changing everything pissing off the customers they bought us for. When I brought up this fact the no one cared. They figured the customers will just deal with it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Maxo-Texas (864189)
      I'm going to blow my moderation and chip in.

      There was a major company that pwned mainframe change control.

      So completely that they raised prices over 100% in one year, laid off 50% of their support staff, and reduced commissions to their salespeople.

      It so pissed off their customer base that they basically died in 2005 to 2007 period. It didn't matter what they did to try to make things right, the customers were so angry that they were not going back regardless. My large corp will no longer use them by poli
    • That said, SHOULD they change their mind? I think that forcing your customers into one path tends to piss them off, especially if your forcing them into a path that is extremely profitable for you (AKA MS Vendor lockin).

      They're pissing off their vendors, not their customers. Much in the same way that Wal*Mart strong-arms suppliers, but their customers appreciate the lower prices. If the end quality of product is the same or better, why should a customer care that it was printed by Amazon rather than some third party printer?

      • by dangitman (862676)

        but their customers appreciate the lower prices. If the end quality of product is the same or better, why should a customer care that it was printed by Amazon rather than some third party printer?

        Because the prices won't remain the same - they will have to be raised to pay PayPal fees. Probably in the form of increased "postage" costs in the case of eBay.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday April 07, 2008 @05:53AM (#22986654)
    What happens if books are available on POD and in a conventionally printed form. There is nothing to stop BookSurge offering out-of-print classics through POD.

    What's to stop Amazon only allowing POD versions of these books to customers. You may want a high-quality leather-bound Shakespeare, but Amazon may only let you have a POD paperback!

    Also, what about authors who already have POD contracts with other publishers. They are condemned never to appear on amazon searches, which a lot of people use to find books on esoteric subjects thinking they cover most available material.
    • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:02AM (#22986674)

      Also, what about authors who already have POD contracts with other publishers. They are condemned never to appear on amazon searches, which a lot of people use to find books on esoteric subjects thinking they cover most available material.

      Amazon are pretty dominant in the on-line book sales market at the moment, but moves like this won't keep them that way. It seems to me that they are creating a big opportunity for one of their rivals to get ahead with the small/independent publishers. If I were an executive at, say, Barnes & Noble or Bookpool, I would be rubbing my hands together with glee, contacting the kinds of industry body mentioned in these blog posts, and talking about new ways to promote these markets more aggressively.

      • by mosch (204)
        And once you add both of the good books from the small publishers, then what? Sit back and watch people not buy them, and complain about declining American literacy?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          I don't understand this prejudice that people have shown in this discussion and the other recent one on a related subject. Sure, there are a lot of people using POD or certain small publishers who are basically vanity authors. But there are also some people who write well and provide useful, interesting or funny material.

          The thing is, the story is exactly the same with the large publishing houses. While the signal-noise ratio may be somewhat better, I'm not convinced it's by much: most of the widely adver

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            Sorry to reply to my own post, but I feel obliged to point out for anyone who doesn't know that Beautiful Code is a compendium of chapters written by many different contributing authors. I mentioned Peyton-Jones by name, but he was only responsible for that one (very good) chapter; the disappointing material I mentioned came from some of the other contributors. Sorry for not making this clear in the parent post.

          • by mosch (204)
            I didn't in any way mean to imply that major publishers put out nothing but quality material. It's sketchy as heck.

            That said, I'd guess that 1 in 10 major publisher books are readable (not great, but you can plow through them without throwing them on the fire) whereas POD is at least an order of magnitude worse.
  • by fv (95460) * <fyodor@insecure.org> on Monday April 07, 2008 @06:09AM (#22986702) Homepage
    This is a major problem for my upcoming book documenting the Nmap Security Scanner [nmap.org]. I was planning to print Nmap Network Scanning [nmap.org] with Lightning Source POD and sell it through Amazon. Now Amazon says I need to use their own BookSurge company instead. Leaving aside the anti-competitive nature of this, there is the issue of BookSurge's terrible quality reputation. They are known for missing pages, printing covers upside-down, etc. So people who buy my book through Amazon will be stuck with the shitty BookSurge version, and they will surely blame me for this. I really hope Amazon relents, or I will have to rethink my whole distribution plan. I'm now against using BookSurge on principle. If Amazon keeps playing these anti-competitive games, at least there is always online distribution. Almost half of the book chapters are already online for free:

    And I hope to free more chapters in the coming week. Amazon may not care about losing my Nmap book, but I hope enough people stand up to Amazon that they really feel the effect!

    -Fyodor [insecure.org]

    • Re: (Score:2, Offtopic)

      by DrXym (126579)
      Can't you get your own ISBN and then it doesn't matter who you get to print your books? It could be POD, your local publisher, or something else entirely.
      • by chromatic (9471)

        That's exactly how you work with Lightning Source. They're a division of Ingram, the massive book distributor, so there are no problems working with Amazon.com's supply chain -- unless Amazon.com makes problems.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2008 @07:26AM (#22987002)
      Doesn't this only apply to POD? If you're printing more than 500, which I assume you will be, then this isn't a big deal. You can use your favorite local printer and ship them in batches of 50 to Amazon who then redistribute them to their supply depots. Amazon aren't saying you must only use their printers for everything, just low volume print on demand.

      Besides, this is only limited to the "Buy now" option on their website pages. You can still list a book with Amazon as a reseller, link it to your own web page and then sell them from there. In fact you would make a greater profit by doing that because you wouldn't be paying Amazon 30%-40%.

