Amazon ventures into print-on-demand

We’ve heard through the grapevine that Amazon has just acquired a print-on-demand company called Booksurge. Yes, the giant online store can now offer to print and bind a book for you that only exists in electronic form until you buy it. Depending on what Booksurge charges, Amazon could be in a position to lower the barrier of entry into the game industry and the book trade in general. It has long been debated in certain circles that print-on-demand could eliminate the need for physical game stores, or at least complement their shelf stock. And yes, print-on-demand has been around for a while, and several companies make use of it to stock their shelves, but now a huge entity has the ball and might decide to run with it.


  1. Well, the PoD ball has arguably already been run all the way into the end zone, and not had the revolutionary effect that some predicted – largely because of the perceived low quality of the final product. What really might make this Booksurge play interesting to gaming, though, is the fact that it combines two destabilizing factors in unplugged gaming: PoD and direct sales. The mainstream press has been trying to hook these two things up for a while (to the point of putting high-tech one-piece book-printing and -binding machines into select Barnes and Noble outlets), with limited success. I have a feeling this Amazon thing will impact them before it impacts us, but still.

  2. Amazon has been impacting retailers for quite a while within the larger game lines that it carries. If Booksurge allows Amazon to carry products that retailers can’t (at least, not without ordering them *from* Booksurge), it could make them have a bigger impact on retail stores.

  3. Well, yes, that’s what direct sales does: it impacts retailers. That much is kinda inherent.

    But it doesn’t impact retailers unless gamers buy direct. Whether they will trust and/or desire a Booksurge product any more than they want a PDF will depend on the _perception_ of the quality thereof. If it’s good enough, then the folks who really have to sweat are RPGNow and the like.

  4. So, um, RPGNow already has a print-on-demand offering for many titles. (Insert voice of Gir: “Ohhhh yeah!!”)

    Can any of our readers vouch for its quality or lack thereof?

  5. I really think this goes back to some of the other discussions that have been happening on OC of late. (Sometimes I wish we were speaking in a forum format to make it easier to reference those discussions… digress.)
    Being a retailer, I can tell you I am not worried about this new service. Amazon, in theory, does harm my sales of Role Playing Games. I also suppose if they can convince small press manufacturers to go “POD”, then I may never have a chance, or want to carry those books. Then again, you have manufacturers like Hero, who have specifically asked their customers to buy directly from them, to assist in bringing cash into the business. (I digress again, but anyone remember Columbia Games? They went to the “direct to customer” route a few years back…and just this month are offering terms again to retailers. Seems as if their base diminished drastically when they went out of retail stores.)

    So, I have a potential loss in sales from POD, and from manufacturers going direct. So, what do I do? I order carefully. I order from manufacturers I have faith in supporting their products, and who constantly work to expand their base. I then devote play space in my store so people can organize and play games. (I have 30+ people playing RPGA in my store every monday night. My D&D book sales have gone through the roof.)

    So…I am not too worried about POD, because I have a feeling it’s going to be focused on products I may not have necessarily carried in the first place. I think more than anything, I worry about the small press companies who go this route. Do they sell only POD through Amazon? Do they also sell PDF through the various online sites focusing on that, and do they sell hard copies through their own website, and through LGS? That worries me for _them._ Can those small press companies really manage that much diversity of distribution? I dunno. I have to doubt that small companies have the resources to deal with that. Anyway, to sum up…all power to them. I hope they can make it work. I have no fear for my sales numbers…but I do fear for small companies putting limited resources into a fairly untested arena.

  6. NOTE: I sell PDFs and some POD at RPGNow. Take this as you wish.

    I have some samples of the POD RPGNow sells and they’re thousands of years ahead of old POD books. I was very happy with the quality of the final product.

  7. POD is not going to eliminate game stores. The biggest sellers in game stores are mini’s,card games, and board games. You can’t POD those.

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