Amazon smacks little people with BookSurge

On-demand Battle of the Bulge


Amazon has told print-on-demand book publishers that they better start using the retailer's print-on-demand service if they want their books sold on its website.

In 2005, the world's largest online retailer purchased a print-on-demand operation known as BookSurge, and over the past several weeks, BookSurge sales reps have adopted a new, um, sales pitch.

"They told us that if our books are not converted to BookSurge, they would turn off our 'buy buttons' on Amazon," says Angela Hoy of Booklocker, a tiny publisher based in Bangor, Maine.

Hoy also runs WritersWeekly, an e-zine dedicated to freelance writing, and late last week, she leaked word of Amazon's new policy to the web at large. Within 24 hours, a story turned up in The Wall Street Journal.

Countless other publishers have received a similar ultimatum from BookSurge sales reps, and in the case of PublishAmerica, Amazon went ahead and turned off those buy buttons before the publisher had a chance to answer.

With print-on-demand, publishers needn't print a book until a customer actually orders one. This means that smaller outfits like Booklocker and PublishAmerica can market titles without spending countless dollars on copies that may never sell.

In the past, Booklocker did its print-on-demand printing through BookSurge. But the company now uses Lightning Source, a BookSurge competitor owned by Ingram Industries Inc. "BookSurge was the first printer to print our books, and they were horrible," Hoy told us. "We lost authors because of them. We had upside-down pages. We had missing pages. We had broken bindings. This was a while ago, but things got so bad, we fired them and hired Lightning Source."

So, when a BookSurge rep started emailing the company in recent weeks, the messages went unanswered. Then Hoy heard a rumor that BookSurge was attempting to, shall we say, leverage the influence of its parent company. "So I asked the rep what was going on," Hoy said. "And he confirmed the rumor."

The rep said that Amazon will continue to list Hoy's books if she doesn't switch to BookSurge. But customers will have to visit third-party sites if they want to actually buy them.

Nonetheless, Hoy and Booklocker are sticking with Lightning Source. "There are a list of us who are not going to sign Amazon's contract, who are basically telling them to go to hell," she said. "We will take an initial hit to our revenues. But the sales of self-published books are typically generated by the author's marketing efforts. If someone goes to Amazon to buy one of our author's books, it's because that author told them to buy it there.

"Our authors are now changing all their links on their websites, their e-zines, their blogs. If they say their books are available at Barnes and Noble or Chapters, that's where the customer is going to go."

Similar topics

Broader topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • Amazon fears it could run out of US warehouse workers by 2024
    Internal research says the hiring pool has already dried up in a number of locations stateside

    Jeff Bezos once believed that Amazon's low-skill worker churn was a good thing as a long-term workforce would mean a "march to mediocrity." He may have to eat his words if an internal memo is accurate.

    First reported by Recode, the company's 2021 research rather bluntly says: "If we continue business as usual, Amazon will deplete the available labor supply in the US network by 2024."

    Some locations will be hit much earlier, with the Phoenix metro area in Arizona expected to exhaust its available labor pool by the end of 2021. The Inland Empire region of California could reach breaking point by the close of this year, according to the research.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon shows off robot warehouse workers that won't complain, quit, unionize...
    Mega-corp insists it's all about 'people and technology working safely and harmoniously together'

    Amazon unveiled its first "fully autonomous mobile robot" and other machines designed to operate alongside human workers at its warehouses.

    In 2012 the e-commerce giant acquired Kiva Systems, a robotics startup, for $775 million. Now, following on from that, Amazon has revealed multiple prototypes powered by AI and computer-vision algorithms, ranging from robotic grippers to moving storage systems, that it has developed over the past decade. The mega-corporation hopes to put them to use in warehouses one day, ostensibly to help staff lift, carry, and scan items more efficiently. 

    Its "autonomous mobile robot" is a disk-shaped device on wheels, and resembles a Roomba. Instead of hoovering crumbs, the machine, named Proteus, carefully slots itself underneath a cart full of packages and pushes it along the factory floor. Amazon said Proteus was designed to work directly with and alongside humans and doesn't have to be constrained to specific locations caged off for safety reasons. 

