Archive for Business News
Amazon is playing hardball with Disney in ongoing contract negotiations. The Seattle based e-commerce giant has suspended pre-orders for all future DVD and Blu-Ray releases including two of the summers top hits, Captain America and Maleficent. These films combined earned over $700 million worldwide.
The hardball tactics employed by Amazon is designed to get the new contract signed as soon as possible. The suspension of DVD and Blu-Ray pre-orders is meant to give Disney “motivation” to fast track the new contract.
The elimination of pre-orders is nothing new for Amazon and has been standard business fare over the course of the past few years. Earlier this summer they did the same thing to Warner Bros before the new Lego Movie was slatted for a home release. Ultimately, the two sides reached an accord, and DVD and Blu-ray disc sales resumed.
Customers are buying less DVD and Blu-Ray movies and instead have gravitated towards online streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, and iTunes. Despite all of this, home video sales still continue to play an important role in underwriting the cost of the film.
Amazons tactics with the film industry has certainly not garnered the type of press as their ongoing dispute with publishing giant Hachette. The two sides have been locked in a bitter contract dispute since May 2014. This is prompting many public statements released by Amazon, Hachette and Authors United.
Authors United has taken out a full page ad in the sundays edition of the New York Times. They accuse the online retailer of slowing delivery of Hachette’s books, refusing to discount its works, and saying its books are unavailable. The letter is backed by many big-name writers, including Douglas Preston, Stephen King and John Grisham. The letter says the authors are not choosing sides, but urges Amazon to stop “hurting authors” as part of the negotiations.
Barnes and Noble is teaming up with Google to delivery books the same day you order them online. Books will only be shipped to a few key markets, but the intention is to use Manhattan, West Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area as a pilot for an eventual Nationwide rollout.
Google has been running Shopping Express only for only a year and only recently expanded out of California a few months ago. The premise Express is to partner with companies like Costco, Guitar Center, L’Occitane, Smart & Final, Staples, Target, and Walgreens and allow people to get things delivered to their house the same day the order is placed.
Barnes and Noble is betting on a few factors to make their same day book delivery system work. Shopping Express is offering a free six month subscription to get free shipping. Alternatively you can simply pay $4.99 for each shipment, instead of subscribing. Amazon’s same-day service costs $5.99 for members of its Prime program, which also has an annual rate of $99.99.
So what B&N stores are participating in this pilot project? The Union Square store in Manhattan, the Marina del Rey store near Los Angeles and a store on Stevens Creek Boulevard in San Jose. They will all have a dedicated person on site to assist customers in placing online orders for books, toys, games, magazines and other items. Google will collect the orders and hand them to a courier. Barnes & Noble stores have 22,000 to 163,000 titles, depending on the store size.
We live in an age of instant gratification. This is why the eBook industry exploded in the last few years and major publishers trumpet that they account for 21%-28% of their entire revenue stream. It is all too convenient to buy a book on your e-reader, smartphone or tablet and instantly be able to read it. Barnes and Noble is betting that same day deliveries will encourage more people to buy the print edition.
The Canadian bookselling industry is dominated by Chapters Indigo. You can get a good indication on how many people are buying print books by looking at their overall financial profitability. The latest quarterly results are in today and the future looks dark.
Chapters and Indigo are on the brink of disaster. The bookseller announced a loss of $10 million last November and a massive $20 million decline in June. The latest figures published today have their resources shrinking further with a $14 million loss and C$180.8 million in total revenue. One of big reasons the losses were not nearly as profound as they could have been, was primarily due to the fact seven bookstores closed.
The flagship store on Robson Street in Vancouver and Indigo Yorkdale have been doing brisk business selling American Girl Apparel. Heavy promotion is being done outside the stores with posters to bring people in to buy dolls and accessories. This product line has been so successful that Indigo made the call to bring it to the Chapters Rideau store in Ottawa.
During the earnings call Indigo drew attention to their lifestyle products were seeing success. It took awhile for their inventory selection to catch on with the Canadian public that often shops at Pier One Imports for that sort of thing. A new selection of content that is available anywhere else is now available at the bigger stores.
Books have seen greater success and Indigo reported that for the first time since 2010 they sold lots. This is due to major titles being released this year by Hillary Clinton and JK Rowling.
