Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Growing Pains

"Print On Demand" or "pod" is a well known term among publishing folk and describes the process by which many independent publishers do their business. Quite simply, when someone orders a book, a pod company like Amazon's BookSurge subsidiary, whip up a copy. For small presses and independent publishers this pod process is a lifesaver, as it saves the companies from having to take costly chances on big print runs of books that may never sell like the "biggies" that get scads of media attention.

I first learned of the pod process when two of my good friends and graduate school comrades started Black Bird Press. Like many other newbies to the independent and small press world, I immediately associated print on demand with vanity presses and all manner of self-publishing. Maybe I'm a snob, but while I love a good independently published book, I often shy away from books printed by their authors. I believe in editors and peer review. So kill me.

However, I was largely wrong in my assumptions, and I quickly came to realize how important pod is to small presses, new presses, indies--all those unsung champions of new, fresh, edgy, important literature the likes of which large houses often ignore.

It's recently come to light that Amazon.com, one of the biggest of the big online books-and-such retailers will now require that sellers of pod material use BookSurge if they want to sell their books on Amazon.

For a concise summary of Amazon's demand, consult Jim Milliot's piece in Publisher's Weekly.

While it might sound like a nebulous problem with little to no impact on the everyday reader, we at Estella's Revenge think it's a very big deal--an unfair demand on indies and small presses to bend to the corporate right of way. As a result, we will no longer route our readers to Amazon's pages to purchase the books mentioned between our virtual covers. We've long been an Amazon Associate, which means that when you click on one of our links you will be taken to an Amazon page for the book you're interested in. If you then continue to browse and buy the original book or another on your travels through our portal, we would receive a percentage of the purchase price to fund the ongoing efforts of Estella's Revenge.

After a little investigation, we've decided that instead of being an Amazon Associate, Estella's Revenge will be known from here on out as a Powell's Partner. If you're not already familiar with Powell's Books, it began as an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon in 1971. From that first shop, Powell's grew to a chain of six independent bookstores and became a powerful online presence in 1994. For a complete history, click HERE.

In the spirit of supporting independent bookstores and small presses everywhere, we feel that the move to a Powell's Partner reflects many of the goals and concerns of those who take part in making Estella's Revenge a reputable e-zine and one dedicated to all facets of the reading world...not just powerful corporate booksellers and dominant publishing houses.

While we've never tried to cram our monetary livelihood down our readers' throats, we feel that making this information known in a straightforward fashion can help raise awareness of corporate book selling practices and readers can make an informed decision about where they want to buy and who they support.


stu said...

This is a worrying demand on Amazon's part. The last thing small publishers need is someone effectively taking away their ability to search for the price, and quality, of printing that they want.

SuziQoregon said...

Yay for you!! I live in Portland and adore Powells. I always use Powells site for links to books on my blog.

Support the independents!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information and for taking a stand on this. I'll be investigating other avenues for book links on my site, and for purchasing as well.

Anonymous said...

Bravo! Go, Estella! :)

Iliana said...

Ah... Thank you for the info. I had heard "something" about all of this but didn't really know what it meant.

stu said...

I've just read an open letter from Amazon and it seems that the reaction may be overstating the case a little (though not entirely) It appears that people will still be free to use other POD suppliers if they stash half a dozen copies with Amazon so that they can deliver them quickly.

The only question then is how much this storage is going to cost, since POD was supposed to avoid it. Still, half a dozen copies presumably won't cost as much to store as the thousands usually lying around after a traditional print run.