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On-demand Battle of the Bulge

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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. ®

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