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Old 03-28-2008, 09:12 PM   #1
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Is Amazon Blackmailing POD Publishers?

Most POD (Print On Demand) publishers do not own printing equipment. Instead, they pay a printer to print a certain number of copies. Amazon, happens to own one such printer. It's called BookSurge.

Amazon has recently told a number of POD publishers that if their books aren't printed by BooKSurge, Amazon.com won't carry the books*. Amazon has already followed through on this threat with a publisher called PublishAmerica. Here is a list of books that publisher has on Amazon. Check it. See how many are being sold by Amazon.

http://www.writersweekly.com/print/t..._03272008.html

I don't know about you, but I'm pissed.
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Old 03-28-2008, 10:27 PM   #2
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Interesting. As an old geezer with long, if jaded memory, it seems to me that Amazon is following the business model developed by Bill Gates at Microsoft. If we want diversity and/or choice in electronic books it may be that some how we need as a community to derail Amazon before they get a stranglehold on the market with the Kindle.

But like I said I'm old geezer with a jaded memory
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Old 03-28-2008, 10:40 PM   #3
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I happen to do contract work for several such printers. This will go over as well as Adobe's "Print to Kinko's" link in a recent Adobe Reader update. They removed it due to the uproar. I suspect this is ground's for legal action.
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Old 03-28-2008, 10:48 PM   #4
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Maybe, but I don't think most of these publishers can afford to take Amazon to court.

I'm expecting the Justice department to start an anti-trust investigation.
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Old 03-28-2008, 11:03 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Nate the great View Post
I don't know about you, but I'm pissed.
I'm not pissed at all. I'm extremely pleased.

Why?

Well... let me attempt to explain as succinctly as possible. <-- Edit : Scratch that, in my usual way I'm writing an essay :P

Want to buy something small on the web? A consumable or a the like.. For example an ink jet cartridge, a mobile phone battery, a SD card...

Well, a few years ago you would go searching the various different retailers on the net, pick one and order.

Not now. It's all changed.

Now you can go to eBay or Amazon, or one of the few other places (Play.com etc). There's other shops you can go to, but they are disappearing. There's plenty of shops now that I wouldn't order from because there's tell tale signs that it's not a real shop. What do I mean by that? I mean it's the same shop you've got open in 5 different browser tabs, except it's got a different name in this one. Or, there's something about the site that makes you think "Hang on just a second. This site hasn't been updated for a while. Or links don't work properly" so you don't order there. Or you end up at one of many comparison sites which masquerade on search engines as the product you're looking for.

In short shopping on the net is getting really unpleasant.

The solution? Shop through a proxy like eBay or Amazon.

eBay has changed from just being a place where you're buying from a non-commercial individual, you're now met on eBay by a plethora of small businesses (many I suspect which are home based). Instead of going to an individual site you go to eBays marketplace.

Likewise on Amazon it's no longer just the Amazon warehouse you're buying from, they have merchants, much the same as eBay.

I originally thought this was a good thing - although I was aware I was probably paying a significant percentage to Amazon or eBay (especially when you include paypal fees). But then again, the retailer doesn't have to employ a web designer, register a site or buy e-commerce software, so perhaps I'm actually getting it cheaper.

However I recently nearly ran foul of a merchant on Amazon. I was looking for an SD card for my new Cybook. So I did the usual - try a search. I quickly gave up and went to eBay. However I quickly gave up because I'd be buying from abroad and I don't want the delays or the hassles. Off to Amazon I went... and lo and behold... it's impossible to use their site to compare SD card prices, because they allow merchants to pad up the delivery charges and run down the item charges. They were charging pennies for the SD card and pounds for delivery. Was there any way to compare the final prices? Nope. Was I even able to find out the final price before I ordered? Very nearly not. I had to log in, go to the checkout, give a delivery address, select which card I wanted to pay with, and just before I finally confirmed is when the delivery charge appeared. In other words the price jumped from pennies to pounds just before I hit ok. I should point out the end price was still competitive.

Effectively the prices on Amazon marketplace are lies. I'm not going over the top here, or overstating it. The prices are simply that, lies.

So I complained to Amazon. They sent me a standard letter, which didn't in any way respond to the complaint. I complained again. They fobbed me off. I complained again, they fobbed me off and told me everything was fine and they saw no problems. I complained again and got no response. Needless to say I'm quite annoyed at Amazon.

Clearly Amazon don't give a crap as long as they're making money and they can wash their hands of it.

So we're now facing a future where there's only a few large online retailers, and everybody else is going to have to go to one of their marketplaces, with their markups and their rules and compete with people who aren't being ethical.

I thought there was little chance of this coming to light... but now, assuming that this story is indeed true... Then the spotlight will be on Amazon for abuse of position. And if that happens then perhaps their marketplace will be lit up and examined.
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Old 03-29-2008, 12:41 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Nate the great View Post
Maybe, but I don't think most of these publishers can afford to take Amazon to court.

