Amazon changes rules for print-on-demand publishers

Online retailer requires POD publishers to use its BookSurge printing service

Amazon.com has told publishers who print books on demand that their titles will no longer be sold directly through Amazon if they don't use the company's printing company, BookSurge.

An article about the new policy appeared on WritersWeekly.com, a weekly newsletter for writers. The owner of the Web site, Angela Hoy, is the co-owner of BookLocker.com, a POD (print-on-demand) services company.

Hoy said she uses BookSurge's rival, Lightning Source, which is owned by Ingram Industries, to print the books her company publishes. According to information on the Lightning Source Web site, the company has printed more than 33 million books for more than 4,300 publishers.

Amazon's new policy means that any POD publisher that wants its books sold directly by Amazon will have to use BookSurge, which Amazon purchased in 2005, and not other printers, such as Lightning Source.

Amazon spokeswoman Patricia Smith said POD books will still be for sale on Amazon.com through third-party resellers, but they will not qualify for Amazon's free shipping. Purchasers on Amazon's Web site may qualify for free shipping if they spend at least US$25.

Smith added that authors and publishers of print-on-demand books who choose not to have their books printed by BookSurge could still have their books sold directly through Amazon by participating in the company's Advantage Program, which costs US$29.95 per year plus 55 per cent of the list price of each book.

Despite reports that BookSurge prices are more expensive than other POD publishers, Smith said its prices are highly competitive in the POD industry.

"We think print on demand is a great option for publishers and customers," she said. "When we publish a print-on-demand title in our own fulfillment center, we can then marry that on-demand book with a regular book, or a toaster, if that's what the customer ordered in the same box and ship it the same day to the customer. And that print-on-demand book that we printed is also eligible for free shipping."

Hoy said the policy is unacceptable and she won't give in to Amazon's requirement. She said she feels sorry for the POD publishers who feel they have to give in to the pressure from Amazon.

"We would [rather] take an initial significant hit to our revenues, and we estimate that Amazon comprises about 30 per cent of our revenues," she said.

But Hoy said there's a side to this situation that no one is talking about.

"When people go to Amazon and surf around, they rarely end up buying a self-published, print-on-demand book by chance," Hoy said. "The people that are buying our books on Amazon are buying them because the authors are sending them to Amazon, and that's a fact industrywide. The book buyers are going to buy the books from where the author tells them to buy the book. We're telling our authors it's time to take action and change every link on your Web sites, your e-zines, your blog, your e-mail signature, everything, to your book's page on Barnes and Noble if you want your readers to get free shipping, and so you won't take the big hit, too."

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