Saturday, April 05, 2008

Authors Guild Issues Statement

Subject: Amazon Tightens Grip on Long Tail

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

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

Copyright 2008, The Authors Guild. The Authors Guild ( is the nation's largest society of published book authors.

Amazon hits the non publishing press

There is not much to report re Amazon, as one would expect at the weekend, except for an interesting discussion on my favourite writers forum, My Writers Circle, which has dragged me back into this in some ways. It is difficult not to get too involved in this, and start getting angry all over again, but I can't help but feel that Amazon have made a big mistake that will come back to haunt them in the night.

Marion Webb de Sisto feels the same way, as she sent me an email today with a link to The Times website which she entitled Karma for Amazon. Marion, like me, is a spiritual writer, so she knows about these things. The article, which is written by reporter Dalya Alberge, the Arts correspondent is entitled Amazon furious after publishers undercut its book prices online. Personally I say tough titties - they publish these books and bore the financial risk, so they are damned well entitled to charge any price that they like. If Amazon don't like it then tough !

Dalya reports as follows:

"An online price war for books has broken out, pitching Amazon against some of Britain’s biggest publishers.

Amazon is angry that Penguin, Bloomsbury and others are discounting titles on their websites, encouraging customers to buy direct instead of using the online retailer.

Penguin’s online store has reduced a boxed set of 20 Penguin Epics from £100 to £55. Amazon sells the collection at £98.64. Bloomsbury offers a 25 per cent discount on all its books, with free postage and packing on British deliveries over £20.

There are fears that Amazon may retaliate by regarding a publisher’s online price as the recommended retail price and applying its trading terms to that. If a publisher discounts a £20 book to £15 online and Amazon has a contract for a 50 per cent discount on the full price, Amazon would pay the company £7.50 instead of £10. Publishers say that this would be unfair and could ultimately drive up prices.

Amazon also faces increased competition from high-street booksellers, including Waterstones and Borders, who are stepping up their online activities. Such is the power of Amazon that several publishers did not feel able to talk on the record yesterday. One senior executive said: “It’s very serious. I can’t believe they’d be allowed to get away with it under competition law. Forcing people to increase prices seems to me entirely wrong.”

Others accused Amazon of having become particularly aggressive lately. One source claimed that the online seller recently removed the “buy buttons” from a book on its website to prevent users from being able to purchase it. “They then went to the publisher and said, ‘Give us an extra 2 or 3 per cent or we won’t put the buy buttons back’,” the source said.

An Amazon spokesman said: “It is speculation. We never talk about discussions with suppliers.” He declined to comment further.

Discounters have brought huge price advantages to book buyers, but the discount businesses do not have to bear the risks associated with investing in new authors or new titles by established authors. Until the Net Book Agreement was scrapped in 1995, it offered some protection to publishers, by ensuring that retailers sold books at the recommended price.

Roger Tagholm, of the trade paper Publishing News, believes that Amazon sees publishers as manufacturers, who should not be setting prices.

But Simon Juden, chief executive of the Publishers Association, which represents up to 140 publishers, felt that Amazon was on shaky legal ground. He said: “Terms of trade will have been set up upfront, when contracts were signed. Neither side can unilaterally change those. In my view, Amazon would be in breach of contract if they tried to do this.”

Ursula Mackenzie, chief executive officer and publisher of Little, Brown and chair of the Trade Publishers Council, said: “Our discount to Amazon is based on a notional RRP (recommended retail price), an agreed formula that we work to. For them to suddenly decide they will take a different view of what that RRP was means that the price on the publisher’s website effectively becomes the RRP. They can’t do that unilaterally. What is going to exercise people is that we can all see the growth of Amazon, which is startling and rapid, so they will increasingly have considerable power and there is no real competition to them. That’s the concern.”

There are fears that the latest development could affect authors and independent booksellers. Mark Le Fanu, of the Society of Authors, said: “Discounts demanded by the big retailers have been rising relentlessly, squeezing authors’ royalties. We hope that publishers will resist any pressure to increase discounts still further.”

One publisher was found to be broadly supportive of Amazon, although he also preferred to speak off the record. “I can’t see that it’s a major problem. Amazon sell their books at all sorts of discounts. That’s the nature of the market. They’re free to sell them at whatever price they like.”

I still find it very interesting how this is forcing the commercial presses into the equation, so that they have to look at how their own arguably equally aggressive slant on pricing and discounting comes back to haunt them. They may not be directly involved in setting such policy, and to some extent the abolition of the net book price agreement has rendered them powerless, but they have been complicit in allowing discounts to become greater each year by stealth, and many of them as well remain hostile towards self published books issued via print on demand, while at the same using the technology for their own ends. This is a double standard. Understand that this is more of an observation than a criticism, as like I said yesterday, I have to try and remain detached from this situation and not get too emotionally involved.

Nadine Laman from My Writers Circle sent me an interesting link to the Finance pages on AOL, which keeps track of Amazon's share price. Nothing much seems to be happening at the moment, but there is also a link on that page to some comments written by former hedge fund manager, television presenter and and self publisher Timothy Sykes. Timothy says that Amazon have proved through their actions that they care little for those who helped make their billions, which let's face facts- are the readers, writers and publishers.

The article states:

"Amazon bullying raises monopoly and business concerns

In the last few days, book selling giant Inc (NASDAQ: AMZN) has made a few more enemies in the publishing world by forcing the little-known group of print-on-demand (POD) publishers to either submit to using its POD subsidiary, Booksurge, or risk being prohibited from selling on its industry-leading website. No matter the cost and complications of breaking off relationships with other vendors, re-formatting books and a host of other problems, Amazon laid down the law, saying convert - and do it quickly - or face the consequences.

What's more disconcerting is that an official press release was made public only after smaller publishers like Angela Hoy of started writing publicly about blackmail-type phone calls from Booksurge representatives. Fearful of losing their businesses literally overnight, many POD publishers such as iUniverse and Lulu have capitulated while strong willed publisher PublishAmerica refused to give in - and was quickly made an example of when Amazon disabled the buy buttons on their book titles!

As an author selling my own critically-acclaimed POD book An American Hedge Fund on Amazon, outrage has compelled me to write about how unethical and more importantly, monopolistic this all is.

In a short-term business sense, Amazon is right to use its massive size to gain market share for Booksurge and squeeze out the smaller players, but the problem is this goes against what made it great - offering the lowest prices and widest selection, basically like an online Wal-Mart Stores Inc (NYSE: WMT). To authors and publishers, Booksurge is known for its poor product quality and high cost structure, supremely inferior on both fronts to rival Lightning Source (LS) -- trust me, I did the research and that's why I chose LS - the POD subsidiary of Ingram Industries, the leading book wholesaler and the company on which Amazon has clearly declared war.

So, by making Booksurge the only POD option, relegating quality-loving publishers and authors to much smaller websites of Borders Group (NYSE: BGP) and Barnes & Noble Inc (NYSE: BKS), Amazon proves it no longer cares about its customers getting the widest selection at the cheapest prices - oh yes, even publishers that give into Amazon's demands will be forced to raise their prices - it cares more about its own profits.

