Last week I made a flip remark about 10k forms in linking to Tim O’Reilly’s comments on competing with publishers. I wanted to link to his post again and urge you to skip down and read Tim’s responses to commenters to get a better idea of exactly what he’s talking about.

Tim points out that right now, there are only three wholesale buyers of computer books, and two of them are ceding a large part of the market to the third. Here’s his example:

Let me give you an example of how today’s much more consolidated marketplace makes it harder to place publishing bets. Borders and B&N have largely thrown in the towel on many high end books, saying “Amazon’s going to get that business anyway.” So they’ve shrunk their computer book sections, and are taking zero copies of important books, even from important publishers like us. We recently told them of our plans for a Hadoop book for instance, and both B&N and Borders said they won’t carry it. That leaves us with Amazon. Amazon will pre-order only a couple of hundred copies.

I’ve had to fight with my publishing team to get this book approved, since they’re worried that they won’t make back the investment it will take to bring it to market. It’s a lot easier to be sure of making money on a book like Mac OS X: The Missing Manual, to which the chains will commit an advance order of thousands of copies. Now that’s also good publishing, but you can see how the opportunities are shrinking.