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!