Call of the Wild

If you've ever heard a howler monkey's shriek in the Amazon, you know it sounds like the roar of a threatening beast. But when you see a howler monkey, the necessity of this chilling cry becomes clear - the creature is pretty much defenseless.

In the publishing jungle, similar haunting noises are coming from independent publishers and self-published writers. They're shrieking over Amazon's latest print-on-demand (POD) policy. Amazon told publishers of POD books that to continue selling titles via, they must use Amazon's own printing service, BookSurge, or it'll turn off the BUY button. Writers' advocacy groups have accused Amazon, the world's largest online bookseller, of a monopolistic power play. Amazon acquired BookSurge in 2005, though Lightning Source had been the preferred printer of POD. Amazon insists, "It's not an exclusive mandate." Publishers can still use LS and sell via Amazon, so long as they offer Amazon a 55 percent discount, pay a $29.95 fee and ship Amazon a few titles up front. That does sound a bit like a dam operator telling the folks downriver they're free to buy water from anyone.

POD might have a stigma and a chip on its shoulder, but Amazon's latest supply chain consolidation is clearly another notch in the timeline of corporate media consolidation. Big publishers don't care about POD; they're worried about the day Amazon signs Dan Brown to its publishing division. The Authors Guild is worried about what comes at the end of the consolidation road: censorship.       
Next story loading loading..