04/08/2008 09:54 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

More Bad News for Books

Recently, a friend gave me a bookmark with the Desiderius Erasmus quote, When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes. My friend knows just how important books are to me and that I'm not content unless I'm surrounded by them. Lately, though, I'm beginning to feel as though books are struggling to survive. When the thought occurs to me, I try to dismiss it with the reminder that perhaps it was the same for those who felt when television first came on the market it was going to eliminate radio; fortunately, that wasn't the case. Then again, there were a number of vaudevillians whose careers came to a sudden end thanks to the arrival of motion pictures; they simply could not translate their entertainment to the new medium. Change often can be ruinous to some, but when it hinders expression of ideas, it is ruinous for all. Sadly, in today's climate, whenever there is a news story about the publishing industry, it is rarely a good story.

Now Amazon has pulled a whammy by demanding that if Print-On-Demand publishers want their books featured on its Web site, they have to use Amazon's printer, Book Surge. This is devastating news. Print-On-Demand has been offering hope to thousands of writers who aren't patient enough to wait for a traditional publishing deal, which could be years or not at all, but now that hope has been challenged by the behemoth known as Amazon. So where does that leave authors? Where does it leave self-publishing? Does this mean that authors will once again be forced to have cartons of books in the trunk of their car ready to hand sell? Well, quite likely it won't revert solely to that marketing tool, thanks to the Internet.

Whereas traditional publishing has become such a difficult industry to break into, self-publishing provides opportunity. Now that opportunity is in jeopardy for many writers. Yes, there's lots of garbage out there, and it's not exclusive to self-published works. I've tried to muddle my way through some rather abysmal bestsellers. Yet, when I examine a list of some famous books that were first self-published, I realize that they managed to make it long before Amazon existed. That alone is good news. It's quite likely lawsuits will be pursued in response to Amazon's announcement and it's likely, too, that POD books will find a way to reach readers. It just shouldn't be this difficult.