Until this latest development, I believed Amazon was the future of book selling. It was making money, as were the publishers and customers who received the cost/quality benefits, but when a company happily alienates its suppliers whose hardships will inevitably be felt by the company's customers, I cry foul. Authors, readers, consumers and businesspeople unite! Sign THIS petition and let Amazon know what it is doing is wrong. That it is only a retail giant because we, the consumers, say so. We, not it, have the power here. While POD publishing is just a tiny niche, it's a slippery slope; if you let Amazon get away with this, it might be your business and industry it comes after next."
Amen to that.

My reflection is changing

Today I am feeling so much better, and more relaxed than I have for a long time. It is like a ten tonne weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and I can once again walk tall. There is a long way to go for sure, and an awful lot still to be let go of (it is as always an ongoing process), but changes are starting to be made.

When I woke up this morning and took my glasses cleaner out of my handbag, as I do every day, I found that I had broken my mirror. Normally this is a sign of seven years bad luck, but I don't believe in nonsense such as this. When I showed it to Coran, he commented that my reflection had changed, and I must say that I like the idea of that.

Since yesterday, I have been making a conscious effort to watch my mind a lot more (be more mindful), and I have been surprised at the number of times I catch myself thinking about this book. Diana Summer was right when she said to me that letting go of it would be like a grieving process, for already that is what it it beginning to feel like. I feel like I am at a loose end, as I have nothing to do - I am forbidden from doing any promotional work of any kind for the next three weeks, and have to try doubly hard not to get embroiled in any of the things currently going on in publishing either - this in some ways is even harder than the not doing any book work part.

I have become aware then of just how much time this has taken over my life - it is there from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed - this feeling that I should be doing this or doing that - nonsense of course, for the word should has such negative connotations. It implies guilt and that there will be consequences for not carrying out whatever it is we 'should' be doing. The word then is now banished from my vocabulary, to be replaced with the word could, as that implies much more of a choice, which is healthier all round.

What then have I done today? This morning I had the first of four appointments with my friend Melanie from the astrology group, who is studying reflexology. I volunteered to be one of her case studies, as a means of helping her out and getting some free treatment, I admit. She has a very light touch as she is still a relative beginner, but we all have to learn. I remember how nervous I was when I first started my massage course all those years ago (eleven to be exact, as it was just before I met Coran for the second time). I was terrified that I would hurt someone and be too rough, and I think Melanie, although she is also studying Polarity Therapy, probably feels the same way. It was very relaxing, and it was nice to meet up and have a good chat and get to know her a bit better. We will see each other again for the next session on Friday.

I then met Coran for lunch, and a bit of shopping before driving home in the rain. I did some surfing, and Coran went round to one of our neighbours houses to sort out a computer problem while I did some more clearing up - including wait for this - hoovering the house. I hate hoovering and only do it when I absolutely have to. I even washed the kitchen floor and cleaned the bathroom.

I am now having a breather while I write this blog, and another entry in a moment re the latest Amazon developments (I really am trying not to get het up about this now!), before settling down with a nice cup of tea and the latest edition of Star Trek. Coran had better be home in the next half hour then, as I haven't a clue how to work our video recorder !

Friday, April 04, 2008

From darkness to light

I feel as if I have been hibernating for six long months and am finally coming back to life. It is like I am awakening from a long and deep slumber. Some of this feeling may be attributed to the fact that we are moving from winter into spring, the clocks having moved forward by an hour here last weekend. Most of it though can be attributed to the fact that today I made some startling revelations.

This came about largely as a result of my reading with Diana Summer, which was illuminating indeed. I asked four questions - the first of which concerned both my working life and my book, and how to find the balance between the two. The second concerned a colleague from work, who has been pressing my buttons of late. The third was about the Amazon debate and the final question was regarding one of my crystal skulls, and whether it was appropriate to sell her on to another interested party. The answer in this case was a resounding no, but that was a small part of the reading, the most important things that Diana had to say concerned of course both the book and Amazon, which as I discovered, are inextricably linked.

After Richard made the decision to ask Gardners to take my book as a stocked title, I began to immerse myself totally in the publishing world. I spent hour after hour ringing various book stores, networking on various sites and surfing websites such as The Bookseller and Publishing News, so that I knew how the industry operated and really got to grips with what was happening in the book world. I poured my heart and my soul and everything I possibly had into that book, and not without good reason. But in so doing I created a huge problem, for in holding on to it so tight, and being so immersed, cocooned almost in this energy field, the book became almost a part of me, so much so that there was no longer a separation between the two, and I could not let it go to fly. That then is the reason why the sales, although very good by print on demand standards, did not meet my expectations, and that is also the reason why after all my hard work, those books came back - because I had never released them in the first place.

Part of the problem has also been this web of anger and frustration at the way that the industry operates, and this is closely tied to the Amazon debate. I don't think it is a coincidence that this kicked off while I was waiting for that reading, as it brought the whole thing (the anger and frustration that I have carried for far too long) to a head. It is then merely a symbol of the ongoing struggle that I have endured, or told myself that I endured, for six long months, in fact when I think back on it, seven long years, as this goes back to the time when I first began to write, back in March 2001 (was it that long ago?) They say that things go in seven year cycles, so it seems right then that this is the time to finally do what I should have done when the book was first published, and let it go.

Diana then talked me through some ideas for a short ritual which I conducted just after 3pm today in our back garden in the shimmering sunshine of a beautiful spring day. I laid out two copies of the book - one first edition, one second edition, surrounded by seven crystals which I cleansed first under running water, and my Ruby Aura crystal skull. I then lit a candle, which I placed in a plant pot to stop it from blowing out, and said a short invocation that I released all lower vibrational energies surrounding this book back to the universe, and all ties that bound the book to me, all forms of 'negative' emotion, such as fear, anger, frustration, guilt, unhappiness, despair, despondency, all the things I have felt for months now and not really been able to adequately put into words. I then left the books, together with the crystals and the candle in the garden for a few hours while I started to clear the house.

I started by moving those books that came from Gardners into the loft - out of sight will be out of mind. I then destroyed the original boxes that they came in, and started to clear the clutter from the living room that has been building up for months. Later on in the early evening, I played a CD of some nice soft dance music and walked around the house with some chimes, gently tapping them into each corner of each room throughout the house to clear the energy which has become stuck and has been holding both Coran and I back for some time.

The Amazon debacle can be seen as another symptom of the anger and frustration that until this morning surrounded me (thankfully it is now beginning to dissipate). It was entirely understandable that I reacted in the way that I did, and I don't regret the actions that I took, for life is too short for regrets, but with hindsight it was wrong for me to get so closely involved in a situation that does not appear to directly affect authors in this country. I mean no disrespect to my writing friends across the pond, and will continue to support them in any way that I can, but I have decided that I really cannot afford to give so much energy away fighting for this cause and getting even more angry and frustrated, as all it does is create a series of never decreasing circles. I am angry and this shows when I ring book stores and other outlets and so they don't order my book, then I get even more angry and so it goes on.

It is time I learnt to step back and realised that it is not my job to save the world. In one way or another I have been fighting all my life - fighting to be seen as a child in the playground, fighting for my parents love, fighting for acceptance from my peers, fighting for acknowledgement and fair treatment from various employers. In the end it boils down to the fact that deep down inside I have never accepted myself for who and what I am, and others have simply held a mirror up to face, and reflected that back at me.

