Amazon vs. Publishers: The Book Battle Continues

Amid the e-book price war, publishers worry about Amazon’s print-on-demand technology
Photographs by Nice One Productions/Corbis (ring girl); Mike Powell/The Image Bank/Getty Images (ring); C Squared Studios/Photodisc/Getty Images (stools); Ocean/Corbis (books); Reuters/Rick Wilking (boxes)

There’s a glaring anachronism at the center of most Amazon.com fulfillment centers: aisle after aisle of old-fashioned books. Amazon stocks these volumes for the many customers who still favor the tangible pleasures of reading on paper. Yet the company is relentless about increasing efficiency and has at the ready an easy way to remove some of those bookshelves: on-demand printing. With an industrial-strength printer and a digital book file from the publisher, Amazon could easily wait to print a book until after a customer clicks the yellow “place your order” button. The technology is championed by those who want to streamline the book business—and it might turn out to be a flash point in the hypertense world of publishing.

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