Softcover books - printing issues?

Hi, I just bought most of the Ars Magica line of books. Only place I could get them in Australia without a $200 shipping bill was via

Unfortunately, the book covers are not well printed - they have 'shifted' (I don't know the correct printing term).

Also the Apprentice book doesn't have any writing or label on the spine (unlike the softcover image on the Atlas website). Is that right?

ALL the interiors are black and white. Should they be?

Are these knock offs? I see scrolling through older posts Atlas moved to Amazon print-on-demand. I did not realise that when I ordered - assumed these were Atlas printed.

Appreciate advice before I go back to Amazon with a complaint.


I am not Atlas, but I have the same experience, even up over. I have some hard-cover books which I picked up way back when I actually had real game stores in the vicinity, and softcovers from Amazon, with the cheap shipping. They are all black and white, but the softcovers are really noticeably cheaper printing and cutting. It is just not softcover, but really cheap softcover.

I got one misprint too, which I had to return, but Amazon replaced it and refunded the postage, and their customer support was a lot easier to work with than most others I have encountered.

I too would be curious to hear what Atlas can say about the cheap printing of Amazon's. Is it the same quality as one would get off Atlas at the much more expensive shipping? Or is it low-cost decentralised printing on demand?

1 Like

I've not touched Amazon print-on-demand in the UK ever since my copy of Guardians of The Forest got one page duplicated and another removed at random.

1 Like

I didn't know they were Amazon print on demand when I ordered (it says it nowhere on the Aussie site). Production quality is very poor. The prices are not cheap (AU$55 per book in some cases - thats around US$39 per book - so a lot more than Atlas charge even for hardcovers - alas when I tried to order direct from Atlas it worked out to almost AU$80 per book ($US56+) because of postage - so I thought I was doing the right thing getting them from Amazon - NOONE in Australia has stock.

Before I ordered, I emailed Atlas and asked for local stores so I could get the books - they said they have no idea who has stock in Australia. Told me to ask a store to contact a distributor to order them if they would be willing (months and months wait). (NB I did inquire - the Distributor for Australia has NO stock either apparently). OR I can order direct from Atlas which again made the books double in price due to shipping.

So I found the books on Amazon (I try and buy direct or from local stores first). Did not think it would be such low quality books for the price.

This has all left a rather sour taste in my mouth given the prices - the quality is clearly lacking. I am trying now to determine if this is how Atlas books are usually (it seems not from what I have read online?) or has the quality been allowed to drop due to deal with Amazon?.

Trying to be fair and calm here but it was a lot of money and I am rather disappointed. Hopefully Atlas respond soon (I presume they read the forums?).

Once I know the situation from Atlas re what I received if that matches quality Atlas expects/endorses, I can contact Amazon. If this low quality, poorly printed books is now the 'norm' I guess Amazon might just offer to return the books for a refund which will end my group's exploration of AM and the other local groups curious on how this goes (since I've been sharing the interest with others) will also back away. Bit boggled by this whole experience given we were 'all in'. I do have a second hand hardcover of the core rules coming (only 2nd hand had cover I could find - Amazon was charging up to AU$600 for hardcovers...) and from what I have heard that is great quality. So I dunno.


I think the CORE book is colour though (I am awaiting a secondhand copy to arrive)? My brand new softcover is black and white. Maybe only the hardcover is colour?

You are right, the core book has some red-ish colour on headers and insets. I cannot remember any supplement with colour.

1 Like

And now the hardcover has arrived and the red writing and such is all blurry like this - like I am trying to watch an old 3D movie without the glasses.

I am having zero luck with Atlas products and not very impressed. Sigh.


The insides of PDFs are in shades of grey for sure outside of the base book.

Also, yes, Atlas does read the forum especially this section. Give them some time to answer.

1 Like


Hi there. Sorry to hear about the trouble you've had!

We're at the point in the life cycle of Ars Magica where a LOT of the sourcebooks are running out in our warehouse at the same time ... you've probably noticed a bunch have been out of stock on our website for quite a while. Sales in aggregate are strong, but they don't warrant us doing new print runs of several thousand for each one of the dozens of supplements, unfortunately.

Our solution to keeping them available to fans is print-on-demand. We looked at several options, and Amazon seemed like the best way to go, as far as fair shipping prices and accessibility to the most people world-wide. Unfortunately it's MUCH more difficult to set up than other methods, because its back end interface is crazy finicky. But because we're committed to keeping Ars Magica available, we've actually hired a tech person to convert our old file formats from 20 years ago to fit the Amazon POD system requirements. Ben is working hard, and you should see ALL those out-of-print books coming back in stock in the next few months!

While we're thrilled that we're making real progress on getting the whole line of Ars Magica available again, we've discovered that Amazon quality can be hit-or-miss because they use local printers who all have different quality control. To mitigate this, for our web sales we're buying 100 copies of each title at a time to have on hand in our warehouse, so that we can actually assess quality ourselves before fulfilling our orders. So if you want the best quality, order via our website.

But we know that's not reasonable for lots of overseas fans, considering the shipping costs involved. So if you order directly via Amazon and have quality issues, then please contact them with any problems you have. Our experience is that it's fast and easy to have them send you a new copy. If you like, you can also send us a photo of your book if it has really weird problems, so we're aware of it, too … the Apprentices spine sounds like it might be in that category?

Also, you asked about interior color …

  • The original ArM5 core book was a hardcover with 2-color interior (a reddish-sepia and black).
  • The new ArM5 core book is a softcover with greyscale interior printing, via POD.
  • All of the sourcebooks were originally and still are greyscale interiors.
  • Those sourcebooks that were originally hardcovers and sold out, are now softcovers via POD.

We haven't changed the prices on Ars Magica sourcebooks in years and years, and we didn't want to do it now even with the incredible inflation and shipping cost increases that all publishers are dealing with. So the move to softcovers also helps defray our costs without raising the price you'll pay. We thought it was a reasonable compromise, since hardcovers also aren't yet available via Amazon POD.

We're really happy to have found a way to keep Ars Magica books in print, and hope the move to Amazon POD will be a positive experience for everyone. Thanks for giving it a try!


Re: Apprentices, @SubDeorsum I looked into this and it turns out that the spine is too small for Amazon standards to allow any text within their prescribed tolerance. It's a really weird situation, because it's so thin compared to all the other books. So yes, that's how it's supposed to be.

I also just looked into the paper quality specs for our previous printings vs Amazon POD, since our intention has never been to offer lower quality books.

I found the printer quote for Apprentices that showed it was printed on 50lb offset stock for the interior, with 10 point cover stock, at Bang Printing in Brainerd MN.

Amazon's POD specs say they're using 55 lb stock for the interior, and 80lb cover stock.

So the POD interior paper should be very slightly thicker than previous printings, but probably not enough to actually tell the difference. The cover is the same between the two … 10pt and 80lb are equivalent, just two different ways of measuring the same paper thickness/weight.

I hope that info helps!

@darkwing can you tell me which pages those were in Guardians that were duplicated/missing? I'd like to check our printer file to be sure it's not actually a problem on our end.

page 108 (covenant of Roznov) was missing.

I just checked our file for Guardians, and p108 is fine there. So yes that seems to be a printer issue. If it's still within the return window, you could ask Amazon to reprint it for you.