It is not my job to save the world, but rather, my job to save myself. I say this in the knowledge that they are actually the same thing, for if I can learn to accept myself and the things that I see around me, then there will no longer be a need to fight in the first place. The pain that we feel is caused by our own resistance to what is happening around us. By accepting or rather, surrendering to the pain and looking for the lesson within, the pain diminishes and slowly dies, for the emotion is then neutralised.

The other side to this is that I need to put much more of my heart and soul into my work. The reason my colleague has been undermining me in the way that he has is because I have not been sufficiently present when at work. He has said several times that he did not realise I was talking to customers when I questioned him about why he butted in, and I did not understand how he could have felt this, but now I do. When one's energy and one's heart is elsewhere, as mine has been at work, you cannot be seen and cannot be heard and cannot be acknowledged, that is why he quite literally did not see that I was there with those customers and saying those things, for the simple reason that I was not. It is astoundingly simple and obvious when I think about it, and changes will be made to rectify this, starting on Monday.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Another way of viewing things

A new energy alert has just arrived in my inbox from Karen Bishop, which when I read it just now, felt compelled to post on here, since it serves as such a potent reminder for us to stay true to out authentic selves while the whole Amazon debacle continues to rage, and shows us that there may be another way of viewing this, difficult as that might be - with love rather than anger.

For those who have not heard of Karen's work before, she is the author and web host of 'What's up on Planet Earth'. Emails in the form of energy alerts are offered several times per month by subscribing to the site. Here then is her latest message. Make of if what you will, and keep an open mind and heart:


Some incredible new openings arrived for us on April 1st. Like a huge flower opening and readying to bloom, much was revealed to us and a very new doorway opened to allow an effortless and beautiful entry into a higher vibrating reality and world of our wildest dreams.

Some are having awesome and incredible experiences, and others are feeling stagnation and heaviness. There is a key to this door to heaven, and all we need do is be willing to grasp it and open the door.

I have been telling a tale the past months or perhaps years of dimensional hierarchies. I have been telling a tale about how we would eventually arrive in a space where we would be on a new and different “other side,” spending limited but valuable time on the dimensional border, and rarely going back to the lower and denser dimensions which will be crashing as they prepare to depart. This is all finally occurring now. This scenario is most certainly here…we are smack in the middle of it now.

What is the key to the door and what are some of the manifestations of this very new arrival into the higher realms?

Manifestations: The density in the higher realms is much lighter. This means that what remains is mostly the purer forms of vibration, with much gone that was released and purged (remember 2007, the year of purging and growth?). So then, there is not nearly as much “in between” manifestations of form. When we look out through the windows of our eyes, we don’t see as much forest, as much has been cleared.

In this regard, our boundaries are now much thinner. Very commonly through the ascension process, we experience specific phases of unpleasantness relating to boundaries. These phases always occur when we have reached a new and higher vibrating plateau. We can have an experience where we feel we have been violated, intruded upon, or perhaps that we were taken advantage of for our goodness, kindness and understanding. We can feel as if someone or something has entered our private space, taken control when we have not given permission, and is doing things or vibrating in ways that make us extremely uncomfortable. An unpleasant energy seems to want to run our show without our permission. There seems to be an uninvited intruder present.

Here is what is occurring: The lower vibrating energies are in extreme fear now, as they are aware (but rarely consciously) that they are departing. They are grasping to hold onto something. They are grabbing a shore and the shore is us. We feel good to them as we vibrate higher. We are loving and understanding. Thus, they are clinging onto us in desperation, and unfortunately, our understanding nature makes us very vulnerable.

Because of the new boundary situation with less density and boundaries present, they are really in our spaces. Having this kind of lower vibrating and very fearful and extreme energy within our spaces can feel scary, out of control, and even create panic and anxiety. The antidote can be simple ….we need to show love to these energies while we most assuredly refuse to allow these energies to continue their dance. We need to extricate ourselves from them, as they will most certainly pull us down into their space.

We can love them, but we need not spend all our time with them. Being firm while moving on is the best scenario here. But there is yet another piece. Compassion is a higher vibrating energy, but love vibrates even higher. When we are in compassion, we are taking on the energy of that which we are feeling compassion for. This pulls us down. In addition, there is no compassion on the other side as there is no suffering. Deep caring can be awesome, but too much of it can allow us to give ourselves away. Love is pure and simple. We love but do not own or relate anymore to the energies of which we are no longer in alignment with. Love and limited caring until we are able to be only in pure love is perhaps the best scenario in dealing with these energies.

Love and move on. Understand and care briefly, and move on. And when we are in the spaces of these lower vibrating energies, vibrating love to them will keep our own vibrations high while allowing us to reside in these spaces of dimensional divide for a limited time.

As the doors have finally flown open for our new residency in a higher realms reality, staying back with these fearful energies will only serve to pull us down, delay our arrival, and devalue ourselves as well. We have most certainly earned this new chapter, or new book of the life of our wildest dreams, and putting ourselves first will guarantee our arrival with complete certainty.

Is this being selfish? One of the “keys of being” that is included in Stepping Into the New Reality (yes, finally out soon for those of you who may be interested!) is that we have to put ourselves first. We can’t pour water from an empty pitcher. This way of being also keeps our vibration high as well.

What about service? Yes, very important here in regard to the dimensional hierarchies. Non-physical beings don’t spend a lot of time in our dimension, even though they can be great advisors and love us dearly. They do not spend much time in our dimension because they cannot. Higher and lower vibrating energies cannot exist in the same space for long periods of time.

We can always go lower, but we cannot go higher until we are matching that higher vibration within ourselves. We are now being asked to go higher and stay there as we are now vibrating higher. When we drop down to assist those vibrating lower, at the space of the dimensional boundary, we can only stay there for limited times of service, vibrating love and assistance through our store-fronts, and then we must go back home.

And any lower than the dimensional divide is the old world. The old world is falling fast now. Here in the US, the economy is crashing, as the old world is experiencing a need to turn inside out while its value system is re-structuring. Staying out of the old world is a necessity now, as we do not want to go down with the ship.

The key to the other side?

Letting go of the burdens and responsibilities that are not ours. Letting go of the illusional “have to’s.” No longer being there for others. Allowing the energies and journeys of others to be their own. Focusing on where we are now vibrating, or the higher realms, and really seeing where we actually are instead of focusing on what is falling away. The higher realms is right in front of us and many times we do not even notice. Not taking on the energies of others, not doing it all, and not feeling responsible for the whole of the planet, as the planet is right where it needs to be.

Lots of “nots” here! How about this more higher vibrating version instead: Following our bliss. Allowing ourselves to put ourselves first. Owning our own journey. Staying true to our pure and authentic selves. Being in our own space. Supporting ourselves as this supports the whole as well. And letting go of the burdens.

The theme here is responsibility. Many may need to let go of being over-responsible, but there are others who will need to become more responsible for themselves. Either way, there is an imbalance.

Once we let go and extricate ourselves from the energies of others we will be catapulted like magic into a very new reality. I can assure you, your life will turn into the life of your wildest dreams.

“Well, this doesn’t make much sense Karen,” you might be thinking. “After all, you have been saying for weeks and weeks that we were ‘waiting” for everyone else to catch up!”

We have most certainly been transmuting the energies for the whole. This has been a role of each and every lightworker indeed. And yes, we have been “waiting” for this new opening to occur as we wanted as many people on board as possible.

