There's a movement afoot on Facebook to boycott Amazon.com after the book-selling behemoth (and nearly every other product imaginable) announced that it was changing the way it sells POD (that's print-on-demand) books on the website. Amazon owns BookSurge and they want to be YOUR -- and everyone else's -- POD of choice. This has caused many small and micro-presses to reexamine how to get their books onto the market. Some have already said "Amazon is dead to me" (Reb Livingston, owner of No Tell Books, on her blog last week) and others have already said they would rather sell their books through other online sources (B&N, Powell's, their own website storefronts), than cave to Amazon.
Lulu.com -- one of the biggest POD companies in the world -- has said they are working out a deal with Amazon so that their titles will still be carried on the site. PublishAmerica, on the other hand, refused to play ball and Amazon turned off all the "Buy" links to the listed titles. Other POD companies are trying to figure out how to respond to Amazon's strong-arm tactic. Amazon officials posted a note on their website last week that said using BookSurge saves money and gets the title into the hands of readers more quickly. Sure, writers can use Lulu or iUniverse, but if they want their POD title on Amazon, those companies will have to send an electronic file to Amazon where it will be stored in the BookSurge database. Anytime someone buys the title, it will be printed by BookSurge, rather than the company the writer contracted with. That means more profit for Amazon, less profit for the POD company and, ultimately, to the writer.
Amazon does take a big chunk of change from POD titles, but there is the "prestige" factor of having a book available at Amazon. How many writers are willing to give that up? My first collection of poetry, Better To Travel, was self-pubbed with iUniverse back in 2003. Yes, I had sales on Amazon, but the majority came from bookstore orders and hand-to-hand transactions at readings. When Slow To Burn was published in 2006 as a limited edition, it was only sold online at MetroMania Press's store and at my readings. All 300 copies sold out in just a little more than a year. Even better was that the profit split between me and the press made each of us a tidy sum. Who can say that in poetry these days?
My chapbook, After the Poison, from Finishing Line Press is coming out later this year and it will be available on Amazon, but rather than letting Amazon sell it, the link on the page will direct buyers to purchase from the press. I'm not sure how much of a cut Amazon takes on those kinds of situations, but I guess I'll find out. I have to admit, I love Amazon. I love being able to order hard to find books and music and DVDs from other parts of the world (Amazon.co.uk gets more of business than the American site). But I also love exploring small press websites, buying my books at local independent stores and supporting the new DIY culture of poetry. If we really want to support poets, buying directly from them or their small press publisher is going to make them the most money. And since poetry doesn't pay -- except in love -- every dollar helps.
I'm not ready to boycott Amazon yet. I'm still waiting to see how this shakes out with Lulu, iUniverse and xlibris and I'm closely following what Reb Livingston and Shanna Compton at Bloof Books will be doing. I haven't talked to Dan or Michael at VRZHU, but I'd also like to know their thoughts and what they plan to do to help their authors. Let's get some discussion going...what are your thoughts, gentle, bullet-ridden VRZHU blog readers?
Addendum from Michael @ Vrzhu: I was out of town when this broke, so I'm just catching up on what's going on this morning. Vrzhu author Kim Roberts sent me this link here about the about it, which I'll be reading along with Reb's post and whatever Shanna has up about it.