Understanding Online Bookstores and Virtual Inventories

//Understanding Online Bookstores and Virtual Inventories

Understanding Online Bookstores and Virtual Inventories

The internet has created a virtual reality where things are not always as they appear to be.  Thanks to a recent Writer’s Digest article, Infinity author Gordon DePottie did an internet search by his pseudonym, Gordon Barr, to see what would pop up on the googled-web.  Much to his surprise, he found his Infinity published novels, The Ghost Platoon and Death Lost Death Found, listed on several website virtual book-stores, such as: alibris.com, BUY.com, and TEXTBOOKX.com.  What was most disturbing was that the virtual bookstores showed several copies of his books, both new and used, available for sale on the internet at deeply discounted prices.  This was especially alarming to Gordon since his monthly royalty statements from Infinity Publishing didn’t reflect these wholesale orders for his books.

The reason for this accounting difference is because many online bookstore sites never actually purchase any of the books they show in their virtual inventory which shows how many copies of a book are available for their customers to purchase.  What happens is when they receive an order for a book they have listed on their site, they place an order for a single copy of the book from Ingram, and then Lightning Source prints the book.  It’s then shipped to the online bookstore, and they, in turn, send it to the customer.  The customer pays the online bookstore, the bookstore pays Ingram, Ingram pays Lightning Source, Lightning Source pays Infinity Publishing for the right to produce the book, and then we pay the royalty on the selling price of the book to the author.

Many of the online bookstores only have a virtual inventory of books which greatly reduces their overhead.  Their lack of a significant capital investment in an on-shelf inventory allows them to offer titles at discounted prices.  The bulk of their listed inventory is virtually available from Ingram and produced by Lightning Source when a customer orders the book.

The used books they offer for sale aren’t really used; in fact, they’re often new books that have been discounted a dollar or so as another inducement to entice the customer to order – like free shipping on all orders over a certain dollar amount.  This is a variation of what is known in retail marketing as a “lost-leader.”

These virtual inventories differ greatly from Infinity’s on-shelf inventory that we maintain for all of our titles using our unique Just-in-Time book publishing system to replenish the stock as needed.  We regularly ship to the major online bookstores such as Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble’s bn.com.

We have no way of controlling when or if an author’s book is added to any of these online bookstores.  Infinity authors are encouraged to direct customers to our official online bookstore at www.buybooksontheweb.com.  Most orders are shipped directly to customers the same business day the order is received and authors earn the greatest percentage of royalties on these direct retail sales placed through our online bookstore.