The transmuting and waiting are what was needed to create the critical mass of energy required to blast through to the other side. The mission has now been accomplished. Life on “the other side” is very different from life in the old world. We no longer transmute or wait for others to catch up, as we are all here right now. Being in our integrity, being true to ourselves, vibrating as high as possible while interacting with others who are doing the same is the way here. Equal contributions are the way as well. This supports the whole.

So then, equal contributions of our gifts and talents, or our true and authentic selves, requires a balance of responsibility…we cannot give too much and we cannot take too much either. Being who we are is the key. When we are all simply being who we are, in our integrity, then we naturally support each other.

We are all integral pieces of the whole, and now that we are vibrating higher and higher, we will begin to congeal in small like minded communities which will be separate from what is falling. We will begin supporting ourselves and no longer relying on support from the old outside world of the masses.

And as more and more individuals residing in the old world begin to be willing to let go and change, we will have the opportunity to assist them in getting to where we are through our store-fronts and our service which will exist on the dimensional border.

At times I receive correspondences from readers who vehemently object to portions of my writings. There is much room in these energy alerts for mis-interpretation. I am unable to go into great detail about each concept, and this can cause mis-interpretations. In addition, we are all vibrating at different levels and see through different filters as well.

So please know that some of this material may seem “off” to some of you without the luxury of a long winded explanation. In the new Stepping Into the New Reality program, there will be an opportunity to ask questions to gain clarity. The books and programs are much more in-depth as well. The energy alerts are meant to bring validation to our experiences and to assist in clarifying this sometimes strange and confusing experience of ascension. Many of us are tired as well and don’t wish to wade through a long winded energy alert several times per month.

My hope and desire is that the brevity of these messages serves to assist and support, and not to confuse. If we never read or attempted to learn one thing in this world, we would all be fine… because very simply, we are always right where we need to be. Enjoying our lives each and every day, being present in them, accepting that we are here having an experience called life, and enjoying the simplicity of each and every moment is all that is ever needed anyway.

We have everything we need right now. We are alive. We have a new opportunity each and every day to create fresh and new. There is much to be grateful for in the simplicity of each moment. We really don’t need to be anywhere else or even know anything!

Wishing you heaven in your heart, starlight in your soul, and miracles in your life in these miraculous times...

Until next time,


Amazon tightens its grip - now dictating to publishers re their own prices !

Chris Work, who posted some comments on one of my earlier posts on this blog, I see from The Bookseller website, has added a form to his blog to contact the Washington State attorney with regard to the Amazon affair. This can be found here. All you have to do is simply copy the text and send it to the email address that Chris provides with any message of your own. I urge everyone involved in this affair to send this form post haste, as like Chris says on his blog, "Amazon isn't going to pay much attention to you or me... but they will listen to anti-trust lawyers of the state of Washington". I don't see that they will have an awful lot of choice in the matter, but then again, I don't know how US law operates, and anything is possible.

The Bookseller it seems though is not the only British heavyweight publishing website to be covering this story, as according to the latest edition of Publishing News, the headlines of which were waiting for me in my inbox when I got home from work today:

"AMAZON HAS THREATENED publishers who sell direct at discount on their own websites with punitive action. PN understands that it has said that if the publisher continues, Amazon will take the selling price as the RRP and apply its terms of trading to that price. In other words, if Amazon receives a 50% discount from Penguin, for example, but Penguin is selling a £20 book for £15 on its website, Amazon will only give Penguin £7.50, rather than £10. One publisher told PN: “This has been around for a while. There have been discussions going on since Frankfurt. Essentially, they're not happy when the manufacturer, as they call us, sets the price of a book. The threat is that they will apply the agreed terms of trading to our web price. But they are on very shaky legal ground. After all, they've been invoiced at an RRP less their discount, so if they refused to pay that amount, they would be in breach of contract.”

Another publisher was more forthright. “Nobody can tell somebody else what price to sell a book at. Publishers will resist this. We're talking about very few titles and we are very confident of our position.”

Although the number of titles being sold direct by publishers is very few, some observers believe Amazon sees it as the thin end of the wedge and wants to fire a warning shot. The move is being driven by Amazon's UK Head of Books, Christopher North, and comes as a blog storm has erupted over's announcement concerning its print-on-demand operation BookSurge. Independent publishers are angered by the US company's decision to economically favour those companies that switch their printing to BookSurge. The row forced Amazon to release an open letter clarifying its position. will sell titles from other POD providers it said, but the publishers would have to join Amazon's Advantage Program, which has a fee. Amazon UK said that are no plans to introduce the service here, but one publisher is taking legal advice. “They're abusing their monopoly position. Once they've got you, they'll start increasing the terms.”

In the background to the moves may be Amazon's realisation that it has effectively dominated online bookselling for some years. Its figures with publishers grow faster than any other retailer (hence publishers' reluctance to anger it), but with other players establishing their online operations - and, shortly, Borders as well as increasing noise from and publishers' own sites - it realises that this might very soon change.

This is indeed the thin end of a very long wedge, and I think Clive Keeble is right when he said a few days ago that "Amazon are a dangerous predator that needs to be stopped".

I have a reading booked with my good friend Diana Summer tomorrow, my first for over a year, to discuss various issues regarding work and the book, and I plan to include this as one of the questions. I have my own theories, some of which I have mentioned in previous posts, but it will be interesting indeed to get spirit's take on this.

Angela Hoy says on her latest post, that she suspects the reason that Authorhouse, I-Universe and Lulu caved in was because there is a clause in their contracts (in Authorhouse and I-Universe's case anyway) that says that authors must pay $75 for inclusion on They have therefore painted themselves into a corner with their own greed, since by failing to sign the Booksurge contract they would have left themselves wide open to being sued by disgruntled authors for breach of contract. I will have to check the Authorhouse UK website, but I believe I am right in saying that they also make a similar charge. Having had dealings with this company when I was looking for a suitable POD provider back in early 2006, I have to say that this would not surprise me, as they seem to charge for pretty much anything they can get away with, and more's the pity, they do ...

Angela goes on to say that "Lulu has third party service providers (that pay Lulu commissions) that offer Amazon listing enhancement services for a fee to Lulu authors. One Lulu author surmised on their forum, "Lulu will just have to supply Amazon with books..." So, perhaps they found themselves in the same bind as AuthorHouse.

The deadline given to some publishers was rumoured to be April 1st and AuthorHouse/ I-Universe and Lulu both announced agreements with Amazon on March 31st - the day before. This leads both Angela and myself to believe that Amazon may have had them both by the probverbial short and curlies. This is what you get though when you charge authors for something that happens automatically without you actually having to do a thing. Make no bones about it, if my publlsher leaves Lightning Source to do all the fulfilment direct with Amazon, then it is exactly the same with all these others too. They are then sitting pretty taking the authors hard earned cash for doing to put it politely, bugger all. I hear the sound of one thousand unseen chickens clucking as they come home to roost ...

Angela also confirms that there is as yet no word from Xlibris, as does my friend UK based author Marion Webb de Sisto, who because she is married to an American and has her largest market there, chose to publish with Xlibris.

I could write much more on this debate if I chose to, but I do have the questions to write for tomorrow, and it has been a long day, and so I am now going to sign off before I email Angela with the links posted on here tonight and hit the snooze button !

