Monday, March 31, 2008
A Debacle of Amazonian Proportions
People are talking and reporters are reporting the news that broke over the weekend about Amazon.com -- and not in a good way. In a nutshell, here's what's going on. Amazon has heretofore listed and sold books from a variety of POD (Publish on Demand, a.k.a. Print on Demand) publishers. Sales of POD books were handled in the same manner as books from the big publishers; e.g., they received a listing, synopsis, reviews, and a "Add to Cart" button. Recently, however, Amazon let it be known that if the POD books they list for sale are not printed by BookSurge (owned by Amazon), they won't be sold on the Amazon site.
As though to punctuate their tough stance, the "Buy" buttons from a number of POD-published books have, in fact, been removed. The first to go were apparently PublishAmerica books. For the most part, I can't say that that's much of a loss. To be fair, though, some good books have slipped through the PublishAmerica cracks. And Amazon has been one of the chief sales outlets for not only PA books but POD books in general. I mean, let's face it -- online sales are all PA authors have. When they lose the most recognizable one, they've lost something very tangible. I'm sure PublishAmerica is dancing a jig at the prospect of more incentive for their authors to buy crates of their own books, but that's beside the point.
Lightning Source, based in Tenneessee, has been the printer of not only PA books but the printer of choice for a number of POD publishers. Customers have been happy with Lightning Source because of its distribution arrangement with Ingram, which arrangement is considered paramount by many in the publishing industry. BookSurge has no such distribution system, which would force customers to transfer their digital files to BookSurge. Customers wishing to keep in place their Ingram distribution would have to maintain their files with Lightning Source, which would in effect double their costs.
Amazon.com is, of course, a business like any other -- and in business to make money. One must wonder, though, if Amazon isn't shooting itself in the foot with this Draconian move. There are a lot of petitions urging boycott floating through cyberspace just now. While I understand that businesses must consider the bottom line, I also wonder if Amazon hasn't crossed the line. I would not, after all, patronize a store with a policy of selling goods that only its hand-picked manufacturer manufactured. It smacks of extortion, it feels sleazy, and it just smells bad.
This troubles me, even though my own writing is on hold just now while I get myself resituated in a real-world job that pays the bills. POD isn't the publishing method I'd choose for my work, but it works very well for a number of people, for a variety of reasons. There are already enough stumbling blocks in place, and the sudden necessity of being forced to buck a virtual monopoly shouldn't be added to the mix.
If you aren't a writer, I'm sure the above means diddly-squat to you. In that case, and assuming your eyes haven't glazed over, here's a joke to amuse you.
The banker saw his old friend Tom, an eighty-year old rancher in town.
Tom had lost his wife a year or so before and rumor had it that he was marrying a "mail order" bride. Being a good friend, the banker asked Tom if the rumor was true. Tom assured him that it was. The banker then asked Tom the age of his new bride to be. Tom proudly said, "She'll be twenty-one in November."
Now the banker, being the wise man that he was, could see that the sexual appetite of a young woman could not be satisfied by an eighty-year-old man. Wanting his old friend's remaining years to be happy the banker tactfully suggested that Tom should consider getting a hired hand to help him out on the ranch, knowing nature would take its own course.
Tom thought this was a good idea and said he would look for one that afternoon.
About four months later, the banker ran into Tom in town again.
"How's the new wife?" asked the banker.
Tom proudly said, "Good - she's pregnant."
The banker, happy that his sage advice had worked out, continued, "And how's the hired hand?"
Without hesitating, Tom said, "She's pregnant, too."
While we're on the subject of debacles and disasters, TWISTED LINGUISTICS rounded up these Words Gone Wild.
neophite - A pervert.
make a clammer - Putting the moves on someone who's digging for clams.
soley - Referring to the bottoms of one's shoes.
publiocity - Town that's open to the public.
tetnus shot - An injection that won't do you any good.
feamale - A different kind of girl.
self-riteous - Folks who perform certain rituals on themselves.
saine folks - People who are a little less than sane.
confern - Hillbilly cuss word.
patholigist - Person who performs cut-rate autopsies.
anistisia - Teasing people into feeling no pain.