Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A statement from Ingrams and Lightning Source

The Amazon debate shows no signs of diminishing yet, with further links to various articles and discussions being added to Angela Hoy's website on an ongoing basis.

Amazon made their by now, infamous statement yesterday, but I see from Mick Rooney's blog, that Ingrams (who of course own Lightning Source) have also added one of their own, which Mick summarised as follows:

John Ingram said, while “the questions that are being raised about and its Booksurge division don't directly relate to Ingram - either Lightning Source Inc. or Ingram Book Group - it clearly is alarming many of our publisher partners.” John Ingram goes on to say, “publishers are telling us they feel’s actions are not appropriate.”Amazon have yet to directly respond to Ingram, and it remains to be seen if they will. John Ingram continued, “We all live in a world where decisions are made about in sourcing and outsourcing, and free choice is important. At Ingram Book and Lightning Source, we are going to work really hard to continue to be the compelling choice as publishers make their outsourcing decisions. Our breadth of distribution channels including the online retailers remains the same, and Ingram still provides one day turnaround in the fulfillment of orders for books including print on demand titles.”

John is of course absolutely correct, Lightning Source do offer a far superior service in every way possible. How can they not do when they are part of the US's largest wholesaler Ingrams, through which virtually every US book store obtains their stock. Booksurge realistically cannot compete with that on any level.

Mick it seems though has one hell of a sense of humour, since after I added comments to his blog yesterday expressing my opinion re the Amazon statement he replied as follows:

"Yes, June, the Amazon 'Interested parties' statement released on Monday is very much a sales pitch aimed at their customers. What it fails to mention is that for quite some time Lightning Source Inc have been 'drop-shipping' the POD books ordered on Amazon. So when customers get those nice cardboard cartoned books, with the Amazon logo emblazoned on it, delivered directly to their doorstep - it has all all been done by LSI. I think the worst thing about Amazon's move is the 'sop' the say about how POD publishers can send 5 copies of each book to them to house for their inventory! Lets see LSI deal with 4400 POD accounts approximately, hmmm, let's say at the most reserved estimate per publisher 50 titles and times 5 copies, hmmm, I get a holding inventory of 1.1 million books. I think every POD should take them up on their offer. That 'ill teach 'em."

It certainly would, and the idea of this happening I must admit did put a smile on my face. I somehow don't think their system would be able to cope ...

Mick though is absolutely right, that Lightning Source have indeed been sending goods directly to the customers homes for some time, as they do for all manner of other companies that they have accounts with. It is common knowledge that they have the facilities to do this - even printing a compliment slip in the account holders name (for arguments sake Amazon) so that it looks like the goods have come direct from them, when in reality they have come direct from the printer.

There is an interesting link on Angela Hoy's website where some comments have been made by one Glenn Fleishman, a former Amazon employee, which are very illuminating to say the least. Glenn, who claims to have worked for Amazon for around six months, states that in his opinion "this whole POD scheme stinks to me of MBA-ism. Because we can do something, we will try it, and we are the big player, so we get to make the rules. We’ll see how this plays out. I suspect it’s going to result in a top-down management decision from higher in the Amazon food chain, some apologies, and some more black eyes for the firm." Let's hope he is right.

In the meantime, on that same website, a lady named Julie, who claims to have worked for Amazon in one of their US distribution centres last Christmas, and for all we know may still work there, has confirmed in her own words that "there are two or three main ones (distribution centres) that have everything including the POD equipment. All the rest are “forward deployment” centers which just have the most popular items in stock just outside major cities. In other words, Angela Hoy was right yesterday when she said that Amazon, contrary to their grand claims of saving the environment and improving customer service, do not print books at all of their centres.

None of this is really the issue, it is about them trying to monopolise the market and limit the options available to both authors and publishers wishing to sell their books direct on

Lightning Source, alongside Ingrams have also made a statement of their own, which can be read as follows:

April 1, 2008

Dear Customer

Lightning Source has been following the recent press coverage and discussions about and BookSurge. We are aware of the concern this is causing the publishing community. The issue centers around tying the availability of your books and terms of sale at to the production of books at the subsidiary BookSurge, specifically requiring you to use BookSurge in order to sell on Amazon.

Like you, we are very concerned about any conduct that would serve to limit a publisher’s choice in supply chain partners and to negatively impact the cost of your products to consumers. We believe that choice and selection of best of class services are critical to the long term success of publishers and a vibrant book market.

Lightning Source continues to provide the highest quality digital on demand print and distribution services for every one of our customers. All your titles continue to be available to all of our channel partners, including, with immediate availability for shipment within 24 hours.

We are committed to providing you with the best of class quality product and fastest distribution service in the market, and will continually work to develop new channels and new offerings.
Lightning Source will continue to monitor this situation and let you know when we have more information. Please feel free to call your Lightning Source point of contact, if you have any additional questions.

J. Kirby
BestPresident & CEO, Lightning Source Inc.

Can't really argue with that and personally I say to him, best of British luck!


Anonymous said...

Authors and publishers need to realize that if they sign up for Amazon/BookSurge they'll get stuck with a grim side-effect. They will have signed away any quality control over their books. BookSurge has few clients because its service and print quality is awful. I talked with BookSurge several years ago, and came away with the impression that it was a company run by and for its sales team, with no concern for anything else and little understanding of the book industry. This bullying behavior merely confirms that. The salesmen are getting desperate.

And, as the post above mentions, Amazon isn't remotely close to being able to handle the quantity, much less quality issues involved in a forced shift to BookSurge.

One thing that needs to be developed is a formal statement that POD authors and publishers could get behind. If would define the standards that Amazon must meet, standards that would include Amazon quickly handling and processing, at their expense, all returns and book detail pages that clearly state, "This book printed by Amazon. All returns for quality issues should be returned to Amazon by calling 1-800-xxxx."

And while I think we should try to get the Washington State Attorney General to act on this, that's a rather distant hope. They never acted when Microsoft went nasty. They did nothing when Boeing was caught bribing someone in the USAF. They're a paper tiger for anything but little scams involving poor widows.

We need to deal with this issue broadly and strategically. Amazon wants to twist the book market so it gets the lion's share of the profit while shifting the burdens on to others. A statement that Amazon would be required to sign would reverse that process. Amazon says it wants to print and ship books within two hours. We know that's bosh. They simply want to grab the printing profits too. But we need to turn their professed concern for customers against them. Demand that they ship all books within some short period of time or pass the order on to Lightning.

And since they could easily print 1,000 books and pay us for 500, we must demand full and detailed accounting of each and every sale. I trust Lightning. I don't trust Amazon.

And yes, some would have us stubborn hold out as individuals, simply refusing to do anything and let Amazon get away with claiming to be serving their customers. That won't work in the long run. They will wear many of us down. We need to take charge of this debate, dictating standards to Amazon if they want to run every aspect of printing and distributing our books.

Will Amazon agree to those standards, perfectly reasonable ones that demonstrate that they care about their customers and want to act in good faith toward us? Of course not. But it will make this scheme so painful, they'll have to drop it like a hot potato. And hopefully they'll be so burned they won't try it again.

Anonymous said...

YES, we should be contacting the attorney general's office. I have posted a form on my blog that easily allows you to contact them -