Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bad News for Print-on-Demand...and Beyond

"Don't be evil"

Google has been using this motto since 2001, and while they may have made a few missteps, most of us seem to support Brin and Page's long term vision, and applaud the company as it strides bravely into new markets.

If only every megalith adopted this slogan, I wouldn't feel a burning need to boycott Amazon.

As early as March of 2008, the online bookseller began threatening to remove authors' books from its shelves. Their crime: using Print-on-Demand (POD) services from other vendors.

You may not think much of POD right now; it has a bad rep, being mostly associated with vanity self-publishing services. But POD is the unavoidable wave of the future, in much the way that online MP3s sales were the much-doubted future of music. Whoever controls the POD market will, effectively, control all book publishing...and Amazon's track record on this is not-so-good: they charge authors an up-font fee in the hundreds of dollars even when they aren't providing any design or promotion. Yes, you heard me right: Amazon does nothing, authors pay up front, and the megalith still takes 75% of the profit on every copy sold.

For authors, that means reduced profits. For readers, that means higher book prices, with less of the money going to the authors you love, and more going to the corporate machinery of Amazon. This effect will not be restricted to Print-on-Demand; once Amazon gains a monopoly in the POD market, they will be able to leverage this advantage to force authors with mainstream publishers to move to their POD service. In a decade, Amazon could control all book publishing, in every market. Imagine the beauty of a single publisher-retailer for all books: zero competition, therefore no quality-control and no price-control.

So, even if you don't believe in Print-on-Demand, you may want to seriously consider boycotting Amazon, or at the very least signing the petition on your way out...


PS a personal plug: while I don't self-publish, I do endorse LULU as, essentially, a low-cost professionally-bound copy service (just don't get an ISBN or make your project public). If you want to give your first readers a perfect-bound softcover instead of a stapled pile of 8x10 pages, it will cost you about $6-10 per copy to get them printed, bound, and shipped. Personally, I'm willing to spend a few bucks to make sure that my galleys get carried around in my reviewers' pockets, not lost in a pile of other papers on their desks.

PPS read more at O'Reilly and The PI

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