How can Amazon have Print on Demand books in stock that nobody has ordered yet?

How can Amazon have Print on Demand books in stock that nobody has ordered yet?

Q –

I just read your response about the person who said a buyer bought an old copy of their book. You said to buy the remaining books from Amazon so future book buyers wouldn’t receive those old copies.

But, the writer said their book was print on demand. Why would Amazon have copies of a book no one ordered yet, and keep it on the shelf? I thought that’s not how print-on-demand works?


A –

This is actually a very common question I hear from new authors.

Print on Demand (P.O.D. or POD) is simply a term that describes a method for printing books. As is states, each book is printed on demand, when it is ordered by a publisher, author, distributor, retailer, or book buying customer, depending on where that purchase occurs.

Amazon can choose to stock a POD book for any reason, especially if it’s selling well, or getting significant press. They may even choose to list a book as “in stock” that they don’t have in stock at all. If someone clicks to buy the book on Amazon, they can quickly order a copy from Ingram, the largest book distributor, and have Ingram obtain the book, and ship it directly to Amazon’s customer, even using an return address label.

Another scenario is a returned book. Amazon allows returns by its customers. If a customer returns a POD book, Amazon will put that on their shelf, and resell it to another customer later rather than having a new copy printed. In these cases, the author only earns royalties for one sale, not both, because Amazon gave the first customer a refund.

Also, undelivered books are restocked by Amazon. A certain percentage of packages never reach their destination and you’d be surprised how many people never contact the seller after not receiving their product. Amazon automatically credits the customer’s account, and then puts that book back on their shelf, and resells it to the next person who orders a copy. Again, authors only earn a royalty on one of those sales.

So, yes, Amazon does stock “print on demand” books for a variety of reasons. And, this is why buyers attempting to purchase a “new edition” of a particular book might end up receiving an older edition. Amazon will always ship an existing copy of a book to a customer rather than ordering a new copy to be printed and shipped. And, they have every┬áright to do so. They can’t be forced to discard old books simply because the author made updates? Why? Because Amazon already paid for those books.

How can authors avoid this? If you are making significant changes to your book, I recommend:

1. Publishing the new edition with a new ISBN. It will cost more in the end to publish a brand new book but it’s unlikely your readers will get confused since you’ll be providing them with the book’s new links for purchasing. Amazon doesn’t remove old book pages but, if your new edition has a new ISBN, Amazon will assign it a unique page on their site.

2. Add “SECOND EDITION” after the title of the book everywhere – on the cover, on the title page, and in your marketing materials. That further prevents buyers from getting confused, and buying the old edition.

Angela Hoy lives on a mountain in North Georgia. She is the publisher of, the President and CEO of and AbuzzPress, and the author of 24 books.

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One Response to "How can Amazon have Print on Demand books in stock that nobody has ordered yet?"

  1. Anonymous  September 1, 2018 at 3:27 pm

    Thank you!