Assessing the true availability of a POD book can be a labyrinthian nightmare or just a computer nerd's fantasy.
We all want to track the availability, sales, and marketing of our books as accurately as possible, but we can easily be led down many blind alleys that look like promising horizons. The availability statements you see at online retailers are not all created equal. Some are a lot more accurate than others. For instance, B&N online used to be the best source of iUniverse books; i.e., they shipped the fastest. After the bricks-and-mortar corporation took over the once independent online operation, their availability statements seemed to get lost in the ozone. Recent experience has shown that B&N cannot always ship directly as stated, but Amazon can. I read recently that iU books are sent directly to B&N from Lightning without going through Ingram. What does this mean in the real world of book ordering? The answer is far from clear.
Many websites offer price and availability comparisons of books. After experimenting with most of these over a long time period, I have assessed the realistic value of these sites. Addall is far and away the best, showing accurate information for the several retailers that matter. Best Web Buys displays mostly the same info as Addall, but less of it. Best Book Deal offers many additional store listings, and Price Scan shows your book listed at many online sources you never knew even existed!
The secret to understanding all this malarky is to realize that all of these individual listings are simply restated from Ingram/Lightning. Amazon and B&N are likely the only two that actually buy POD books and store them in their own warehouses. All those hordes of additional listings are just direct feeds from Ingram/Lightning. When Amazon and B&N say a book ships in 24 hours, they have a copy in the company's own warehouse. When they state 2-3 days, they have to get a copy from Ingram's warehouse. When the stated time is longer than 2-3 days, Ingram does not currently have a printed copy in their warehouse. One detail I have never been able to satisfactorily unravel is the matter or multiple Ingram warehouses. At one time it seemed that POD copies could be in certain, but not all, Ingram warehouses. Now it seems they are generally in the TN warehouse only. What's with the new 1-2 days statement at Amazon? I wish I knew. Is the book in a different Amazon warehouse? Is it in a different Ingram warehouse?
We all know there is an Ingram stock phone line? What is its direct relationship with AllDirect and NetStoreUSA, the only two sites from which I am aware that POD stock can be tracked online? It is possible that AllDirect tracks only stock in the TN Ingram warehouse, but NetStoreUSA tracks stock in all Ingram warehouses. Some of my research supports this theory, but some also refutes it.
I encourage anyone who wants to learn more information on this subject to join my New Authors Yahoo Group. The main purpose of the group is to disseminate and trade this type of information that seems to be so desired, yet so elusive.