I'm expecting the Justice department to start an anti-trust investigation.
We have a "Justice department"?

You mean the US?
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Old 03-29-2008, 02:10 AM   #7
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We have a "Justice department"?

You mean the US?
Yes. You know, those people who told us that torture was just fine and dandy and we didn't need to worry about that pesky habeas corpus stuff any more.
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Old 03-29-2008, 05:00 AM   #8
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Whatever this may be, it's not "blackmail", and I would strongly urge you, Nate, to remove that word from the title. Blackmail is defined as "extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information. ". Have these authors committed criminal acts which Amazon are threatening to expose?

Saying "we won't sell your books unless you let us print them" certainly is NOT blackmail. It's Amazon's store, and they have a right to dictate whatever conditions (within the law) they wish on authors who want to sell through them. Just as authors have a right to turn round and tell them to go to hell, and choose to sell their books elsewhere.
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Old 03-29-2008, 06:23 AM   #9
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Whatever this may be, it's not "blackmail", and I would strongly urge you, Nate, to remove that word from the title. Blackmail is defined as "extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information. ". Have these authors committed criminal acts which Amazon are threatening to expose?
That is not the definition according to

http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/blackmail

"The crime involving a threat for purposes of compelling a person to do an act against his or her will, or for purposes of taking the person's money or property."
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:15 AM   #10
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Well, fair enough, but nobody is being compelled to do anything against their will. Nobody is forced to sell their books through Amazon.
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Old 03-29-2008, 09:37 AM   #11
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We have a "Justice department"?

You mean the US?
It's really a "Legal Department". They just call it justice.
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:19 AM   #12
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Whatever this may be, it's not "blackmail", and I would strongly urge you, Nate, to remove that word from the title. Blackmail is defined as "extortion of money or something else of value from a person by the threat of exposing a criminal act or discreditable information. ". Have these authors committed criminal acts which Amazon are threatening to expose?

Saying "we won't sell your books unless you let us print them" certainly is NOT blackmail. It's Amazon's store, and they have a right to dictate whatever conditions (within the law) they wish on authors who want to sell through them. Just as authors have a right to turn round and tell them to go to hell, and choose to sell their books elsewhere.
It's not necessarily blackmail, but it IS coercion, possibly reaching criminal level. And while they DO have the right to give incentives to encourage small publishers to use their printers if the publishers wish to have Kindle versions available through Amazon, they don't have the 'right' to strong-arm those publishers.

Were Amazon to make a case that they had invented the printing business and that there was a trade secret involved in converting a dead-tree book into an ebook - one only known to their printer - they might win a lawsuit over this. But that's not the case. I think the only reason Amazon hasn't had it's butt sued off is because it's being very selective who it strong-arms over this, picking the small ones who can't afford the financial cost of pushing for legal remedy.

Derek
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:24 AM   #13
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Sorry, but I disagree. It's Amazon's store - they can set whatever rules they want (within the law) for people who wish to sell their books there. No publisher is being forced to sell their books through Amazon; if they don't like the terms, they can walk away and sell their books elsewhere.
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Old 03-29-2008, 11:44 AM   #14
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Sorry, but I disagree. It's Amazon's store - they can set whatever rules they want (within the law) for people who wish to sell their books there. No publisher is being forced to sell their books through Amazon; if they don't like the terms, they can walk away and sell their books elsewhere.
And I DIS-disagree! Look, the Kindle format is closely derived from Mobipocket, so there's no 'super-secret' procedure there. Also, the printer does nothing to ensure that the ebooks are properly formatted. Further, Amazon *has* sold ebooks in the past (other than Kindle) and has not demanded that those ebooks be from titles printed by their BookSurge printers. Nor does Amazon insist that the larger publishers give up current printers for BookSurge. Thus Amazon has no real legs to stand on.

Nope, it's just trying to bully the small publishers into giving it a higher profit margin - quite possibly through 'finders fees' incentives from BookSurge if that is a completely separate entity, or through gouging a higher per-copy price from the small publishers if BookSurge is owned by Amazon.

Whatever is the case, this is truly sordid behavior by Amazon.

Yes, we can dress it up in fine clothes, put on beautiful makeup and give it voice lessons far beyond what Henry Higgins would have done, but it's still a warthog trying to masquerade as a princess.

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Old 03-29-2008, 11:45 AM   #15
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Quote:
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Sorry, but I disagree. It's Amazon's store - they can set whatever rules they want (within the law) for people who wish to sell their books there. No publisher is being forced to sell their books through Amazon; if they don't like the terms, they can walk away and sell their books elsewhere.
Fortunately that is not the view shared by either the UK or the US government.

If a company is in a position where they control a large share of the market, then forcing other companies to use them is seen as uncompetitive practices.

Of course in a perfect free market economy, with every good perfectly competitive the position would never arise. Unfortunately reality is not like that, and legislation is required for times when it does occur.
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