UK authors safe from amazon's threat - for the moment ...

British based print on demand authors can for the moment at least, breath a collective sigh of relief, as after almost a weeks silence, Amazon have finally confirmed that they have no plans to implement their controversial print on demand policy within the UK.

Graeme Neil reports on The Bookseller, that the decision to tell publishers of such titles in the United States that their print on demand titles would have to be printed at Amazon's own facilities in order to be directly available on has caused a storm, raising fears that Amazon are trying to squeeze competitors out of the print on demand market.

He goes on to say that "one observer said that the move could be seen as 'the thin end of the wedge'. 'Will they eventually say to HarperCollins for example 'We don't want your physical books anymore. Instead we will print them at our centres'? If you look at what they have done with e-books, they are selling them in their own format. Where do you draw the line?"

Angela Hoy, co-owner of print on demand services company BookLocker, who raised the first objections, said: "From the p.o.d. publishers we've talked to, and from our own experience at BookLocker, we could all be looking at a dire and immediate threat of revenue cuts if we refuse to sign the Amazon/BookSurge contract. 'PublishAmerica said that it had been told that if it did not comply, the "Buy" button would be removed from all of the publisher's listings. This demand would force PublishAmerica to submit 60,000 separate book files (text and cover), and redo each of them in order to conform to Amazon's complicated technical specifications."

Graeme goes on to cite the now notorious open letter from Amazon, before confirming that the company has no plans to implement this strategy in the United Kingdom. No mention however is made of his this impact print on demand books by British authors which are printed by Lightning Source in both the UK and US for these respective markets, and whether the US editions will be withdrawn from their sale. At the time of writing my own book is still live, and until I hear any differently I can assume that these titles too are safe.

In the meantime, Jerry Simmons has dedicated his entire newsletter this week to the unfolding events, which are rapidly becoming well, the biggest thing since print on demand first came to the UK.

I print his newsletter here in its entirety for the benefit of those who are not on his mailing list, and with the recommendation that you consider joining.

"Due to recent events I’ve decided to focus this entire newsletter on the Amazon situation. In my opinion, this is the first step toward the complete elimination of the books by self-published, print-on-demand, and small publishers that refuse to use Amazon’s BookSurge and largely depend on Amazon for sales. This is vertical integration at it’s worst and illustrates what big companies can do when they are allowed to strong arm the smaller ones. It’s time to take a stand, now or forget about it. Forever remain at the mercy of the big booksellers.



POD Publishers Told to Sell Directly Through Amazon, They Have to Use Booksurge.
Amazon has tried a number of tactics to push the print-on-demand services of their Booksurge subsidiary and now the company is using its leverage in the marketplace to drive that business. For the past month the e-tailer has been explaining their new policy to publishers who use print-on-demand: To have a direct "buy" button that lets customers purchase POD books from Amazon rather than from third-party sellers featured on the site, those books must be printed and fulfilled by Booksurge. Spokesperson Tammy Hovey tells the WSJ, "It's a strategic decision. What we're looking to do is have a print-on-demand business that better serves our customers and authors. When we work with some other publishers, it's not truly a print-on-demand business." She "declined to provide specifics," according to the Journal, but "said she doesn't consider the move an ultimatum.

"The new policy was first brought to light through a coordinated blogging effort by some of the affected POD publishers. Co-owner of POD publisher Angela Hoy has the longest post on her WritersWeekly zine. She reports on a conversation with a Booksurge salesperson who "admitted that books not converted to BookSurge would have the 'buy' button turned off on, just as we'd heard from several other POD publishers who had similar conversations with Amazon/BookSurge representatives."There are no accounts yet of the policy being imposed on traditional publishers that also use Lightning Source or other print-on-demand vendors; by the current accounts the moved is aimed at independent publishers whose focus is POD books as well as self-publishing competitors to Booksurge such as (Separately, Amazon has been working since mid-2006 to get mainstream publishers to use Booksurge for print-on-demand books sold through the e-tailer, for traditional purposes out of print books; large print; etc.--as well as to fulfill "demand spikes" when a regular title is temporarily out of stock.) Ingram and their Lightning Source operation have worked closely with Amazon in the past in a variety of ways, including packing orders with Amazon packages and labels.


This is an outrageous strong arm tactic by the largest online bookseller in the world. There are forces at work behind the scenes that will only complicate this for anyone that doesn’t buckle under to the demands of Amazon.

Why haven’t the same demands been made of traditional publishers?
Because they all subsidize Amazon through a variety of fees and discounts, completely outside the ability of the small publishers and authors, it’s about money.

What happened to the free market concept of price, service and reliability?
Why bother when you have the muscle to force this upon your customers.


More From Amazon on POD, and Toasters
Amazon's Patty Smith spoke to Computerworld further about their new requirement that POD-based small publishers and self-publishing companies print their titles through Booksurge if they want the books sold directly by Amazon. "When we publish a print-on-demand title in our own fulfillment center, we can then marry that on-demand book with a regular book, or a toaster, if that's what the customer ordered in the same box and ship it the same day to the customer. And that print-on-demand book that we printed is also eligible for free shipping."She reiterated that companies that don't wish to use Booksurge can still sell their POD books through Amazon's Advantage program ($29.95 per year plus 55% of the list price of the book) and other third-party marketplace seller Angela Hoy says she will not use Booksurge. "We would [rather] take an initial significant hit to our revenues, and we estimate that Amazon comprises about 30% of our revenues."


First of all the excuse that marrying titles to other products is the reason behind this move is ludicrous, it’s an excuse.

If marrying products with books is the reason behind the move why not impose the same on traditional publishers who use offset printing?
Because Amazon doesn’t own an offset printing company, YET!


Ingram on Amazon
Ingram chairman John Ingram issued a brief statement on Amazon's recent move to drive POD publishers to use Booksurge if they want their books sold directly by the e-tailer, noting "it clearly is alarming many of our publisher partners." At the same time, Ingram reports that "so far we've been unable to get a response directly from"He says, "We all live in a world where decisions are made about insourcing 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.... At Lightning Source, we produce a great product and thus do justice to our publishers' valuable titles. There is no question that we provide the highest print quality, the fastest turnaround speeds, and the most comprehensive portfolio of channels for a publisher's books."


I find the lackluster response by the Chairman of one of the largest print-on-demand facilities puzzling and at the same time alarming.

Why do you find the response alarming?
I worked in New York with big publishers long enough to know that John Ingram’s reaction to Amazon’s move is entirely too nonchalant and basically it was a non-reaction. That smells of collusion to me and you can bet, Ingram isn’t budging an inch when it comes to the demands of Amazon. They need each other!



The following interview was conducted by Author Marketing Experts for their blog post which can be found at their web site .

AME - What’s the real outcome going to be from this Amazon decision?

JDS - The publishers impacted will follow the demands of Amazon and print their books with Book Surge. The wider implication is that Amazon strengthens their position with these publishers and creates a monster with their vertical integration. This leaves each one of those publishers vulnerable to new demands by Amazon. What’s next? Higher discounts. Right now these publishers have been forced to change vendors, it might have cost them a bit more money, but remember, they market to writers not consumers. So if they are unable to place their authors’ books on Amazon, it looks bad in the eyes of their customers, the writers. These publishers don’t have the courage to say no and take a stand. And it’s not about the fact they sell a ton of books on Amazon, it’s about their customers’ view of them and their ability to market their own books.

