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PostPosted: April 4th, 2008, 9:46 pm 
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Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 3:15 PM
Subject: Amazon Tightens Grip on Long Tail; Info Requested


Last week Amazon announced that it would be requiring that all books that it sells that are produced through on-demand means be printed by BookSurge, their in-house on-demand printer/publisher. Amazon pitched this as a customer service matter, a means for more speedily delivering print-on-demand books and allowing for the bundling of shipments with other items purchased at the same time from Amazon. It also put a bit of an environmental spin on the move -- claiming less transportation fuel is used (this is unlikely, but that's another story) when all items are shipped directly from Amazon.

We, and many others, think something else is afoot. Ingram Industries' Lightning Source is currently the dominant printer for on-demand titles, and they appear to be quite efficient at their task. They ship on-demand titles shortly after they are ordered through Amazon directly to the customer. It's a nice business for Ingram, since they get a percentage of the sales and a printing fee for every on-demand book they ship. Amazon would be foolish not to covet that business.

What's the rub? Once Amazon owns the supply chain, it has effective control of much of the "long tail" of publishing -- the enormous number of titles that sell in low volumes but which, in aggregate, make a lot of money for the aggregator. Since Amazon has a firm grip on the retailing of these books (it's uneconomic for physical book stores to stock many of these titles), owning the supply chain would allow it to easily increase its profit margins on these books: it need only insist on buying at a deeper discount -- or it can choose to charge more for its printing of the books -- to increase its profits. Most publishers could do little but grumble and comply.

We suspect this maneuver by Amazon is far more about profit margin than it is about customer service or fossil fuels. The potential big losers (other than Ingram) if Amazon does impose greater discounts on the industry, are authors -- since many are paid for on-demand sales based on the publisher's gross revenues -- and publishers.

We're reviewing the antitrust and other legal implications of Amazon's bold move. If you have any information on this matter that you think could be helpful to us, please call us at (212) 563-5904 and ask for the legal services department, or send an e-mail to staff@authorsguild.org.

Feel free to post or forward this message in its entirety.

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Copyright 2008, The Authors Guild. The Authors Guild (http://www.authorsguild.org) is the nation's largest society of published book authors.


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PostPosted: April 5th, 2008, 3:09 pm 
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Joined: December 18th, 2004, 9:46 am
Posts: 1971
Location: Central Virginia
angelahoy wrote:
Sent: Friday, April 04, 2008 3:15 PM
Subject: Amazon Tightens Grip on Long Tail; Info Requested


Last week Amazon announced that it would be requiring that all books that it sells that are produced through on-demand means be printed by BookSurge, their in-house on-demand printer/publisher. Amazon pitched this as a customer service matter, a means for more speedily delivering print-on-demand books and allowing for the bundling of shipments with other items purchased at the same time from Amazon. It also put a bit of an environmental spin on the move -- claiming less transportation fuel is used (this is unlikely, but that's another story) when all items are shipped directly from Amazon.

We, and many others, think something else is afoot. Ingram Industries' Lightning Source is currently the dominant printer for on-demand titles, and they appear to be quite efficient at their task. They ship on-demand titles shortly after they are ordered through Amazon directly to the customer. It's a nice business for Ingram, since they get a percentage of the sales and a printing fee for every on-demand book they ship. Amazon would be foolish not to covet that business.

What's the rub? Once Amazon owns the supply chain, it has effective control of much of the "long tail" of publishing -- the enormous number of titles that sell in low volumes but which, in aggregate, make a lot of money for the aggregator. Since Amazon has a firm grip on the retailing of these books (it's uneconomic for physical book stores to stock many of these titles), owning the supply chain would allow it to easily increase its profit margins on these books: it need only insist on buying at a deeper discount -- or it can choose to charge more for its printing of the books -- to increase its profits. Most publishers could do little but grumble and comply.

We suspect this maneuver by Amazon is far more about profit margin than it is about customer service or fossil fuels. The potential big losers (other than Ingram) if Amazon does impose greater discounts on the industry, are authors -- since many are paid for on-demand sales based on the publisher's gross revenues -- and publishers.

We're reviewing the antitrust and other legal implications of Amazon's bold move. If you have any information on this matter that you think could be helpful to us, please call us at (212) 563-5904 and ask for the legal services department, or send an e-mail to staff@authorsguild.org.

Feel free to post or forward this message in its entirety.

-----------------------

Copyright 2008, The Authors Guild. The Authors Guild (http://www.authorsguild.org) is the nation's largest society of published book authors.


Too, at some point, the reader gets burned. Any rise in profits has to come from either greater efficiency, which I don't see, or raised prices. As usual, the little guys and gals, the people who provide the support for the entire damned industry, takes it in the shorts.

But the stockholders will be happier.

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www.charlieselfonline.com


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PostPosted: April 7th, 2008, 7:58 am 
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Joined: April 29th, 2004, 8:49 pm
Posts: 3631
Location: God's country
This is what I was complaining about on my case--that Anti Trust Laws needs to examine the contracts that are absolutely unethical. Hopefully we are making progress in this area in general. so happy to hear this!

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PostPosted: April 7th, 2008, 9:07 am 
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Joined: December 18th, 2004, 9:46 am
Posts: 1971
Location: Central Virginia
Willow wrote:
This is what I was complaining about on my case--that Anti Trust Laws needs to examine the contracts that are absolutely unethical. Hopefully we are making progress in this area in general. so happy to hear this!


Antitrust and ethics are two different things. I can't see a single ground for an antitrust suit, and I'd bet the lawyers can't either.

Yes, standard contracts are bad. But there is no compulsion to sign, and other contracts are available. What we're seeing with Amazon is clearly restraint of trade, though I doubt it's truly an antitrust case. What you're seeing with standard book contracts (not involved in the Amazon dispute) is simply a few clauses that are objectional--yours is more objectional than most. But if you had read the contract through, or had gotten a lawyer to read it, the publisher would almost certainly have changed it on request, or you could have taken your book elsewhere. How is that antitrust?

I'm curious about one other thing: Have you talked to your publisher about this, asked him/her if changes can be made for any further books?

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PostPosted: April 8th, 2008, 1:03 am 
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Joined: July 27th, 2003, 11:46 am
Posts: 19
As a freelance writer with a degree in journalism (and also worked in publishing), I think this is absolutely repulsive what Amazon is doing to both writers and publishers.

I'm not surprised as this is typical slimy tactics of big corporate publishing Nazis. I signed the petitions on here and hope others will as well. This is really disgusting and they can't get away with it!


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PostPosted: April 9th, 2008, 9:41 am 
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Joined: April 29th, 2004, 8:49 pm
Posts: 3631
Location: God's country
There will not be any further books with him. I will NEVER do anything with that publisher again. I will never publish with anyone other than myself from here on out. The 'want to see your name in print' is not a motivation for me any more. First of all, it doesn't translate into a livable income, so who cares...and secondly, my own publishing efforts bring in more than theirs. My mailing list and following is large enough that I don't need a standard publisher any more. That's great to have reached that area and will definitely help me in the future but I'm not changing any contracts with him about future books because there will be none.

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