My Amazon listing says this in the right side buy box:
Save an extra $13.96 (74%). Buy the Kindle Edition instead.
FREE Shipping for Prime members once available.
Usually ships within 1 to 2 months.
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Gift-wrap available.
Why are they telling people that it takes 1 to 2 MONTHS to ship???!!! I have notified them that this is an error and they say they’ve contacted my publisher but they did NOT. It is confusing my buyers!
A – Back in 2008, Amazon started making phone calls to print on demand publishers, threatening to remove their buy buttons from Amazon.com if the publisher didn’t start paying Amazon to print their books. This meant the book would not be available for purchase directly through Amazon. Readers would only be able to purchase copies through re-sellers who had listings on Amazon. Buyers want to be able to buy directly through Amazon because they don’t know those re-sellers. Buyers trust Amazon, a name they do know.
At BookLocker.com, we received the same threatening phone call from Amazon. We subsequently filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon for (alleged) federal anti-trust violations. Our main concerns were: 1. Amazon’s printing division’s prices, and 2. The quality of their books was not acceptable to us. After a federal judge refused to dismiss the case, Amazon quickly settled our case, and paid our attorneys $300K. You can read more about our case, and the events leading up to it, HERE.
Things quieted down after that but Amazon appeared to be happy because many of our competitors had caved to Amazon’s demands, and signed their contract before our case ended up in front of a federal judge.
Over that period of time, Amazon was sending orders for print on demand books directly to Ingram’s printing division, which would then print and ship the book directly to Amazon’s customers, even using an Amazon.com return address label. Ingram was even shipping some books published by traditional publishers directly to Amazon’s customers. Everything was working great and customers were getting their books very quickly. Amazon didn’t even need to lay a finger on those books. The transactions were automated and Amazon was earning money on copies sold even when they didn’t need to warehouse or ship books.
Fast-forward a few years and, now, there are MANY more publishers and even more print on demand printers offering their services to authors. Obviously, Amazon isn’t printing books for all of them.
There is speculation in the industry that Amazon has found another way to try to get publishers and authors to use their printing services.
In a nutshell, Amazon is:
Listing print on demand books either as unavailable or “out of stock,” available only through third-party resellers, or available but with very long lead times that don’t accurately reflect how quickly buyers can really obtain that book, even if Amazon orders it from the distributor. For example, it does NOT take 1-2 months to obtain a copy of a print on demand book! Rather, it takes just a few days.
Amazon’s latest shenanigans have been affecting a variety of print on demand (and other) books for quite awhile now. Based on numerous reports we’ve received, this appears to be what’s happening when an author or publisher notices their book can no longer be purchased directly through Amazon (which is called “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Get it by (insert date here – some are available in a little as 2 days).”
Authors hear from their readers that people can no longer buy the book directly from Amazon. When those authors complain directly to Amazon, Amazon offers up a variety of excuses, including everything from “your publisher needs to open an Amazon account,” to “we can’t obtain any copies of your book from Ingram (the distributor),” and more. With print on demand books distributed by Ingram, those excuses aren’t flying at all. Ingram is, of course, not only denying the books are unavailable, but they are also happy to provide screenshots of their system, proving the book is indeed available. Publishers can simply login to their ipage account at Ingram to see the book’s availability. Of course, the same automated Ingram feed about the print on demand books goes to other stores as well, like BarnesandNoble.com, and those books are listed as available on those sites. Amazon is the only retailer we know of that’s altering the listing info. for print on demand books.
When confronted with proof (two screenshots) that one book in particular most definitely WAS available through Ingram AND their printer, Amazon continued to argue their case, but backed down when they were asked for a screenshot of what they were seeing on their end, claiming the information was proprietary. Magically, that book’s buy button appeared once again a week later, after the author got upset. During the discussions, Amazon pitched their printing division to that author. Their actions backfired. The author was so upset about the whole scenario that he has no interest in doing business directly with Amazon.
Based on reports from numerous publishers and authors, this appears to be what’s happening now with Amazon’s “availability” issues:
1. A new print on demand book goes up for sale and the buy button on Amazon works just fine.
2. The buy button disappears a few days later, and is replaced by a variety of different things, like:
* Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we’ll deliver when available.
* Only 2 left in stock. Ships from and sold by (name of a third-party reseller on Amazon).
* 2 Used from $x.xx; 1 New from $x.xx (also from resellers on Amazon – and those “used” copies aren’t always used!)
* 10 used & new offers (also from resellers on Amazon)
* Usually ships in 1 to 2 months
* Usually ships in 1 to 3 weeks
* Usually ships in 1 to 4 weeks
* Usually ships in 5 to 6 weeks
* Ships from and sold by Amazon.com. Get it by (2 days from now). FREE Shipping on eligible orders. (Some books remain available through Amazon with this listing. Perhaps they have been inadvertently overlooked. Who knows?)
Here’s the beef. All of the books I just looked up on Amazon.com to copy/paste the text above have the exact same publisher, printer, and distributor. Amazon’s availability quotes are incorrect and ridiculous and authors and publishers alike are FURIOUS!