Amazon Prime members often get a bevy of benefits including Prime Music, Prime Video, one free eBook a month and free two day shipping. If you live in rural areas where FEDEX subcontracts shipping to your local mail service or if you don’t mind waiting a few days, there is a new program. Starting today, if you order something online with Amazon and are an existing Prime member you will earn $1 in credit you can use to pay or rent videos.
In the past, Prime members trying to purchase something would see a few choices, such as free standard shipping, free two-day shipping, and one-day shipping at an extra cost. There is now a new option: “Free No-Rush Shipping (5-7 business days).”
In return for waiting the few extra days you will earn $1 whenever you make a purchase. The credits are automatically added to your account and are only compatible with Prime Video. This allows users to be able to purchase movies, television shows or use the credit to rent them instead.
Amazon has penned an open letter on their website which spells out their mentality in approaching the ongoing Hachette eBook dispute. They primarily contend that selling eBooks at the $9.9 price point sells more copies and garners more money than titles that retail for $14.99.
In a written statement Amazon said “A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market — e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.
It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%.
Amazon also made the keypoint of exactly how royalties are pointed to be shared between Hachette and the Seattle based company. “While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call.”
In closing Amazon said “Is it Amazon’s position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99.”
Santa Monica hotel Shutters on the Beach is doing something very interesting. They will buy the books you want to read during your holiday and have them awaiting you in the room upon check in
In order to have one or a bunch of books waiting in your room, simply call the front desk up to 24 hours in advance. A dedicated book buyer will purchase books, magazines and newspapers from the local Barnes and Noble bookstore. The cost of them will be billed in your room and your poolside
Apple is looking to beat Amazon at the eBook discovery game with the acquisition of BookLamp. The Idaho based startup has focused their company primarily on analytics services that is specialized on big data.
BookLamp’s claim to fame was the Book Genome project, a book discovery engine that analyzed the text of books to break them down by various themes and variables to let readers search for books similar to books they liked.
BookLamp also provided content analysis services to a number of e-book distributors like Amazon, Apple, and other publishers, screening books for categorization and providing a platform for publishers to screen manuscripts.
The one thing that BookLamp did really well was look at a specific title and extrapolate the underlying metadata. As you can see from the Stephen King example above, it categorizes all of the main themes of the book, to help with indexing and organization in the bookstore.
Apple has not formally announced the amount of cash it has ponied for the company, but the rumor was between $10 and $20 million dollars. BookLamp was actually in negotiation with Amazon prior to the sale to Apple, but the talks fell through.
What will Apple do with BookLamp?
Aside from the clientbase that BookLamp already has, there are a number of things Apple could do with the technology. The first would be to develop a competitor to Amazon X-Ray, which would give you the people, places and things in a book, but also major themes. It would also assist in vetting out titles that would not be appropriate for kids or young teens.
Apple iBooks currently does not really focus on recommendations or personalization. They mainly have a series of top lists, editors choice, or recommended titles from Apple curators. Some of this data is changed based on geography, for example in Canada you would see a number of French language titles.
BookLamp technology would allow Apple to give more personalization based on past purchases. This is similar to the type of data Amazon employs and it often leads to more sales, especially if the data could be displayed on the iPad/iPhone, but also via Email.
James Joyce’s Ulysses is one of the most important books to be written by a biped. It is on many peoples reading list, but seldom completed. The novel is fairly daunting and this is prompting Dublin filmmaker Eoghan Kidney to develop a 3D immersive experience using Oculus Rift.
The filmmaker is looking to raise $5,000 to turn the chapter Proteus into a visual Cliff’s Notes. In this installment Dedalus wanders across a desolate beach, closes his eyes, and ponders the shifting nature of reality and the disconnect between his inner self and the external world.
The intention behind this project is to make the book more accessible, even if the crowdfunding initiative is for a single chapter. The filmmaker has disclosed that if this is successful, he will make a playable, immersive world of the entire novel.
The publishing industry could be turned onto its head with a recent revelation that Amazon is in talks with big 5 publisher Simon and Schuster. No one seems to know what the discussions are about, whether it has to do with eBook pricing or if they are talking about an acquisition. If Amazon were to purchase S&S it would give Amazon major distribution to physical bookstores and finally legitimate their own publishing imprints.
Amazon Publishing first launched in 2009 and is now composed of a number of imprints including AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, Montlake Romance, Thomas & Mercer, 47 North, New Harvest, Day One, and Powered by Amazon.
