Last Friday, at the same time as the BEA, Amazon and BookSurge (the POD company they purchased in April, 2005) announced "a new Print-on-Demand (POD) program designed to help book publishers sell lower volume book titles through a more economic supply chain." [Amazon press release]
Translation: Amazon has leapfrogged ahead of Google and is now offering publishers an inexpensive way to print as few as one copy of an out-of-print title from their list.
Last spring, BookSurge CEO, Bob Holt, sent a letter to his clients touting his company's acquisition by Amazon.com. He said, "BookSurge's inventory-free fulfillment network offers a great advantage for online retailing. We can stock an infinite number of titles without worrying about shelf spaces, restocking, or reprinting. We simply print the book once it's ordered."
Yesterday's Publishers Weekly (PW) reported that "Amazon also offered a host of incentives for publishers to join its print-on-demand initiative." According to the press release, these included discounted book scanning services for publishers with no upfront fees and free setup for titles with POD-ready digital files. Friday's Publishers Lunch (PL) said the free setup was available until June 30th for publishers placing fifty or more books with Amazon.
Amazon VP Greg Greeley promoted the new POD service as a way to help publishers "avoid taking titles out of print" (PL). In a PW article on 3/27/06, Greeley indicated that the ability to keep books in print through POD was a large part of why Amazon purchased BookSurge last year. PW reported that, once they receive an order, BookSurge will ship the book within 24 hours. "The rights holder determines the cover price; Amazon sets its own retail price."
Readers' choices continue to expand. Once upon a time, a reader's options were to buy a print book new or used. With the advent of the Internet, s/he could purchase a book for download on a computer. With this new POD initiative, s/he can purchase a single book that is no longer available in print.
I'm still waiting to see the math. How much will these POD books cost? How much will the author earn? It would appear that this is an overall plus for authors. Their books can remain in print indefinitely through a program like this.
It will be interesting to see how many publishers take advantage of the incentives Amazon/BookSurge are offering.