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Amazon adjusting on print, email

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Amazon.com is making some big changes. Some of them, like its big push into India and its new app for childrens’ stories, may not affect you much as an indie writer and publisher. But if you use CreateSpace to print and Kindle Direct Publishing to develop your e-Books, another Amazon development may affect the way you bring your books to the world.

It is called KDP Print. It is now in experimental development, and it may change the way authors use CreateSpace and Kindle. It seems intended to help writers create print and e-Books at the same time, or even print books from e-Books.

I say “it seems” because Amazon has released little information about KDP Print.

Much of what we know comes from a few writers who, checking into their Kindle Direct Publishing bookshelf, have observed this notice: “You can now publish paperback versions of your books with KDP Print (beta). Learn more about the beta.” Only a few Kindle authors so far have gotten this message; most have not.

Until now, Amazon has developed CS and Kindle as separate units.

When in 2005 Amazon’s executives decided to start printing as well as selling books, it bought a company called Booksurge, one of the most popular early providers of print-on-demand publishing. Renamed CreateSpace, it kept many of the procedures and price points Booksurge had, and established a system and user interface – dashboard and related pages – customers have used ever since.

Amazon’s launch into e-Books was different, starting with the 2004 directive from CEO Jeff Bezos to beat the competition in creating an e-reader. In 2007, soon after the Kindle reader went up for sale and the Kindle Book Store began stocking books, Kindle Direct Publishing was launched to allow authors to convert their book manuscripts into e-Books.

Since then, the two services have had only a limited connection with each other. Authors who develop a print book through CreateSpace do encounter a page near the end of the process suggesting they to convert the book into Kindle format and make it available in the Kindle store.

Now, Amazon appears ready to link Kindle Direct Publishing and Createspace closer together, possibly merging them. That may mean letting authors use both the print and e-Book service in a single dashboard user interface. However it evolves, the new unified system is being called Kindle Print.

A notice from Amazon shared by one KDP user says, “We’re excited to offer the opportunity to publish paperbacks in addition to Kindle eBooks. We’ll be adding even more print-related features in the future, like proof copies, author (wholesale) copies, and expanded distribution to bookstores and non-Amazon websites. Publishing a paperback can help you reach new readers. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties, so you don’t have to pay any costs upfront or carry any inventory.”

It then cites several benefits of using the new KDP print on demand, most of which are similar to CreateSpace. One difference seems to be in the details of the royalty payments, which refer to payment for “up to 60% royalties on the list price you set, minus printing costs.” CreateSpace also offers its own store, where the comparable royalty is 80%.

The process for using the new system seems to be similar to CreateSpace too, with a big exception that only PDF files, and not Word documents (which CreateSpace allows), would be accepted for processing into print books.

There are also reports in the boards that CreateSpace may be absorbed within KDP. One commenter on Goodreads suggested that “You’ve probably noticed that the CS UI [user interface—its dashboard] is ancient. That tells me that Amazon isn’t really investing in CS. Once KDP Print gets out of beta, I bet you’ll see a push by Amazon to get people to move from CS to KDP Print.”

That’s one speculation. Here’s another from the same board: “CreateSpace is not the same as KDP and likely, one will not replace the other. CreateSpace and KDP are both owned by Amazon, but they are separate services. More likely, KDP will be a bare bones printing option since at the moment, they are limited.”

But on October 11, the GoodEReader website said “the consensus seems to be that Amazon may be shifting its print arm to this model rather than CreateSpace. And it noted, “Until more authors are brought in to test KDP Print’s process and more information is shared with the publishing industry, the full scope of the program—as well as its merits and flaws—won’t be known.”

The website The Digital Reader described the plan as a “combined interface where publishers can manage both their ebooks in the Kindle Store and their POD books in CreateSpace.”

This system is still new, undergoing beta testing. Amazon has not gone public in announcing it, and seems to be offering it only to scattered users for testing. When I tried to reach it, I got the message, “This page is unavailable.”

The selection of tester authors seems almost random, On September 29, for example, a writer named Michelle posted on the CreateSpace forum, “I logged into my KDP account this morning and have noticed KDP has a Beta program for POD [print on demand], and that you can migrate your CS titles over. Could this mean that CS and KDP will eventually merge?” She quick drew a crowd of responders, all saying they had seen nothing similar.

On the KDP user board, writer James McKinney, who had entered and explored the new system but said he never had used CreateSpace, said “It’s actually really streamlined, pretty much a simple WYSIWYG wizard type of thing, and it makes fantastic looking books straight from your already published eBook – the only thing I’ve found that I DON’T LIKE about it is the lack of a page-numbering system.”

Plenty of writers are waiting eagerly to see what more Amazon has to say about all this.