Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Author Solutions buys Trafford Publishing

I read yesterday in the regular Book2 Book newsletter that I receive that Author Solutions, the US based print on demand publisher had acquired Trafford Publishing for an undisclosed sum.

Trafford was a relatively small but well known operation, set up in 1995, with offices in both Canada and the UK, and accordingly to The Bookseller, the world's first print on demand provider. My own publisher, Authors OnLine Ltd was established not long after, since this is their 12th year of business. Trafford may have been the first POD provider in the world, but AOL were the first in the UK - the original, and in my opinion, still the best.

Author Solutions, who own several POD imprints including AuthorHouse and iUniverse, are rapidly becoming the MacDonalds of the print on demand world. This comes on the back of their acquisition, just a few months ago, of Xlibris.

During 2008, they claim to have published over 21,000 titles from over 90,000 authors. Look closely however and you will see that the average sales for one of their titles was hardly more than 200 copies. Although it is true that this is largely due to the efforts (or lack of) on the part of their authors, to me it is not exactly a glowing advertisement. I suppose it depends on what your motivations for publishing are in the first place.

The news of this acquisition is to me a very sad day for the POD world. When you look at the history of the traditional non POD sector, and see how the smaller independent presses have been gradually swallowed up by the big boys, you will see that the power is concentrated in the hands of four or five large companies, who effectively have control of close to 75 percent of the market. This means less choice all round, and provides no incentive for the companies to compete with each other by offering better or different products, leading to less choice and less innovation. This is where the smaller companies, like the aforementioned Authors OnLine come in, who offer a real alternative with different options to suit different budgets without the 'pile em high and sell em cheap mentality that seems to emanate from these larger, less personal companies.

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