Today's main post is at http://www.scriverart.blogspot.com since it's mostly of interest to that constituency.
But for the sake of bloggers, I will say that I took my "Twelve Blackfeet Indians" POD Lulu.com generated books to Barnes & Noble, knowing that they would not accept my table-top published books because they had no ISBN and therefore couldn't be managed by the B&N system. Since this particular Lulu.com book DOES have an ISBN, I thought it would be acceptable, but no. Now B&N has a NEW policy which is not to sell non-returnable books. Ingrams marks them on their database.
There are two factors: One is that print-on-demand has partly become so popular BECAUSE authors and publishers go broke when bookstores stock their shelves with returnable books -- wouldn't it be nice if all the groceries that spoiled or became outdated could be mailed back to the producers?
The other is that quality-control has always been the job of the publishers. Now that the publishers have abandoned quality as a criteria and only accept market research that indicates fat profit, they no long provide the bookstore gate-keeping which used to keep out what Wheeler calls "sludge." No one has time to actually read the book at the book store level.
But since it is not only bookstores that sell books, I took mine on down to the History Center, where they were acceptable even without ISBN. They were taken on a "consignment" basis, but I previously sold table-top books there, found it a good brisk place to sell, and always received prompt and accurate book keeping reports. I suppose you could say that the big chains, by insisting on returnability, were also taking books on consignment. The difference is that the History Center actually looks at the books and evaluates them personally.
The B&N manager, a handsome young man, felt badly. He wanted to carry the book. I told him POD was part of a plot to destroy his book chain. That didn't cheer him up. I told the clerk (overweight, goatee, young, many pierced earrings) the same and then told him that I was going to go use my corporate-sellout gift card at Starbucks, since the one in the B&N is a false front that won't take the card. He laughed at the irony. The manager did not. Managing a large book chain store is a thankless job.
Now I'm thinking about the new Lulu.com strategy of allowing authors to create shell "publishers" of their own and order their ISBN that way. I don't think Ingrams will be able to pick them out. Hmmmm.