02. April 2008 · Comments Off on Round Two of the Great Amazon Imbroglio · Categories: Ain't That America?, Fun and Games, General, Literary Good Stuff, Media Matters Not, Technology, World

Well, this is getting interesting – last weekend the writing world – or that portion of it that doesn’t have a name which frequents the New York Times best-sellers list – was all agog over Amazon.com’s fiat that all books sold through Amazon must be printed by it’s POD subsidiary, Booksurge. (Gruesome details here in my post of Sunday last).

Many of us ink-stained scribbling wretches are being advised to A-remain calm, it is not the end of the world as we know it and B- that Amazon doesn’t own the bloody world yet, anyway so change over all of your links to Barnes and Noble and sit tight.

Angela Hoy at Writers Weekly has the latest development here; yes, a couple of POD firms have caved, given yesterdays deadline to stand and deliver, or else their authors ‘ buy buttons’ be disabled on Amazon’s website. Angela has some shrewd guesses about why and how this is all going down the way that it is, as well as a link to further developments – and the cheery news that no buttons have actually been turned off or harmed in the making of this power-grab/controversy.

The Independent Authors’ Guild forum has been all of a twitter though: what would Ingram/Lightning Source do about this? (Break out the terrible swift sword and start trampling those grapes of wrath, some of us hoped!) How would the various POD firms react ? (Stand tall and tell ‘em “Nuts!”, some of us hoped!) And how would the general public react? A volcanic outburst of rage would be nice, but perhaps a little much for us mere scribbling mortals to hope for. Some of us still have day jobs, you see, Although book-blogger PODdy Mouth has a nice takedown here, including a number that can be called…

OMG Amazon has a actual telephone number for people to talk to a real live human?

Well, OK, probably some poor barely-minimum-wage call center drone, so keep it civil and dignified, people. It isn’t their fault; the guys whose f**king brilliant idea this was are well beyond being reached by a phone call. Maybe not beyond subpoena… eh, call me a dreamer. It goes with the territory, I write historical novels and would like to make a living from it, for f**ks sake! Given that there are so many lawyer-bloggers, perhaps some searching analysis of whatever basis there might be for anti-trust action. All well and good; and this sort of controversy is bread, butter and circuses to the blogosphere.

But I have long predicted that the towers of the literary industrial complex would totter, crumble and fall when a certain technological point was reached – when there was a desktop gadget that would print and bind a nice little paperback or hardbound book. Even if it was so expensive to buy that only places like Kinkos would have them, even if it could only crank them out one or two at a time, even at a cost per unit substantially above that of one of those industrial print shops that could churn out a thousand in a minute – it would mean the end of the literary-industrial complex. Anyone could take their book content and cover file, with ISBN and everything, down to the corner copy place, pay them to print and bind a couple or three or half-dozen copies of your book… and you could mail them to whoever had bought them. Or who you wanted to send them! That’s the future, and according to this release, may be here already, in the form of the Espresso Book Machine. Think of this as Ingram/Lightning Source looking across the poker table with a steely gaze and saying, “raise.”

“It’s always been the holy grail of the book business to walk into a store and get any book,” said Kirby Best, president and CEO of Lightning Source. With the signing of today’s strategic agreement with On Demand Books, proprietor of the Espresso Book Machine, Best sees that goal coming a little bit closer.”

And savor the discription and call me a prophetess: “We’re building a new machine that’s much smaller that can be mass produced, version 2.0,” said cofounder and chairman Jason Epstein. Neller adds that a beta machine, which will be the size of a copier at Kinko’s (3’ X 2-1/2’ for the finishing unit with another 2’ for a duplex printer), will be ready in the fall. If all goes well, a less expensive model will begin leasing in 2009. “The point of this machine is to represent the ultimate in POD,” said Epstein, who sees it as the best way to preserve backlist. If the machines catch on and proliferate like so many Starbucks outlets, the marketplace would become radically decentralized and book distribution would require simply an Internet connection.”

Oh, yeah… definitely we’re into round two. Pass the popcorn.

(Crossposted at the IAG Blog)

(And yeah, my blogosphere cover is now comprehensively blown – I blog under the name “Sgt Mom” and write books under the name “Celia Hayes”. It turns out that someone is already using my real name and has somewhat of a reputation under it. I understand that Elizabeth Taylor had something of the same problem.)

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