For the moment, you can still buy Booklocker books from Amazon. But mega-online-retailer has already made good on its threat to PublishAmerica - and then some.
PublishAmerica is also a Lightning Source customer, and a BookSurge rep told the company that Amazon would remove its buy buttons if it didn't switch to BookSurge by April 1. Then Amazon started removing the buttons several days early.
Willem Meiners, PublishAmerica's co-owner, responded by sending the following email to Amazon:
This is to let you know that, as far as PublishAmerica is concerned, your company's recent strong-arming tactics are having the opposite effect.
Quite some time ago, sir, long before you were born, American soldiers fought the Battle of the Bulge in Europe. When the 101st Airborne Division found itself surrounded by the enemy, the Germans presented U.S. general McAuliffe with a piece of paper that demanded his surrender.
McAuliffe looked at it, borrowed a soldier's pen, wrote in caps, "NUTS!", then proceeded to win the battle.
There's our answer, sir. Couldn't have said it any better.
We'll be happy to work with your company again, as soon as you are ready for business as usual. Meanwhile we will continue to make our almost 30,000 titles available to Amazon as we always have, in ways that have always worked just fine. But PublishAmerica will not surrender to your bullying and your ultimatum.
When Amazon comes to its senses again, please let us know.
Enjoy your weekend.
Amazon did not respond to our request for comment, but it did toss some words to The Journal, and it posted letter to print-on-demand publishers. The company called its new BookSurge policy a "strategic decision...What we're looking to do is have a print-on-demand business that better serves our customers and authors," Amazon spokeswoman Tammy Hovey, told The Journal. "When we work with some other publishers, it's not truly a print-on-demand business."
But Angela Hoy sees thing a bit differently. "Our printer - Lightning Source - drop ships books directly to Amazon customers, with an Amazon.com return address sticker," she said. "Our BookSurge sales rep told us that it takes so long to get books from the printers to Amazon - but that's nonsense."
Like other publishers, Hoy says that even if she wanted to keep her Amazon buy buttons, she couldn't spare the time or money. "They're giving people an April 1 deadline. But it would take us months - if not years - to open up and convert the files on every book we've published. And I can't even imagine how much money that would cost us."
Amazon does provide another option. Print-on-demand publishers can keep their buy buttons if they ship Amazon a few copies of their non-BookSurge books ahead of time. But Hoy says this doesn't work either.
"We would have to pay to ship the books to Amazon. And Amazon wants 55 per cent of the list price. There's not 55 per cent less to give to anybody. We would have to raise our prices across the board - and that would end up affecting the readers."
So Amazon has given countless publishers little choice but to bad-mouth Amazon. ®
Could have said it better
The appropriate response in this case is not "NUTS!", but the legal precedent of Arkell v. Pressdram.
Throw the book at Amazon
Surely some authority figure can step in here and stop Amazon abusing its position in the sector for forcing unreasonable demands on sellers. As far as I can tell this borders on blackmail. Amazon just went down a notch in my estimation
As Angela Hoy says of the Advantage programme, publishers (especially print-on-demand publishers) don't have 55% to give to Amazon. Let's take a smallish paperback book - demy 8vo 240pp. We're expecting to sell 500 copies at £10 each (all the market will bear) and the typesetting has cost us a modest £2 per page. We've paid a couple of picture fees of £100 each and we've agreed a royalty of 7.5% of the list price. The unit cost for printing and binding is £3.10. That means we need £5.21 just to cover our costs, and we haven't even paid for delivery to Amazon yet. Unfortunately, as we're giving Amazon 55%, our profit is £0.29. Actually, by the time we've paid for delivery to Amazon, we're in the red.
BookSurge have failed to compete on price, quality and customer service, so no-one in their right mind would wish to use them.
It looks like the only way to survive will be to link up with other online stores but, despite what some other posts have said, Amazon is so dominant that this will be very difficult.
It would be good to see a rather more robust response from Lightning Source.