A flurry of reports since yesterday (originating with Angela Hoy at WritersWeekly, picked up by numerous blogs and several newspapers, including the Wall Street Journal) have broken the news that Amazon is apparently seeking to force independent POD-based publishers to use its BookSurge POD service.
According to Hoy,
Reports have been trickling in from the POD underground that Amazon/BookSurge representatives have been approaching some Lightning Source customers, first by email introduction and then by phone (nobody at BookSurge seems to want to put anything in writing). When Lightning Source customers speak with the BookSurge representative, the reports say, they are basically told they can either have BookSurge start printing their books or the "buy" button on their Amazon.com book pages will be "turned off."
Hoy found this so hard to believe that she called a BookSurge representative who'd recently been trying to contact her. She says that he confirmed it. As an alternative, he suggested that authors of POD books could use the Amazon Advantage program (where you offer your own books for sale, and Amazon takes a 55% cut plus an annual registration fee).
On hearing this news, I immediately checked my calendar, wondering if perhaps I'd lost a few days and it was actually April 1. I mean, can you say "restraint of trade?" Not only would this enable Amazon to profit twice by basically disallowing the competition, it would be a huge burden for Lightning Source customers, who'd have to transfer their digital files to BookSurge. And since BookSurge doesn't have an arrangement with Ingram, they couldn't simply switch--if they wanted to keep their Ingram distribution, they'd still have to maintain files with Lightning Source. If indeed Amazon intends to implement this policy, it would seem to be inviting a lawsuit--not to mention, an enormous backlash of anger and ill will that could turn into a PR disaster.
The whole thing seems so bizarre to me that I'm reserving judgment until there's some response from Amazon. It's always possible that there has been a misunderstanding of some kind, or that this is a BookSurge initiative rather than an Amazon company policy. Hopefully, Amazon will have the sense to back away from it. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next few days.