The Author Solutions juggernaut continues to balloon. The company, owner of POD self-publishing service AuthorHouse, acquired rival POD service iUniverse in 2007. Now the New York Times reports that it has acquired another competitor, Xlibris.
According to the NYT, “Terms of the deal were not disclosed.”
When iUniverse–then one of the most cost-effective and reliable of the POD self-publishing services–was gobbled up by Author Solutions, I worried that service would deteriorate. Writer Beware receives a steady trickle of complaints about AuthorHouse–the only large POD service of which that was true prior to the iUniverse acquisition. Googling AuthorHouse brings up a multitude of unhappy stories (although it must be acknowledged that at least some of the unhappiness results from unrealistic expectations on the authors’ part). I also have some semi-personal experience–my uncle, who chose AuthorHouse to publish the collections of short stories he wrote after he retired, had endless problems with mistakes, lost material, and ignorant and unhelpful customer service reps. His books did finally get published, but each one was a struggle.
It appears that my concerns were not unfounded. Comments on my post about the merger, and on Ann’s post about iUniverse’s Premier Plus program, as well as complaints we’ve received, suggest that at least some iUniverse authors are now experiencing the same kinds of problems that have plagued AuthorHouse. In fact, we’re now getting more complaints about iUniverse than about AuthorHouse.
It doesn’t seem like a stretch to presume that Xlibris–pre-acquisition, among the largest of the POD self-pub services, and one about which there currently seems to be minimal customer dissatisfaction–will go the same way.
This new merger is not good news for authors in another sense: it reduces the field of choice. As choices decrease, so does the pressure to compete, and decreased competition does not benefit consumers. While Writer Beware doesn’t generally recommend the use of POD self-publishing services, except in certain specific circumstances (see our Print on Demand Self-Publishing Services page for a discussion), we feel that writers who do choose to self-publish are best-served by having the widest possible range of options, in a robustly competitive environment.