Last Sunday I ordered a book from Amazon. Now, I don't order as many things from Amazon as some people do (ahem, my sister), but I've ordered my fair share. Especially books. I love owning, holding, admiring and arranging bookshelves full of actual paper books. I have two Kindle e-readers, but I rarely read books on them because it's just not the same. Come to think of it, I also prefer crafting with paper and other tactile items over digital options. But I digress.
I've always assumed that book orders are filled the same way any order is: there is a giant warehouse (or two or five) filled with ready-to-go stuff, and when you place an order, some combination of people and computers find the stuff you want, put it in a box and send it on its merry way. Right? Well, maybe not.
The book I ordered was The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer, one of my all-time favorite authors. She wrote more than fifty books in three genres: historical romance (think Jane Austen), historical fiction and mystery. (I'm working on collecting them all.) The Black Moth was Heyer's first book, and I have never come across it in a store, so when I saw it on Amazon, I ordered it.
All the other items in my order shipped Monday and arrived Tuesday, thanks to my sister's Prime membership. But the book shipped Tuesday and arrived Wednesday. (Actually according to the UPS tracking info, the origin scan was 12:22 a.m. Wednesday, and it was delivered at 1:58 p.m. Wednesday. That's speedy delivery.) I wasn't in a hurry to get the book, so the slight delay didn't matter. But still, it seemed odd since the book was listed as being in stock.
Once the book arrived, I flipped through it, as I always do with new books. Lo and behold on the bottom of the very last page were printed a bar code and three lines of text: "Made in the USA / Lexington, KY / 07 April 2014." Wait a minute. I ordered the book on April 6, and it was printed on April 7? And the packing envelope indicated that it was shipped from Lexington. Does that mean the book was printed and bound after I ordered it? Was that the reason for the delay? Does Amazon print some books on demand, only after they are ordered?
This little mystery had me intrigued. The publisher listed in the book, Seven Treasures Publications, apparently does not have a Web site. Weird. And the publisher listed on Amazon, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, is actually an Amazon-owned self-publishing company. So I suppose on-demand printing is possible, but A) it doesn't necessarily seem the most efficient way to go. I mean, are they really printing one copy of a book at a time? and B) I wouldn't have expected the turnaround time to be that fast.
But on the flip side, if this book was printed after and because I ordered it, that means it was printed just for me. Aw, that makes me feel kinda' special.
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