AME - How do you predict the long-term effects of this as it relates to the small author and publisher?

JDS - The long-term effects for the author and publisher are devastating. With Amazon strengthening and securing their place in the distribution and sales channel, they can do anything they want. The next move will be to squeeze these small authors and publishers for placement fees, advertising fees, and eventually higher discounts. When you give in once, it never stops, this is the way of the publishing world and booksellers. It will get to the point where they start to lose money on each book sold. Only then will Amazon back off, but you can bet they are going to push authors and publishers to the wall and take every possible nickel out of the equation.

AME - What can an author/publisher do to “fight back?” -

JDS - Draw the line with this decision, pull their books from Amazon, create a new online market for selling their books, a central location for all self-published, print-on-demand books that has no alliance with any publisher or printer. Again, it’s not about selling books, it’s about how they are seen in the eyes of their customers, the writers. They are concerned about their own pipeline for new business drying up and that is much more important than giving in to Amazon’s demands. Each one of these publishers could switch all their allegiance to B& today, but they haven’t, and the reason is that in the eyes of the writer, they feel they must be on Amazon to be successful. Short term it hurts business and they are more concerned about that than the longer term impact which is going to be a continual erosion of their profit margin.

AME - What alternatives do authors and publishers have besides selling their books on Amazon?

JDS - It’s time for the self-published, print-on-demand companies and small publishers to begin creating their own marketplace, totally and completely separate from all the online platforms that sell their books. I strongly believe that the website is a solution, and for full disclosure, it is a site that I founded. But here is the key, if you are not part of the traditional world of big New York publishing, from which I spent 25 years, then authors must realize it is fruitless to continue to struggle to become part of something dominated and controlled by the largest publishers in the world. Amazon is clearly inside the traditional world, and they are setting restrictions on anyone outside that wants to be part of their world. This will never end! It’s time now to create your own community and establish a voice in the marketplace. I’m confident that Nothing Binding can fill that void, becoming the community and voice for Independent publishing. The name alone signifies a non-alliance with any publisher or printer. A social networking website that allows authors free placement of their books with links to outside sources is a perfect way for authors to separate themselves from the traditional world of big publishing; in fact, it’s the only way to create a market and achieve increased sales they so desperately want and need.

AME - Do you think this was a bad decision on Amazon’s part and if so, why?

JDS - Obviously Amazon weighed the profit from the sales of all these POD books versus the additional revenue of printing AND sales. They made a calculated gamble and it appears they have been right. Now there is no stopping them on their demands. It won’t happen overnight, but they will make new rules and continue to do so until it negatively impacts their own revenue stream. Giving in is a monumental mistake for the author and publisher, if the POD companies had taken a stand against the decision and risked short-term profits, they would have been much better in the long term and more respected by their own customers in the marketplace. Why do you think Amazon did this only for the print-on-demand books and not books that are offset printed? They claim they did this so it would be easier for them to marry books with other products that customers wanted, combine the package and shipping for convenience and cost savings. What about all the other books that are offset printed? They have the same problem with marrying books and products, but they don’t own an offset printing company, yet! If I was running any company that does a substantial amount of business with Amazon and saw what they were doing with books, I’d keep a close eye on what other parts and manufacturing companies they purchase. Vertical integration in this case is good for Amazon, no, great for Amazon, but bad for the publishing business and possibly very bad for other product lines sold on Amazon.

AME - Since AuthorHouse/iUniverse and Lulu have signed the contract with Amazon, does this change the playing field for the other publishers, or is it irrelevant (and if so, why)?

JDS - With Author House and Lulu agreeing to Amazon demands, it puts pressure on the other companies to follow suit. None of these companies can risk their own business drying up and even though it’s doubtful they lose a ton of sales if they dropped from Amazon, it would be the negative perception their own possible customers would have, i.e. the writer, and of course their competition would use this as leverage in their own marketing as “being the one company still doing business with Amazon.” These writers don’t really understand the implications, yet, all they see is that their books are or are not on Amazon for sale; that’s all they care about.

In the survey of writers I completed long before NB was started, I found that virtually 98% felt they must have their books on Amazon, and clearly 70% hated the fact they had to give a 55% discount to them. When asked if Amazon went away tomorrow, how much would it impact sales, only about 15% felt they sold enough books on Amazon to make a difference. They must be there, they hate being there, yet it doesn’t really make a big difference, so what’s the point? Once Amazon raises the effective discount, or asks for ad or placement fees, and the publisher passes this along to their authors, they might wake up. But who knows, right now, all the author cares about is making sure their books are still listed and for sale on Amazon.

Fighting back should be done gradually and not a knee jerk reaction. I think if these authors and publishers set a deadline for Amazon to reverse their decision or else they would pull all books, they could get positive media attention to this, they will have capitalized on this in a way that would draw attention to them and their books, and in the long run they would be out from under the thumb of a very big online retailer. The analogy I use is that if the U.S. had been serious about alternative fuels back in 1973 during the oil embargo, we wouldn’t be in the mess we are today, 35 years later. Of course you can’t compare oil to books, but the fact remains, this cave in to Amazon is a very steep and slippery slope and it won’t take anywhere near 35 years for them to realize their mistake, maybe 35 months!

AME - If authors seek out other platforms to sell their books – how will they compete with the “comfort level” consumers feel with Amazon?

JDS - There is no way to compete with the comfort level of Amazon and that of course is a problem, but a short-term one. Solutions will create short-term discomfort, but I strongly believe people buy books on Amazon because it’s all they know. If there was a viable alternative, then I think consumers would welcome it. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the publishers to counter this strategy with cover price discounts, until the consumer starts to feel comfortable again and then you can readdress the price issue. These publishers will have to make some short-term concessions to attract their consumers, but it beats what they are going to have to endure when they cave to Amazon. There is no easy solution, there is no silver bullet that will make everything okay tomorrow, there will be some issues that have to be worked out, but if all these authors and companies would combine forces, create a new online market for themselves and their books, in 35 months they will be glad they did. Eat it in the short term for long term gain—that is the answer to the Amazon problem. Because Amazon is going to do nothing in the future to help the POD companies’ bottom lines, they are going to continue to eat away at their margins in a number of ways while at the same time squeezing them on price and discount. It’s a no win situation for the authors and publishers and it doesn’t appear that they really realize the situation they put themselves in by giving in to Amazon’s demands.



An Amazon Monopoly?
Authors shut out of Amazon; one site offers a solution

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA – The little guy has lost another battle but this time, it’s the book industry that’s taken a hit. It was a shot heard round the publishing world in record time when Amazon announced that any small press or print-on-demand publisher doing business with them would need to print books through their publishing arm: BookSurge. Insisting it’s just “good business,” the terms of this deal feel more like a monopoly to those affected.

Jerry D. Simmons is a former Executive with the Time Warner Book Group who left there in 2003 to build one of the leading social networking sites for Independent authors,, says: “The long term effects for the author and publisher is devastating, with Amazon strengthening and securing their place in the distribution and sales channel, they can do anything they want. The next move will be to squeeze these small authors and publishers for additional fees and eventually higher discounts. When you give in once, it never stops.”

