Last year, while considering my options for the publication / distribution of The Reformed Citizen, I stumbled across Amazon.com’s BookSurge POD (print-on-demand) service. It seemed a lucrative way to be included in Amazon.com’s conglomerate catalog. However, I decided against using their service because the sales representative assigned to me was just that: a sales representative. She knew the prices and names of the various packages offered, but when I started asking more detailed questions about the file-to-book process, I got dead air. That, and she wouldn’t answer my question regarding distribution: would my book be listed outside of Amazon’s site? (I later found out it wouldn’t; books “published” by BookSurge are Amazon.com-only.) After a while, the sales rep stopped responding entirely—only to pick up again a few months later with a stream of “special offer” e-mails.
Yep. Amazonian spam.
I’m sure other self-publishers have had similar experiences, and I’m sure it’s contributed to BookSurge’s inability to compete efficiently with the likes of POD services such as Lulu, who get you an ISBN, global distribution (not just a listing via their site’s marketplace), and more flexibility with regard to your book’s trim size, cover design, etc.
I ended up sticking with Lulu for The Reformed Citizen. They listed my book all over the Internet—it was better market penetration for the money. And now the mighty Amazon.com is throwing a hissy fit, threatening to remove all 3rd party POD book publishers from their catalog unless they use BookSurge’s printer—even if you’ve already paid for your listing(s). Oh, you can still use Amazon’s swap-meet feature, but how unprofessional does that look?
This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. For years Amazon has required that you be a paying customer before you’re allowed to use the restroom (ie, you have to buy something before you can review an item). Posted reviews basically become the property of Amazon.com, Inc. in that you grant them the right to do with your commentary as they please (well, to be honest, most sites do this as well). Bundled advertising is common with orders of my book(s), though as of this writing I have not been offered a cut of the revenue generated therein. FYI: that T-Mobile offer you received with your copy of The Knack wasn’t my idea.
I could continue to rant and rave and stumble over my own words regarding Amazon’s most recent anti-competitive, anti-POD tactics, but this slashdot.org post sums it up nicely:
There’s also a nice article (including a phone number) explaining things over at the PODdy Mouth blog:
There’s even a petition:
Ain’t big business grand?