      Finally, do some research and you will see that there's a pattern amongst all authors like you Fyodor. Because I like to give the author the maximum money for their efforts I always buy direct from them if I can. O'Reilly, McMillan, Elsevier etc have all scaled back their production of textbooks in the last few years so recently I've noticed a pattern where for numerous books on niche technical subjects the author does:

      1) Write a quality textbook
      2) Publish it on your website and do the marketing yourself (people buy the book from where _you_ tell them to)
      3) Once you pass the 2000 mark and students start ordering through bookshops a distributer like Barnes & Noble _come_to_you_ !!!
      4) You are in a position to negotiate a non-exclusive distribution and continue to sell from your website in competition
      5) Now you're in a win-win situation, you get the Amazon listings via the distributer and the larger profit for the 20-30% of
      customers who still come through your website
      6) Once you pass the 5-10000 mark you will find publishers start to serenade you, again you can negotiate a non-exclusive deal
      because you've done all the work/marketing and the publisher can offer no real consideration, you have them where you want.

      So, the first step when you finish the book is to register a company as a small publisher, buy a small block of ISBN numbers (10), print 500
      or 1000 (not POD) and list yourself on Amazon as an traditional independent producer, ship some to Amazon on return and place a link to your site.
  • I imagined Amazons battling the Prince of Darkness ...
  • I don't understand. Isn't this the very definition of monopolistic no-nos? Company with great majority of market in one area leverages that for dominance in another market. Why isn't the DoJ already involved? Or will it be once we stop having a "Corporations are always right!" administration (if that ever happens)?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Pollardito (781263)
      maybe because they don't have a majority of the market [fonerbooks.com], even this computerworld article [computerworld.com] critical of the move and claiming monopolistic tactics says they have 15% of the market
      • by EMeta (860558)
        Ah. Thank you. Here I go confuzzling majority and plurality again. I was more referring to the online book retail market, and the 15% number refers to total book retail, but that's probably what the investigators look at.
      • by kalidasa (577403)
        Unfortunately, as suggested by a sibling comment, they are looking at all book sales, online and offline, and not just online sales. For online sales, they are probably in monopoly territory (the only other online seller on that list is BN.com, and they are an order of magnitude smaller).
        • if more people are buying books offline than online, then why does it matter that they do the majority of online sales? Linux is probably the dominant operating system among those that are distributed by bittorrent, but that's meaningless because most people don't get their operating system that way. you're making the term monopoly meaningless by letting it apply to specific distribution channels that aren't even used by the majority of people.
    • Even if they were a monopoly, which they really aren't, where have you been hiding the last 8 years? This administration would never do anything to harm the golden calf of corporate profits.
  • Amazon isn't going to make the customers made with this. They are going (in theory) to make their customers happy. Because they have less stock to carry they can offer lower prices and if they put printers around the country they can offer faster shipping. They did make the POD industry mad but I would imagine that is a chance they are willing to take. I don't buy own POD books so at the end of the day this doesn't change my relationship with Amazon. (I did write a POD book which is affected by this but I h
  • Amazon is currently, to paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst possible online bookstore, except for all the alternatives. From a customer point of view, the web site is comically bad. From a small publisher point of view, they seem at best hostile. They're good for many things, and I'll continue to use them, but one-stop shopping for books is no longer something they're willing to provide. Yes, this will hurt certain publishers, in the same way many publishers are hurt when Barnes & Noble, Wal-Mar
  • Amazon is a distributor and should remain one.
    Today they start dictating the printer from whom I get my book printed ... or else !!
    Tomorrow they will tell me what I can write ... or else !!
    and since they are SO BIG, i really have no chance ( or no guts) to ask them go FISH ...
  • A large number of POD books (not all of them, by any means) are printed by vanity presses (see PublishAmerica). While it sucks for the legitimate self-published and POD authors not to have their books available, I can't say I'm too sad that there is one less venue for these other "publishers" to take advantage of authors.
  • I've recently self-published my book Zero to Superhero [zerotosuperhero.com] at Lulu.com [lulu.com], and the masterplan was to have it distributed by Lulu to Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble etc. One hundred dollars and 18 weeks later, and Lulu still hasn't had my book distributed to Amazon as promised. Or anywhere for that matter.

    Saturday I discovered that Amazon will no longer accept books from other POD publishers, so even if Lulu were to finally act to fulfill their promise and my order, they can't. Lulu has yet to reply to my email aski
    • To be fair, this was a surprise action by Amazon. Lots of people are hosed. Lots of companies are hosed, the companies as you can imagine hosed even more than you are.

      A couple of mitigating factors: Any POD publisher can list as a third party seller on Amazon, there are costs and margin tradeoffs. I don't know what the POD's are going to do about Amazon.

      The other is that there is next to zero chance that a person will ever look at an Amazon web page for a book
      • Amazon's product referrals, customer reviews and gazillion other algorithms to have people buy stuff would've helped sales. I can't possibly see how you could say otherwise.

        And 18 weeks wait, when I was promised 6 to 8? That's flat out bad service.
  • Letting Amazon get away with this will only lead them to greater conquests until they control all publishing in the country. Do you want Amazon telling you what to write, read and think? Also, if you agree to their contract, they dictate what can be charged for your book, and forbid you from giving deeper discounts on your own (such as to a non-profit through your website). Unless, of course, you like dictatorship. Monopolies.

How many QA engineers does it take to screw in a lightbulb? 3: 1 to screw it in and 2 to say "I told you so" when it doesn't work.

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