    Continue reading
  • Amazon not happy with antitrust law targeting Amazon
    We assume the world's smallest violin is available right now on Prime

    Updated Amazon has blasted a proposed antitrust law that aims to clamp down on anti-competitive practices by Big Tech.

    The American Innovation and Choice Online Act (AICOA) led by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and House Representative David Cicilline (D-RI) is a bipartisan bill, with Democrat and Republican support in the Senate and House. It is still making its way through Congress.

    The bill [PDF] prohibits certain "online platforms" from unfairly promoting their own products and services in a way that prevents or hampers third-party businesses in competing. Said platforms with 50 million-plus active monthly users in the US or 100,000-plus US business users, and either $550 billion-plus in annual sales or market cap or a billion-plus worldwide users, that act as a "critical trading partner" for suppliers would be affected. 

    Continue reading
  • AWS says it will cloudify your mainframe workloads
    Buyer beware, say analysts, technical debt will catch up with you eventually

    AWS is trying to help organizations migrate their mainframe-based workloads to the cloud and potentially transform them into modern cloud-native services.

    The Mainframe Modernization initiative was unveiled at the cloud giant's Re:Invent conference at the end of last year, where CEO Adam Selipsky claimed that "customers are trying to get off their mainframes as fast as they can."

    Whether this is based in reality or not, AWS concedes that such a migration will inevitably involve the customer going through a lengthy and complex process that requires multiple steps to discover, assess, test, and operate the new workload environments.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon accused of obstructing probe into deadly warehouse collapse
    House Dems demand documents from CEO on facility hit by tornado – or else

    Updated The US House Oversight Committee has told Amazon CEO Andy Jassy to turn over documents pertaining to the collapse of an Amazon warehouse – and if he doesn't, the lawmakers say they will be forced to "consider alternative measures."

    Penned by Oversight Committee members Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO) and committee chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), the letter refers to the destruction of an Edwardsville, Illinois, Amazon fulfillment center in which six people were killed when a tornado hit. It was reported that the facility received two weather warnings about 20 minutes before the tornado struck at 8.27pm on December 10; most staff had headed to a shelter, some to an area where there were no windows but was hard hit by the storm.

    In late March, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Jassy with a mid-April deadline to hand over a variety of documents, including disaster policies and procedures, communication between managers, employees and contractors, and internal discussion of the tornado and its aftermath.

    Continue reading
  • Engineer sues Amazon for not covering work-from-home internet, electricity bills
    And no, I'm not throwing out this lawsuit, says judge

    Amazon's attempt to dismiss a lawsuit, brought by one of its senior software engineers, asking it to reimburse workers for internet and electricity costs racked up while working from home in the pandemic, has been rejected by a California judge.

    David George Williams sued his employer for refusing to foot his monthly home office expenses, claiming Amazon is violating California's labor laws. The state's Labor Code section 2802 states: "An employer shall indemnify his or her employee for all necessary expenditures or losses incurred by the employee in direct consequence of the discharge of his or her duties, or of his or her obedience to the directions of the employer."

    Williams reckons Amazon should not only be paying for its techies' home internet and electricity, but also for any other expenses related to their ad-hoc home office space during the pandemic. Williams sued the cloud giant on behalf of himself and over 4,000 workers employed in California across 12 locations, arguing these costs will range from $50 to $100 per month during the time they were told to stay away from corporate campuses as the coronavirus spread.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon’s Kindle bookstore to quit China
    Local authorities insist the next chapter is not a collapse in foreign investment

    Amazon.com has decided to end its Kindle digital book business in China.

    A statement posted to the Kindle China WeChat account states that Amazon has already stopped sending new Kindle devices to resellers and will cease operations of the Kindle China e-bookstore on June 30, 2023. The Kindle app will last another year, allowing users to download previously purchased e-books. But after June 30, 2024, Kindle devices in China won’t be able to access content.

    An accompanying FAQ doesn’t offer a reason for the decision, but an Amazon spokesperson told Reuters “We periodically evaluate our offerings and make adjustments, wherever we operate.”

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022