So what can an author or small publisher do? Penny C. Sansevieri, President and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., whose company specializes in Internet promotion says: “It’s time for authors to realize that Amazon is not the only game in town. They need to expand their online marketing to include social platforms like A site that can give their book exposure and then link the book to a store other than Amazon will help them fight and hopefully win this new war Amazon has decided to wage against the little guy.”

Can Amazon be stopped? “It’s doubtful,” says Simmons, “the wheels are already in motion, now the only thing the smaller publisher and Independent author can do is look for alternatives. This is a sad day for Independent publishing. Now it’s time to show Amazon they can’t win.”



You can hear my new blog talk radio show hosted by myself and Penny C. Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. Friday 10:00 am MST, Noon CST, and 1:00 pm EST. Simply cut and paste the link below to your web browser and tune in:

If you would like to listen to last weeks’ show, cut and paste to your browser or click the link below:



Beginning yesterday April 2nd, I’ve started my blog on Nothing Binding. You can subscribe via rss feed at the site, here is the link:



From Author June Austin, April 1, 2008

I would not normally do this, but some issues are just too important to ignore, and this is one of them. I and others in the publishing industry, are calling on as many people as possible to boycott (and if they copy what .com are doing). The following article, which I posted on my blog site yesterday, explains all, and more to the point, why. THIS IS NOT A HOAX.

To read what I have to say, go to

In short though, are trying to force print on demand authors and publishers in the United States to switch printers, from market leader Lightning Source, to Amazon’s own recently acquired operation, Boksurge. They are threatening to remove any books printed by Lightning Source from their website if they do not sign agreements with Booksurge by tomorrow. This is no April Fool, but deadly serious.

Please circulate this to as many people as possible on your own mailing lists, as the more people that know about this the better. At the moment I am unsure as to how this will impact authors and publishers outside the US (Lightning Source also have a printing plant in Milton Keynes where my book is produced along with millions of others). My editor has today emailed their CEO and is awaiting a reply.

This is not a hoax, but a very real threat facing all publishers and authors who use print on demand methods, whether through self publishing or otherwise. Don't take my word for it though, but see for yourself here:

In the meantime, I would urge you all NOT to order any books from Amazon at all until this is resolved satisfactorily.



I spent 25 years in New York publishing, I’ve seen just about all there is to see. I’ve personally experienced the pressure a large bookseller can apply to a publisher for more money. The first time you give in to those demands, it’s over. These companies will continue to apply pressure in a number of ways to get what they want.

In the case of Amazon, I predict that this is just the first step. I realize that publishers have caved to the demands, but as authors you still have an opportunity to take a new direction. Create your own online marketplace for your books! This is the only chance you have to be successful via the web. A single location where you can direct traffic away from Amazon is your only hope if you ever want to maintain an online presence and have any chance of selling books in numbers that will make a difference.

Amazon was never your solution, they are part the traditional world of publishing, and will always be a part of that world. You aren’t invited and they don’t want you, they’ve made that obvious by their actions. If you don’t start a movement now, today, this weekend, away from Amazon onto another completely free and unaligned website, you are going to be stuck in the mire and deceit of someone like Amazon until the day they kick you to the curb.

Make your move to, before it’s too late!

Jerry D. Simmons
April 3, 2008"

The boss at my own publishing company, Authors OnLine Ltd said in an email to me this morning that he is somewhat concerned at the lacklustre response to this threat that has been made by Lightning Source, and I have to say that I agree. It makes one wonder if there is more to this than meets the eye. He goes on say "I have to say I haven't got to grips with the complete story of this. The reason I say that is we don't actually deal with Amazon at all. It's Lightning Source that deal directly with them, we don't even know what Amazon have bought from us until after the event! And LS are saying in their statement (now on our front page) that "All your titles continue to be available to all of our channel partners, including, with immediate availability for shipment within 24 hours." Now that is a very understated response to say the least and, unless I have totally misunderstood the situation, rather odd for a company who's basic business is directly threatened.

Take the small self-publishing guys like us out of the equation for the moment and look at LS's core business. Most of it comes from making traditional publishers books into POD, their main client being Cambridge University Press. They print over a million books a year for them alone. Now are Amazon going to refuse to sell such mainstream publishers POD titles only through BookSurge. Now that would be interesting! Ok AuthorHouse and Lulu are big players but minnows compared to the amount of POD done by traditional publishers - and increasing very steeply annually."

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!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

One possible solution from Jerry Simmons

This morning I received the following email from Jerry Simmons of the Nothing Binding Project in response to my email to him, and all on my mailing list calling for a boycott on Amazon until this situation is satisfactorily resolved.

"Dear June,

You know me and hopefully my reputation. As a former New York publishing executive I understand what is going on behind the scenes and it’s not good news for the self-published, print-on-demand, and small publishers who use POD. I agree with your boycott and will support it, however I think you need to address the bigger issue and that is - how to overcome this problem?

We’ll not solve the issue immediately, but I do have a plan. Using my experience and knowledge of the business I’d like to make a proposal. That all self-published, print-on-demand and small publishers get all of their authors and their books placed on the website . Now you know my involvement in this site, it’s been my passion for a long time, and my commitment to the Independent author is unquestioned. Here is how I see it working.

All self-published, print-on-demand, and small publishers that are faced with the Amazon problem, place their titles on Nothing Binding, then that site can be the central shopping point for these books, not those of the bigger New York publishers. Let Amazon handle them and their Booksurge clients, Nothing Binding will become the focal point for the Independent and small press books. Now, since I’m not charging the authors for placement or for selling, then readers can link from Nothing Binding, back to the site of the author, publisher, or whatever account the author decides to use for distribution to sell copies. If everyone promotes Nothing Binding as the alternative, then we all win. And it’s free!

The platform is available, it’s free, what the site gets is traffic and a central location for readers to browse the smaller print books. It’s a win-win. The key is the author or publisher must be willing to discount their cover prices to come close to Amazon, that is the only way to turn traffic into sales. Readers buy books from Amazon because of price, so the key to selling more books is reducing the cover price and make it a discount. But if Amazon refuses to sell these titles, what is the alternative? This is my proposal.

I’d love your support and feedback. The only way to overcome this problem, is for the self-published, print-on-demand, small published authors to respond to this is pull their books from Amazon and immediately place them on my site. Create their own single location for book sales that bypasses Amazon and that website is

Thanks for reading this….


So, you know what to do ...

The Latest re

Breaking news from the Writers Weekly website regarding the Amazon debacle shows that the three largest print on demand providers within the United States have all bowed down and submitted to Amazons demands. In other words, all three Authorhouse, I-Universe and Lulu) have moved their printing for Amazon at least, from Lightning Source to Booksurge, in a move that will cost Lightning Source thousands of dollars in lost revenue. I cannot believe that they allowed themselves to be blackmailed in this way without even bothering to consult their authors, who as a result have lost valuable distribution through Ingrams, and in one fell swoop their best chance of becoming stocked in book stores throughout the United States.

This will have catastrophic consequences I feel for all involved in this dreadful situation, where one of America's largest corporations is effectively holding both authors and publishers to ransom. What a choice - book stores or Amazon. I know which I would prefer when I look at my sales figures, and thank goodness I live where I do and don't have to make that choice. I was hoping there may have been an email from Richard when I got home tonight, but no, there is still no official news as to how this will impact authors outside the US. At the time of writing my book is still on both sites, but for how long remains to be seen.

