Friday, October 24, 2008

A storm in a tea cup

Following some comments posted on here by one Aaron Shepard a week or so ago, regarding and their plans to implement their own POD service, some interesting things have happened.

Aaron posted on here to say that both Bertrams and Gardners had stopped stocking Lightning Source titles, and that they were only available through what he referred to as 'back order'. This he said, had allowed along with their other sites outside the US, to start listing LSI titles as 'out of stock' or to stop taking orders for them at all.

I was puzzled by these comments, since neither Bertrams or Gardners routinely stock any POD titles, no matter who they are printed by (my own book, which is stocked by Gardners, is very much the exception). Most POD books are available via special order only, which is what Aaron refers to as 'back order'. What this means is that rather than Gardners etc keeping the books in stock, they are printed to order as and when needed. This is the norm for most POD titles, and the reason why they are not normally returnable, hence the fact that the majority of retailers do not keep in stock.

Having said this, no retailer in their right mind would refuse to obtain a book that a customer had specifically requested, for to do so would be commercial suicide. If the customer requests this book, and pays for it upfront, which they would be expected to do so, then the sale is guaranteed, so what has the retailer got to lose? It is money for old rope.

It is true that was showing such titles as out of stock, but when you looked at the details for these books, Amazon also said that they would let customers know when the books were available (expected within 6 to 9 days) and not take their money until then. There is nothing sinister in this at all, so I don't understand what Aaron was so upset about.

I emailed Richard to see what he knew and received the following reply:

"It would appear that Amazon managed to inadvertently route all Lighting Source books to the US printing works thus putting every POD book in Britain 'Temporarily Out of Stock' - and Gardners have not changed their policy, procedure or systems - if you start looking on Amazon now, you will see that they are all beginning to come back to normal. So a bit of a speculative storm in a tea cup - my info is from the President of Lightning Source who is a long standing business friend of mine, so I usually eventually get to the bottom of things."

He is as usual right. The majority of books are now showing as available within 24 hours - so back to business as usual.

I noticed that Paul has also posted some comments on The Bookseller stating that he spoke to I Damien Peachey from the Amazon press office. Damian assured him that although Amazon would prefer to print in house via Booksurge, publishers not signing up will be able to carry on exactly as they have been, with no problems at all. Titles will be available exactly the same as they always have.

I spoke to Paul in person the other night, and he relayed this tale in somewhat more detail. He also stated that he had spoken to the Business Development Manager of a large print on demand company based in both the UK and US, and he has received a letter from Amazon, confirming that printing with Booksurge is not compulsory, and things will continue as normal for all who do not sign up. So now we have it, in black and white, no one is forcing anyone to change printers.

All is well then that ends well. As Richard said all along, it is all a storm in a tea cup.