Amazon steers publishers to its print-on-demand facilities

E-commerce site is requiring publishers of print-on-demand books to use its digital print facilities if they want to sell their titles on the Web site at no additional charge and qualify for free shipping to purchasers. This push promotes its BookSurge self-publishing division.

“When Amazon prints a book in its own fulfillment center, it can put a freshly printed book into a box with another product and ship both items the same day to customers,” said Patty Smith, director of corporate communications.

Amazon acquired BookSurge in 2005. The division offers publishing, inventory-free fulfillment and online distribution services for independent publishers. Smith said BookSurge’s pricing is “highly competitive” with competing services.

Publishers who choose not to print their books through BookSurge can still sell their titles through Amazon by enrolling in the Advantage program, which costs $29.95 per year plus 55% of the list price of each book.

This isn’t the first time that Amazon has indicated its seriousness about print-on-demand publishing, which is reportedly the fastest growing part of the publishing business.

In December 2006, it acquired several four-color digital presses from Hewlett-Packard. The machines have a starting price of a couple hundred thousand dollars each.

Smith declined to comment on whether or not Amazon has added additional digital presses since then “for competitive reasons.”

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