Tuesday, December 23, 2008


LATEST TAIL: Earlier this month we looked into what appeared to be, shall we say reluctance on the part of the biggest book retailer on the island, Borders Books, to carry the controversial tome KPD Blue.

On December 9 we published a scathing report essentially laying out the case for Borders’ conspiratorial censorship of the book based on interviews with employees and some conclusions reached by author Anthony Sommer as to what was really going on after we tried and failed to reach the manager Helaine Perel

But the next day a phone call from her supposedly set us straight and so we reported the following:

(W)e understand there is a new and final reason why Borders will not be carrying KPD Blue- they apparently can’t get a decent wholesale price.

We finally got a call from Borders manager Helaine Perel who told us that despite what the publisher had told author Anthony Sommer book stores cannot apparently get a decent wholesale price from the distributor and would not only have to take the books on a “no-return” basis but would only get a 5% discount off retail and have to pay for shipping.

“In no way did I ever try to keep the book out of the store. It’s completely mercenary- we just couldn’t make any money on it” said Perel.

Ah, it was all just a silly misunderstanding- all’s well that ends, if not well, then just finally ends.

But it seems the actual story is somewhere in between.

It now appears that Borders will be getting in a couple of dozen copies in a couple of weeks and will continue to stock the book because apparently Perel never actually asked the book’s publisher Booksurge- but rather just asked Borders main distributor Baker and Taylor.

Had she, they would have told her that while the “no-return” policy is in effect, there actually was a “40% off” wholesale price not just the 5% that Perel claimed was the main obstacle to carrying the book.

Sommer says he didn’t really know for sure either. He just recently found out while talking to the publisher on another matter when he happened to mention the difficulty Perel reported.

But what was of just as much interest if not more than the specifics of Borders and KPD Blue was another assertion made by Perel to explain why they don’t stock the book

As we reported she told us:
“’Print on demand’ is a bad way to go for writers- there’s just too many problems” for the anyone who also want their book in book stores in addition to on-line orders

Print on demand or POD is a modern marvel for authors who cannot find a publisher that will publish the book and take on the risk of whether it will sell.

Rather than just give up or go to the old “vanity press” where authors basically pay to print up a large order and then personally market and distributed it, for a very minimal cost- as little as a hundred dollar people can now print and distribute their book without a huge outlay of funds and the associated risk.

POD books are actually printed only when the order for it comes in and then it’s sent to the buyer- all within a day or so

Sommer’s book published this way because although regular publishers like it they thought the market for it was limited to those on Kaua`i.

And, as Sommer described in our first report, he never expected book stores on Kaua`i to carry it anyway because of the subject matter and figured that everyone knows how to use Amazon.com to get a book- something that is apparently not true on Kaua`i judging by the more than a thousand requests at Borders.

The fact that Perel could have found out from Booksurge about the wholesale price with a little effort- about the same effort she put into calling us to “correct” our censorship story- leaves us scratching out head over her criticism of “print on demand” and her discouragement of authors from publishing that way- a subject she want into at length during our call.

As we reported, Amazon.com owns Booksurge and Borders apparently has some sort of agreement with a print on demand outlet called Lulu, which may explain why, while her “completely mercenary” explanation may be valid, the exact avaricious mechanism may not be as clear.

Anyone who is seriously considering publishing a book via POD should do some research and there are consumer-driven web sites describing all the pitfalls and criticizing the various POD providers.

The point at these web sites seems to be more along the lines that each self-publishing company- whether POD or standard “vanity”- has their own way of scamming the author so caveat emptor.

But nowhere could we find anyone claiming that book stores would not carry their book because it was published via POD.

As to KPD Blue, there are also more copies reportedly on their way to the Hanalei Pizza in Ching Young Village and although Sommer says he doesn’t care about making money from the book and just wants people to read it for the information it contains, for those who do care, he will be making only 20% as much per book for the ones at Borders as those at Amazon.com or the pizza place.

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