I’ve always been a fan of Amazon. It’s a great place to buy books at two in the morning. You can throw in a CD, a toaster, or even an “As Seen on TV” product while you’re at it, most likely at a nice discount. You can “Look Inside!” novels or the latest self-help tome before you purchase. Read user reviews that are amazingly insightful, or just outright funny. It’s a truly user-friendly environment, especially when you what to know “Where’s My Stuff?” How can you not love Amazon?
Well, as an independent publisher, I can give you a reason.
For those of you not in the know, Amazon is implementing a new policy that impacts small press and self-publishers by forcing us to use their POD, BookSurge. (See PW Daily for more info and here for an update.) This sort of screams unfair trade practices to me, but I’m no expert. I just have to make a decision...do what Amazon wants, or lose my current selling status, both here and in the UK. Bollocks.
This is being done under the pretense of better customer service. See, if we use their POD (short for Print on Demand, which many small presses use, and more and more major publishers as well), they can ship out books the same day, and pack it in with the CD, toaster or “As Seen on TV” product you bought at two ayem. That seems to make a bit of sense, especially from the customer’s viewpoint, but I think there’s another solution: Keep a small stock of those POD books to make that happen. Most POD books make it to Amazon in a day anyway, so you really don’t notice a lag in delivery. And, if they kept 1-3 in stock (not a whole lot if you ask me), Amazon could keep the standard of their customer service while independent publishers could keep their choice on POD providers.
Seems like that might be a big too much to ask, you say? Not really. The one out Amazon is offering the small publisher is their version of eBay, Amazon’s Advantage Program, wherein authors and/or publishers would pay a fee and provide five copies of their book(s) in order to participate in this service. So, why not just buy a supply of the books in the first place? It seems to me that it's the retailer’s responsibility to stock the products their customers want, no? What's more irking is that it’s the small fry getting punished. Do you think Amazon would go to Random House and say, “We understand you use POD for your paperbacks. If you want to sell on Amazon, you’re going to have to use BookSurge instead.”? I’d pay big money to see that play out.
I’ve always respected Amazon. From the beginning, they’ve seemed to be interested in community; donating to charities, giving a platform for independent publishers like myself. And, believe me, it was greatly appreciated. This, however, reeks of big business trampling on the small fry. And that’s just not right.
Many POD companies and author groups are fighting Amazon on this new policy. I’m hoping we’ll succeed. If the book buying community will speak up, too, I’m sure Amazon will hear you. After all, it’s the consumer who will really end up on the losing end by not being able to find the book they were looking for at the place they trusted to have it.
Perhaps you think you don’t buy self-published books, so this really won't affect you. Do little ditties like The Celestine Prophecy and Chicken Soup For The Soul ring any bells? Yep, self-pubbed. And that amazing out-of-print book you’ve been looking everywhere for that is now (finally) available POD...well, that may or may not be something you can get as easily if Amazon has its way. These kind of controlling decisions impact us all...and truly blow, if you ask me.
So, maybe think twice the next time you need to buy a book or CD or toaster. And no “As Seen on TV” product should be purchased after midnight, anyway (says the girl who bought the Purple Broom...ugh). I just don’t feel good about giving Amazon my business when they are trying to take business away from me.
Causes Sandra Miller Supports
American Indian College Fund
The Global Fund
Challenged Athletes Foundation