Monday, July 18, 2011

What's really going on with Amazon.com and Lightning Source?

For now, I will be neither a Chicken Little nor a Pollyanna.

Lightning Source ("LS" or "LSI") is the dominant on-demand-printer. It serves publishers ranging from the New York City giants down to tiny publishers like my own Silver Sands Books.

One of the main advantages to using LS, is that the books they print are automatically available on Amazon.com, and on many other booksellers' websites worldwide.

For the last few weeks, there has been much online angst about books being shown on Amazon with two-to-three week availability. They were previously shown as "in stock" and were shipped immediately.

Some observers saw this as a radical change in policy, aimed at driving printing business to CreateSpace ("CS"), which is an Amazon subsidiary.

CreateSpace can produce excellent books, the company is easy to work with, and inexpensive, but provides less profit per book sold on Amazon than the books printed by LS.

Some authors and publishers have devised and suggested elaborate plans to have books printed by both CS and LS, or have switched from LS to CS, or are urging lawsuits and complaints to the Feds.

While some publishers who use LS for printing have experienced the out-of-stock situation, others -- including my Silver Sands Books -- have not. All Silver Sands books printed by LS are shown as "in stock" on Amazon, and I have no reason to believe that Amazon likes us more than other LS customers.

It wasn't very long ago (2008) that Amazon received the very public wrath of publishers (and media attention) and lost an anti-trust lawsuit brought by BookLocker. LS had threatened to refuse to sell POD books supplied by printers such as LS, Booklocker and Lulu, and not use Amazon's own printing facilities. See: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/41680-amazon-booklocker-settle.html

Amazon ended up paying $300,000 for BookLocker's legal fees. While that amount probably doesn't mean much to Amazon, the memory of the incident would probably affect any effort of Amazon to once again try to engage in restraint of trade.

While I can certainly sympathize with other publishers who are suffering, AFAIK there is still no proof that Amazon is doing anything wrong other than not quickly solving a technical problem.

Silver Sands Books has eleven books being sold on Amazon.

One is a Kindle. Two are printed by CreateSpace (and a third CS book should be available any minute). Eight are printed by Lightning Source.
The Kindle edition is (obviously) available immediately. Nine of the ten printed books are shown as "in stock." One of the printed books shows a 9/1 pub date (but B&N is selling it now).

All of the books are being treated equally and have been since the beginning of the trouble about three weeks ago.

At this time I will neither act like Chicken Little ("the sky is falling") nor Polyanna ("everything is wonderful"), but will continue business as usual, while closely monitoring the situation.

I urge any publishers who are experiencing the problem to keep after both LS and Amazon, but I see no need to hire law firms, complain to the government, or switch to CS and settle for less profit per book.

2 comments:

  1. Good explanation and recommendation. Thanks.

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  2. I tend to agree with you on this one, although it is possible that Amazon has just decided to stop messing about with small publishers who use a 20% short discount. I use a 40% discount on my LSI titles and about 10% of my monthly sales are through LSI.

    My Kindle books are starting to take off, too. Over 1,000 units sold this month so far. Pretty happy about that.

    What I have notices, though-- is a boost in my POD titles, even a few that I previously thought were duds-- because they were included in Amazon's new "4 for 3" promotional program. I have also noticed that it's only the CreateSpace titles that have qualified for this promo so far. Are any of your LSI titles included in the "4 for 3" promo? I'd really like to know. Amazon's marketing decisions are, for the most part, a mystery to me.

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