Amazon in the meantime, have released an official statement, which to untrained eyes, and those who do not understand how publishing works, will not mean very much, so I will explain here, in hopefully easy to understand terms that will help.

I copy the statement here in its entirety, with my own statements in bold throughout the text:

Open letter to interested parties:

We wanted to make sure those who are interested have an opportunity to understand what we're changing with print on demand and why we're doing so.

One question that we've seen is a simple one. Is Amazon requiring that print-on-demand books be printed inside Amazon's own fulfillment centers, and if so why?

Yes. Modern POD printing machines can print and bind a book in less than two hours. If the POD printing machines reside inside our own fulfillment centers, we can more quickly ship the POD book to customers - including in those cases where the POD book needs to be married together with another item. If a customer orders a POD item together with an item that we're holding in inventory - a common case - we can quickly print and bind the POD item, pick the inventoried item, and ship the two together in one box, and we can do so quickly. If the POD item were to be printed at a third party, we'd have to wait for it to be transhipped to our fulfillment center before it could be married together with the inventoried item.

Speed of shipping is a key customer experience focus for us and it has been for many years. Amazon Prime is an example of a successful and growing program that is driving up our speed of shipment with customers. POD items printed inside our own fulfillment centers can make our Amazon Prime cutoff times. POD items printed outside cannot.

Simply put, we can provide a better, more timely customer experience if the POD titles are printed inside our own fulfillment centers. In addition, printing these titles in our own fulfillment centers saves transportation costs and transportation fuel.

This is complete and utter rubbish. The truth is that Amazon have, according to Wikipedia, 10 distribution centers in North America alone; and 14 more abroad (one of which is based in Milton Keynes, the same town where Lightning Source are based - Lightning Source being the largest print on demand printer in both territories). Amazon though, for all their grand statements about saving time, money and fuel, do not print books at all ten of these sites. The majority of books printed by Amazon will then still have to be shipped back to the warehouse for distribution, which will cost just as much as if they had come from Lightning Source in the first place. This money saving rationale then is full of glaring great big holes and totally meaningless.

Another question we've seen: Do I need to switch completely to having my POD titles printed at Amazon?

No, there is no request for exclusivity. Any publisher can use Amazon's POD service just for those units that ship from Amazon and continue to use a different POD service provider for distribution through other channels.

Why though should the author and/or publisher be forced to do this? It effectively means that they will be forced to publish two different editions of the same book, one through Lightning Source and another just for Amazon using their own printer, Booksurge, thus incurring two sets of printing and publishing costs (the average Booksurge package costs $1000). Since Booksurge, Amazon's own printer do not offer distribution through Ingrams, the wholesaler through which 99 percent of US book stores source their titles, authors are being given a stark choice between online sales or sales through book stores. This is no choice and authors should not be placed in this position.

Furthermore, since Booksurge are based only in the United States (unlike Lightning Source), they are unable to offer distribution in the UK, so US authors choosing to print with Booksurge will not be able to access the UK market and vice versa. UK authors using Booksurge will be the mercy of fluctuating exchange rates and high shipping costs in order to buy their own books.

Alternatively, you can use a different POD service provider for all your units. In that case, we ask that you pre-produce a small number of copies of each title (typically five copies), and send those to us in advance (Amazon Advantage Program - successfully used by thousands of big and small publishers). We will inventory those copies. That small cache of inventory allows us to provide the same rapid fulfillment capability to our customers that we would have if we were printing the titles ourselves on POD printing machines located inside our fulfillment centers. Unlike POD, this alternative is not completely "inventory less." However, as a practical matter, five copies is a small enough quantity that it is economically close to an inventory less model.

What they don't tell you, and what the average book reader also doesn't know, is that in order to be accepted on to the Advantage Program, you have to offer Amazon terms of 55 percent discount (in other words, they buy books from you at 45 percent of the cover price). These are terms more usually offered to wholesalers, such as Ingrams, or Gardners in the UK, but Amazon are not a wholesaler - they are a retailer. You also have to join the Search Inside programme, whereby your book is scanned so that buyers can browse inside and see if it is indeed suitable for their needs. This violates the authors copyright and may result in lost sales rather than more sales as you are effectively giving your work away for free.

If this were not bad enough, publishers/authors also have to pay a set fee of $29.95 per year, PLUS shipping costs to get the books to Amazon, in addition to the 55 percent discount. Why though should Amazon be worried about that when they don't have to pay? To add the icing to the cake, I bet that like the wholesalers, they also reserve the right to send back books that they can't sell at any time within one year - guess who has to pay for these - yes, you got it, the author! They wrote the thing while Amazon get all the money !

Might Amazon reconsider this new policy?

Only if we can find an even better way to serve our customers faster. Over the years we've made many improvements to our service level for consumers. Some of these changes have caused consternation at times, but we have always stuck with the change when we believe it's good for customers. An early example: many years ago we started offering customer reviews on our website. This was a pioneering thing to do at the time. The fact that we allowed *negative* customer reviews confounded many publishers - some were downright angry. One publisher wrote to us asking if we understood our business: "You make money when you sell things! Take down these negative reviews!" Our point of view was that our job was to help customers make purchase decisions. It made sense to us to stick with the customer-centric position of embracing customer reviews, even negative ones.

Another example: a few years ago, we made the decision to offer used books, and to make those used copies available directly alongside the new editions. This caused significant consternation, but we stood by the decision because we were convinced it was right for customers. Sometimes a used book will do and it can sometimes be had at a significant cost savings relative to a new book. We stuck with the customer-friendly decision.

Our decision with POD is the same. Once a book is in digital format, it can be quickly printed on modern POD printing equipment. It isn't logical or efficient to print a POD book in a third place, and then physically ship the book to our fulfillment centers. It makes more sense to produce the books on site, saving transportation costs and transportation fuel, and significantly speeding the shipment to our customers and Amazon Prime members.

Only of course that isn't what these changes will mean - as like I said, Amazon have 10 distribution centres throughout the US, but just the one printing plant. It will not then make the blindest bit of difference to their service, transportation costs, or anything else for that matter. Even if by some fluke, they open another 9 print centres, surely this will cost a lot more than had they stuck with their current system in the first place. It does not make economic sense no matter how you look at it.

We hope this helps those who are interested understand what we're working to do and why. We believe our customer-focused approach helps the entire industry in the long term by selling more books.

If they really think this then they are seriously deluded. Those three publishers may have bowed down, but this is far from over. How many Authorhouse/I-Universe/Lulu authors I wonder will change publishers because of this, choosing book stores over Amazon. The author should not have to make this choice. Internet book sales may be rising, but Amazon and print on demand authors would be wise to remember than 90 percent of book sales are still made through book stores - the Internet market is a drop in the ocean compared to this.
Furthermore, I fail to understand how this is better for the customer either; if the majority of print on demand companies refuse to give in to Amazon's demands, then this will mean that their customers have access to less books. This is not better service but worse, as it means less choice.


The Books Team

My parting shot then is a request that all readers of this blog boycott Amazon until further notice or until they see sense (whichever is the sooner) and that you also add your names to the online petition which can be found here.