Amazon puts the squeeze on print-on-demand publishers

Quite a kerfuffle has erupted over news in the last couple of days that Amazon is going to make print-on-demand (POD) publishers use Amazon's own internal printing service if they want to sell their books on the site.

Quite a kerfuffle has erupted over news in the last couple of days that Amazon is going to make print-on-demand (POD) publishers use Amazon's own internal printing service if they want to sell their books on the site.

Printing-on-demand has become a popular method for authors to bypass the large publishing houses with more niche or personal titles. And apparently the university presses have embraced it as well. So Amazon's announcement has some fairly wide-reaching effects.

Cries of "monopoly" are ringing out, with Amazon getting compared to Microsoft and the tactic being called a "landgrab".

Whether it rises to the level of being a true monopoly (and it's still a bit unclear exactly what the details of the change are), it does make clear how Amazon has shifted from being just a retailer to taking on some aspects of being a publisher. In so doing it blurs what has traditionally been a distinction and in this particular case makes me worried about the chilling effect on the nascent POD market. With a major channel potentially effectively closed off, will the other popular players like Lulu and Blurb be able to survive, along with the budding authors they have helped bring to the public eye? These companies have relied on the prestige of being able to seamlessly get a book published on Amazon in order to attract authors. If that option is removed, their appeal would seem to be dramatically reduced for an author who wishes to sell more than a handful of copies.

If you want lots more detail, here's a lengthy article and plenty of links at Writers Weekly. I'm guessing that the blow-back has only just begun.

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About the author

    Adam Richardson is the director of product strategy at frog design, where he guides strategy engagements for frog's international roster of clients, envisioning and creating new products, consumer electronics, and digital experiences. Adam combines a background in industrial design, interaction design, and sociology, and spends most of his time on convergent designs that combine hardware, software, service, brand, and retail. He writes and speaks extensively on design, business, culture, and technology, and runs his own Richardsona blog.

     

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