Trouble at Mill. Manufacturing of old had it that the mill owner owned the means of production and the mill workers toiled within an inch of their lives, lived in company barracks, spent scrip at the company store and if they had anything left they banked at the company bank. Amazon is a latter day mill owner. The company is attempting to tie their client/POD publishers to them to the exclusion of other relationships the client publishers may have through Amazon's web of administrative, financial, distribution and content tools. As a practical matter, it is becoming harder (and may be financially impossible for many small POD publishers) to maintain separate relationships with Amazon and all the rest of the publishing community.
The blog world is enraged at the moment over Amazon's new policy on POD. The company is effectively telling POD customers that if you want to sell your POD products via the Amazon store you need to be on our platform using our tools. If that means all your titles need to be converted then that's your problem. This is not a situation where these POD publishers can say 'I'll just go some place else'. Amazon has sucked them in because of all the wonderful tools they offer the publishers and of course the sales penetration. In announcing the Booksurge/ CreateSpace merge in August 2007, Amazon's senior v-p, North American retail, Jeff Wilke said, "The new CreateSpace Books on Demand service removes substantial economic barriers and makes it really easy for authors who want to self-publish their books and distribute them on Amazon.com." As it turns out this is true, but there are some significant caveats.
The Wall Street Journal was kind (and misleading) in its assessment of this Amazon initiative:
"Amazon.com Inc., flexing its muscles as a major book retailer, notified publishers who print books on demand that they will have to use its on-demand printing facilities if they want their books directly sold on Amazon's Web site. The move signals that Amazon is intent on using its position as the premier online bookseller to strengthen its presence in other phases of bookselling and manufacturing.Amazon hasn't been merely a book retailer for some time. While many in the industry - PND included - can't help but have admiration for this company they have amassed a level of market influence across the publishing value chain that should concern everyone. Today, the issue is focused on a small (ardent and vocal) minority of POD publishers who's entire livelihood in many cases is dependent on the Amazon retail expanse. The WSJ should know better. Without being too dramatic, the release of Windows 3.1 heralded a period of intense exclusion at Microsoft: If you didn't play ball with them you essentially had no marketplace. Perhaps at first blush the publishing industry doesn't appear to have any correlation to the software world but with the migration to 'platform' based publishing (a publishing version of iTunes for example) we are seeing the germination of a world where there are only one or two legitimate channels to the consumer. If their actions in the POD world over these past two months are anything to go by then Amazon definitely has monopolistic tendencies.