When Amazon got into the publishing industry initially major bookstores were very much against it. Barnes and Noble famously said it would not stock a single Amazon published title in their bookstores. At the time, they said “Our decision [not to stock Amazon published titles] is based on Amazon’s continued push for exclusivity with publishers, agents and the authors they represent.”
There are some obvious benefits of Amazon purchasing S&S. It would legitimize their publishing efforts and give Createspace users the ability to stock their books more easily in stores. It would also give authors signed to their imprints to be stocked in stores under existing S&S contracts and also assist them in their efforts to get books in the library via Overdrive, 3M and Baker & Taylor.
CBS Corp currently made $800 million in revenue in 2013 from their S&S publishing division. CEO Leslie Moonves said in a recent interview that “We are negotiating with Amazon as we speak.”
Amazon and CBS have a really solid relationship outside of books and eBooks. CBS initially went into business with Amazon three years ago as a digital test. But the relationship proved valuable as funding from Amazon helped underwrite the cost of “Under the Dome,” a summer series based on a best-selling Stephen King novel. CBS greenlit the high-profile project only after making sure the show would make money, and Amazon provided a key piece of the funding. “Under the Dome,” which was produced by Steven Spielberg, went on to be the most-watched summer TV series in 21 years. It also was the most popular program on Amazon’s service last year. No other broadcast network shows currently have such a quick turnaround on a subscription series.
Amazon offers other CBS-owned shows, including the complete “Star Trek” franchise and TV classics such as “I Love Lucy,” without commercials. CBS said its drama “The Good Wife” was the No. 1 show on the Amazon service during the fourth quarter of 2013.
In the last few years Amazon has been acquiring many companies to boost their publishing efforts such as book discovery site GoodReads and digital comic luminary Comixology. Amazon is responsible for more than three out of every five e-books sold, according to research firm Codex Group.
Update: Many sources are claiming that the talks are not about an acquisition but have to do with eBook pricing. Currently Hachette and Amazon are in talks to renew their contract and S&S might be starting early stage talks on their new arrangement. I doubt this is the case, in talking with major eBook stores such as Apple and Kobo, they are mandated to renew each contract individually within a certain window period. The pitfalls of discussing new contracts all at once would be tantamount to collusion and would go against the DOJ settlement on agency pricing.
Update 2 – Sources close to the situation have told Good e-Reader that the two sides met about a number of issues. One of them was avoiding some of the pitfalls that erupted during the Hachette contract dispute and getting on the same page. The second post of discussion was getting S&S support for Kindle Unlimited and contributing their backlist and midlist titles to help legitimize the new platform.
Amazon has found itself in hot water in France, as government authorities were ready to hit the company with hefty fines. This stems from a new law that was signed by France’s ruling Socialist Party and the opposition UMP Party that banned online retailers from shipping discounted books for free. It comes in the form of an amendment to a 32-year-old law that sets the value of new books at fixed prices. Instead of fighting it out with the French government, Amazon has bowed to pressure and will no longer ship books for free.
Amazon has increased the cost of shipping books by one centime. This is basically sending books out for only a penny, which satisfies the new laws but circumvents the spirit of it.
Culture minister Aurelie Filippetti has previously singled out Amazon, saying that it “destroys” bookshops. “Once they are in a dominant position and will have crushed our network of bookshops, they will bring prices back up,” she told a conference of booksellers last year.
France is highly protective of its bookshops, enshrining measures to preserve them in law since 1981 when discounts above 5% were banned to prevent big chains from using bulk orders to undercut smaller independent bookshops. France has 3,500 bookshops compared to just 1,000 in the U.K., of which roughly 700 are independent.
The US Federal Trade Commission is suing Amazon for not having enough safeguards in place to prevent children from racking up millions of dollars worth of virtual currency and in-app purchases.
FTC chair Edith Ramirez said in a statement: “Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission. Even Amazon’s own employees recognized the serious problem its process created.”
Amazon keeps 30 percent of all in-app charges, the FTC said in its complaint. The case “highlights a central tenant” of consumer protection laws in the U.S., that companies should get customer permission before charging them, said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau, during a press conference about the lawsuit.
Amazon, in a letter to the FTC July 1, said it was “deeply disappointed” that the agency was moving toward filing a lawsuit. “We have continuously improved our experience since launch, but even at launch, when customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn’t want we refunded those purchases,” wrote Andrew DeVore, Amazon’s associate general counsel.
This is not the first time the FTC went after a company over in-app purchases by children. In January 2014 Apple provided full refunds to consumers, paying a minimum of $32.5 million, to settle a Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company billed consumers for millions of dollars of charges incurred by children in kids’ mobile apps without their parents’ consent.
