This article appeared in Monday’s Special Edition of WritersWeekly.com. You may reprint this article or quote from it at your discretion. You can read/post comments here: http://antitrust.booklocker.com
BookLocker.com has filed a class action lawsuit against Amazon.com in response to Amazon’s recent attempts to force all publishers using Print on Demand (POD) technology to pay Amazon to print their books.
You can read the complaint HERE.
Amazon began their clandestine effort earlier this year by phone (nobody there seemed to want to put anything in writing), approaching POD publishers, and telling them they must pay Amazon to print their books or their active “buy” buttons would be turned off at the Amazon.com website. What this means is Amazon customers won’t be able to purchase those books directly from Amazon.com (and would not qualify for free shipping), but only through third-party resellers on the site.
Under the Amazon/BookSurge contract, Amazon:
- Controls the printing price of the POD books – The prices can change at anytime, at Amazon’s discretion, with 30 days notice.
- Controls the the retail price of the POD books across the board – Publishers would not be able to sell their books for a lower price through “any other channel” (including other bookstores), and would not even be able to sell their books for less to their own customers under any circumstances.
- Controls the wholesale price of the POD books – Amazon’s new contract demands a 48%-52% discount (different contracts have been sent to different publishers). Many small, independent publishers can’t afford to offer this discount to bookstores and would be forced to raise their book prices, which will ultimately hurt book buyers.
- Controls the digital setup and scanning fees for each POD title – After the initial dump of current books, publishers would be charged approximately $50 per title (again, different publishers are receiving different contracts) in setup fees and/or varying scanning fees payable to Amazon/BookSurge. These fees can change at anytime, at Amazon’s discretion, with 30 days notice.
- Controls the formatting specifications – Many publishers can’t absorb the massive number of man-hours required to reformat every single book interior and cover file in their inventory to match Amazon’s specifications.
- Controls the quality of the books – Refer to THIS ARTICLE for details and links. It’s no secret that BookSurge has a poor reputation for quality, including complaints about pages falling out of books, upside-down pages, and more. If a publisher pays Amazon to print their books, their reputation could suffer due to any possible BookSurge quality problems with that publisher’s books.
- Attempts to control the public’s knowledge of who has signed the Amazon/BookSurge contract, along with the details of those contract, through a confidentiality clause, so that publishers signing it may feel that they can’t talk about it at all.
- And, Amazon controls the golden nugget – that coveted “buy” button that book buyers want (so their order can qualify for free shipping).
In a public statement, Amazon offered only one alternative to publishers, which is their “Advantage Program.” However, they did not divulge in the public statement that the terms of the Advantage Program are even worse than their printing contract. The Advantage Program requires publishers to give Amazon 55% of the list price, pay them $29.95/year, and pay the shipping costs for books going to Amazon.
STRONG DISSENT FROM INDUSTRY REPRESENTATIVES
The Author’s Guild, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), The Small Publishers Association of North America (SPAN), YouWriteOn.com (the U.K.’s leading writer’s website) and the National Writer’s Union have all issued strong statements denouncing Amazon’s attempted power grab of the industry.
After hearing rumors of Amazon’s alleged activities, we spoke to an Amazon/Booksurge representative by phone on March 26th. You can read what transpired that day HERE.
After reviewing all the materials presented to us, and after talking on and off the record with publishers, authors and industry representatives at all levels of this controversy, it is our opinion that Amazon may be positioning itself to directly print and control every book it sells. By forcing publishers to sign their extraordinarly oppressive contract, Amazon gains the power to charge publishers whatever printing and distribution costs it desires, as well as controlling the retail, discount and wholesale prices of the books it prints, and, through this contract, automatically positions itself to control the market.
We cannot say for certain if what Amazon is doing is legal or not at this point; that is for the Federal courts to decide. However, in our opinion, the seemingly covert manner in which Amazon has conducted itself in this matter seems to make their actions highly suspicious.
Amazon has already taken control of publishers’ ebook sales on the Amazon.com website by requiring ebooks be available for their ebook reader, the Kindle. Now, Amazon is attempting to take control of the printing of all POD books. We wonder if traditionally published books are next. Some are speculating that Amazon won’t stop until they are being paid to print every book they sell.
You can read more information about this situation HERE, including a time-line of the events that have transpired.
ARE YOU AFFECTED?
According to Amazon’s public statement, ALL POD books will be affected. If you are a POD publisher (this includes self-published authors who publish their own POD books through a printer), and would like more information, please contact:
Angela Hoy, Publisher
angela – at – booklocker.com