3. Publisher/author complains to Ingram’s printing division (the largest Print on Demand printer in the world).
4. Printer opens “a ticket” at Amazon.
5. Amazon appears to fix a very small percentage of those book listings very quickly after receiving those tickets, but appears to ignore most of the other ones. We know of books that were initially reported to Amazon seven months ago, and subsequently reported three more times over the following five months, and they still haven’t been “fixed” at Amazon. If Amazon fixes one book, and if that book has the same publisher, printer, and distributor as all the others, why isn’t Amazon fixing ALL of those books?
6. Unfortunately, the printer does not appear to follow-up on all these old tickets and only resubmits them if the publisher and/or author complains again. We’re not sure what’s going on there.
7. Some books that do get their buy buttons back can lose them again a few days or weeks later.
8. The author gives up on the publisher, printer, and distributor, and contacts Amazon directly.
9. Amazon’s usual response is to incorrectly blame the problem on the distributor or publisher, saying they can’t get the book from the publisher (not true), that the publisher needs to open an account with Amazon (which is not needed since Ingram, the largest distributor, which ships millions of books to Amazon each year, also carries the book), that the distributor has the book listed as “unavailable” (and Amazon continues to insist this even when provided with screenshots from Ingram’s system showing the book is available), and more.
10. In some cases, Amazon pitches their own printing division to the author as an alternative. Sound familiar??
11. When the author signs up for an “Author Central” account (which they might think they need to do to complain to Amazon), they start receiving emails pitching Amazon’s printing division (which has numerous complaints posted about it online). Incidentally, Amazon is rolling out a “new” printing service that many industry folks believe is just an attempt to rebrand their old one. (If I had that many complaints about me online, I’d want to rename and rebrand myself, too!)
12. Some older books are still available on Amazon. Perhaps the listings are too old or too much trouble for Amazon to jiggle them around.
13. Some other older books lose their buy buttons just like new books.
14. Go back to #3 above.
PLAYING WITH DISCOUNTS
Some publishers have tried increasing their discounts on some of their books while others have not. They think giving Ingram and, subsequently, Amazon, a bigger chunk of each sale will change their book’s availability on Amazon.
Some books with new, higher discounts will remain unavailable while some will be made available once again. There is no noticeable pattern on which books Amazon will flip the switch on or not. The reactivated buy button on Amazon may have nothing at all to do with the initial discount, nor the changed discount. There is no set discount rate that automatically makes Amazon turn the buy button back on again.
Some books that don’t have changed discounts will suddenly pop up as available once again (this seems related to how loudly the publisher or author screams at Ingram and/or Amazon). Some authors have reported that purchasing copies of their book from Amazon (despite the long lead times) and/or Amazon’s resellers have spurred Amazon to make the book “available” through Amazon once again.
There’s no rhyme or reason to the process Amazon is using to remove the active buy buttons, nor for re-adding them, nor for leaving some old books alone vs. removing the buy buttons from other older book pages on their site. Neither Ingram nor Amazon is providing real, correct information to publishers or authors about what’s happening behind the scenes. Based on correspondence I have received from some employees at Ingram’s printing division, they are NOT happy with Amazon, which is a no-brainer since they’re the ones fielding the first round of complaints from publishers and authors, and they’re the ones processing countless “tickets” with Amazon support, with very little success.
I recently asked Ingram for an official statement about the situation that we and other publishers can give to authors about this situation. My request went unanswered.
Obviously, Amazon and Ingram are still butting heads. I really don’t understand why Ingram isn’t being forthcoming with publishers and authors about what’s really going on. Perhaps legal action is brewing.
In the meantime, each time Amazon changes a book’s availability, that increases the chances that an author is going to complain directly to Amazon. And, once that author is in contact with Amazon, Amazon can then pitch their printing division to the author, thus bypassing the publisher (and Ingram) altogether.
What do you think? Has Amazon found a new way to play the “turning off the buy button” game with authors and publishers? They didn’t threaten to remove the buy buttons. They just did it, with no warning. And, now they have a way to contact those authors directly, opening the possibility of removing the publisher and Ingram from the picture entirely. And, if they are successful, then Amazon gets the printing business for that book.
On a final note, another publisher I know reported receiving the “switch to CreateSpace or else” phone call in 2016. Hmmm….
What are your thoughts on this situation? First, please check your book on Amazon. If you see these problems, immediately contact your publisher AND Ingram. Then, please contact me HERE with your comments. Your anonymity is guaranteed. I’d love to hear from some Ingram employees about what’s really going on behind the scenes but I won’t hold my breath. I’d REALLY like to hear from an Amazon employee or two but I know the chances of that happening are virtually impossible. REPEAT: Your anonymity is guaranteed!
Amazon Backs Down; Settles Antitrust Lawsuit Filed By BookLocker
(Note: BookSurge was later renamed CreateSpace by Amazon.)
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