Likely Amazon will have to make a token payment to make the FTC complaint go away. Given that Apple has the larger ecosystem and more user engagement, the likelihood of having to pay the same amount or more is not viable.
Barnes and Noble announced during a recent investors call that it was 100% committed to separating the Nook digital division from their bookstores. This will create a dedicated Nook company that will be publically traded and give investors an incentive to invest into the companies portfolio of eBooks, e-Readers, tablets and accessories.
In fiscal 2014 we have taken certain actions to strengthen the Company, including the ongoing rationalization of the NOOK business, growing the College business through new contract acquisitions and increased offerings to students and faculty, and initiatives to improve Retail’s sales trends,” said Michael P. Huseby, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble. “Our fiscal 2014 results and solid financial position at year-end reflect the positive impact of those actions. We believe we are now in a better position to begin in earnest those steps necessary to accomplish a separation of NOOK Media and Barnes & Noble Retail. We have determined that these businesses will have the best chance of optimizing shareholder value if they are capitalized and operated separately. We fully expect that our Retail and NOOK Media businesses will continue to have long-term, successful business relationships with each other after separation.”
The stage has been set for Nook Media to be on its own, since 2012 when Microsoft and Pearson both invested serious capital. This spun the Nook enterprise into its own segment, but was still a big part of Barnes and Noble. In late 2012, B&N founder Len Riggio petitioned the board to let him separate the bookstores from everything else, and the concept was heavily resisted.
Barnes and Noble has been shaking things up on the executive level and many top players have departed the compay. Jim Hilt, head of global ebook sales, and before him digital products director Jamie Iannone and VP of digital products Bill Saperstein all departed in early 2014.
It is expected that Barnes and Noble will complete the separation of Nook Media by March 2015.
New York, NY (June 25, 2014)—Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS)today reported sales and earnings for its fiscal 2014 fourth quarter and full-year ended May 3, 2014, and that its Board of Directors authorized management to separate the Barnes & Noble Retail and NOOK Media businesses.
Board Authorization For NOOK Media Separation
With the objective of optimizing shareholder value, the Company’s Board of Directors has authorized management of the Company to take steps to separate the Barnes & Noble Retail and NOOK Media businesses into two separate public companies. The Company’s objective is to take the steps necessary to complete the separation by the end of the first quarter of next calendar year.
“In fiscal 2014 we have taken certain actions to strengthen the Company, including the ongoing rationalization of the NOOK® business, growing the College business through new contract acquisitions and increased offerings to students and faculty, and initiatives to improve Retail’s sales trends,” said Michael P. Huseby, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble. “Our fiscal 2014 results and solid financial position at year-end reflect the positive impact of those actions. We believe we are now in a better position to begin in earnest those steps necessary to accomplish a separation of NOOK Media and Barnes & Noble Retail. We have determined that these businesses will have the best chance of optimizing shareholder value if they are capitalized and operated separately. We fully expect that our Retail and NOOK Media businesses will continue to have long-term, successful business relationships with each other after separation.”
The Company has engaged Guggenheim Securities, LLC as financial advisors and Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP as legal counsel.
The Company notes that there can be no assurances regarding the ultimate timing of the proposed separation or that such separation will be completed. Any separation of NOOK Media and Barnes & Noble Retail into two separate public companies will be subject to customary regulatory approvals, securing any necessary financing, tax considerations, final approval of the Barnes & Noble Board of Directors and other customary matters and is dependent on numerous factors that include the macroeconomic environment, credit markets and equity markets.
Fiscal 2014 Fourth Quarter and Year End Results
The fourth quarter and full-year ended May 3, 2014, consisted of 14 weeks and 53 weeks, respectively, as compared to 13 weeks and 52 weeks in the prior year. Comparable sales data in this release exclude the impact of the additional week.
Fourth quarter consolidated revenues increased 3.5% to $1.3 billion versus the prior year. Consolidated fourth quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) improved to $11.2 million, as compared to an EBITDA loss of $124.6 million in the prior year. For fiscal 2014, consolidated revenues decreased 6.7% to $6.4 billion versus the prior year. Fiscal 2014 consolidated EBITDA increased to $251 million, as compared to $7 million a year ago.
