Sunday, August 12, 2007

Amazon Announces Two New Services

This post was suggested by Stephen Parrish who sent me Friday's Publishers Weekly (PW). I hadn't gotten around to reading that edition yet and very much appreciated the heads up.

Stephen pointed me toward an article announcing that " is offering customers two new services: access to galleys and the opportunity to publish their own works."

The first half of the announcement was pretty straightforward although a little surprising. PW reported that, via a program called Project Vine, "readers with a history of posting accurate and helpful book reviews" will be invited to receive advance galleys for further reviews.

I went to the Investor Relations section of and used the search function to look for "Project Vine," which I'd never heard of before. The search did not result in any matches. A Google search offered references to either the PW article or to a Japanese software.

Publishers Weekly said an Amazon spokesman indicated invitations have gone out to the site’s “top reviewers,” to become Vine Voices. The new reviewers will not be paid by Amazon.

I was amused by the snarky tone of a headline in New York Magazine: "Today in Book-Critic Obsolescence: Empowers the Unwashed Masses."

The second announcement by Amazon was covered by a press release, which said:

CreateSpace, part of the, Inc. group of companies (NASDAQ: AMZN), today announced the launch of a new online Books on Demand service. Also announced today, the company is no longer charging setup fees for books, audio CDs and DVDs. Authors, filmmakers and musicians can now offer their works to millions of customers on, and via their own free customizable eStore without any inventory, setup fees or minimum orders.

"The new CreateSpace Books on Demand service removes substantial economic barriers and makes it really easy for authors who want to self-publish their books and distribute them on," said Jeff Wilke, senior vice president, North American Retail, "The service will also give millions of Amazon customers access to an even greater selection of books, just as CreateSpace's DVD and CD on Demand services are adding significant selection to our movie and music catalogs."

Back in July, 2005, Amazon purchased CustomFlix, a California distributor of on-demand DVDs. Their services have been expanded to include on-demand books and CDs. On August 3, CustomFlix changed its name to CreateSpace. The Amazon press release said the new name "represents the company's expanded mission to provide a range of on-demand, self-publishing offerings to independent content creators."

Wikipedia's entry for CreateSpace says that "On July 30, 2007, the National Archives announced that it would make thousands of historic films available for purchase through CreateSpace."

In recent weeks, I've mentioned my belief that the lines will begin blurring between publishers and booksellers. And back on May 20, 2006 here, I said:

The traditional print houses have become so accustomed to "owning the game" that they have not yet realized the Internet and POD technology may mean the end of their control over publishing. The move by Simon & Schuster to demand indefinite rights to books is a perfect example of that arrogance.

Giant printing presses are no longer the key to the kingdom of publishing. The large houses face competition on two fronts: from the Internet giants and from the e-publishing industry.

When I say Internet giants, I'm talking about Google,, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft. Of the five, I suspect the biggest direct competition will come from either Google or My money is on Amazon. The biggest dark horse IMHO is eBay.

. . . the Internet companies were the first to realize the power the Internet had to change the face of publishing. Both Google and Amazon started by offering to help traditional print houses market their print books. However, I don't think that either company will stop there. It is not a big stretch from marketing other companies' books to marketing original content yourself.

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