“We’re pleased with our improved financial performance in fiscal 2014, generating EBITDA of $251 million, the highest it’s been in four years, while executing on our strategic initiatives during the year,” said Mr. Huseby. “Retail improved sales trends during the second half of the year, generating annual EBITDA of $354 million. College increased revenues from higher margin textbook rentals, continued to add new school contracts and developed and soft-launched Yuzu™, our digital education platform, growing EBITDA to $115 million. At NOOK, we executed on our plan to sell through existing device inventory, implemented cost rationalization plans, began to pivot our strategy from device focused initiatives to a content centric approach with the signing of our partnership with Samsung, all while significantly reducing year-over-year losses.”
Fourth Quarter 2014 Results from Operations
Segment results for the 14 weeks of fiscal 2014 and 13 weeks of fiscal 2013 fourth quarters are as follows:
Fiscal 2014 Resultsfrom Operations
Segment results for the 53 weeks of fiscal year 2014 and 52 weeks of fiscal year 2013 are as follows:
(1) Represents the elimination of intercompany sales from NOOK to Barnes & Noble Retail and Barnes & Noble College on a sell-through basis.
(2) This non-GAAP measure has been reconciled to the comparable GAAP measure as required under SEC rules regarding the use of non-GAAP financial measures on the attached Segment Information table.
The Retail segment, which includes the Barnes & Noble Bookstores and BN.com businesses, had revenues of $956 million for the quarter and $4.3 billion for the full year, increasing 0.8% for the quarter, while decreasing 6.0% for the year. The inclusion of the 53rd week contributed $57 million in additional sales in fiscal 2014. Comparable store sales declined 4.1% during the quarter and 5.8% for the full year. “Core” comparable store sales, which exclude sales of NOOK products, decreased 1.9% for the fourth quarter, which included unusually severe February weather. Excluding February, fourth quarter Core comparable store sales decreased 0.5%, in-line with previously reported third quarter results. Core comparable store sales declined 3.1% for the full year. Sales for both the quarter and the year were also impacted by store closures and lower online sales.
Retail generated fourth quarter EBITDA of $53 million, essentially flat as compared to a year ago. For fiscal 2014, Retail EBITDA decreased 5.9% to $354 million, primarily as a result of the sales decline.
The College segment had revenues of $298 million for the quarter and $1.7 billion for the full year, increasing 18.2% for the quarter, while decreasing 0.9% for the year. The inclusion of the 53rd week contributed $15 million in additional sales for fiscal 2014. Fourth quarter sales were positively impacted by timing of the back-to-school rush season, driving comparable College store sales of 2.6% for the quarter. Comparable sales decreased 2.7% for the full year on a higher mix of lower priced used textbook rentals and lower textbook volume. Comparable College store sales reflect the retail selling price of a new or used textbook when rented, rather than solely the rental fee received and amortized over the rental period.
Fourth quarter College EBITDA increased to $14 million, while full year EBITDA increased 3% to $115 million, as higher margins and net new store growth outpaced additional investment spend in our digital education platform, Yuzu. College’s fiscal 2014 EBITDA includes $22 million of expenses for Yuzu, as compared to $7 million in the prior year.
The NOOK segment (including digital content, devices and accessories) had revenues of $87 million for the quarter and $506 million for the full year, decreasing 22.3% for the quarter and 35.2% for the year. The inclusion of the 53rd week contributed $9 million in additional sales in fiscal 2014, including $1 million in additional device and accessories sales and $8 million of additional content sales.
Device and accessories sales were $25 million for the quarter and $260 million for the full year, declining 30.1% and 44.8%, respectively, due to lower selling volume and lower average selling prices. Digital content sales were $62 million for the quarter and $246 million for the full year, declining 18.7% and 20.6%, respectively, due primarily to lower device unit sales.
NOOK EBITDA losses were $56 million for the fourth quarter and $218 million for the full year, both including previously disclosed asset impairment charges of $28 million. Prior year results were adversely impacted by NOOK inventory-related charges of $133 million for the quarter and $222 million for the year, as well as $20 million of primarily goodwill impairment charges. The remainder of the EBITDA loss reduction was primarily attributable to reduced expenses on lower marketing costs and cost rationalization efforts.
The consolidated fourth quarter net loss was $36.7 million, or $0.72 per share, as compared to the prior year net loss of $114.8 million, or $2.04 per share. Fiscal 2014 consolidated net losses were $47.3 million, or $1.12 per share, as compared to $157.8 million, or $3.02 per share, in the prior year.
In the fourth quarter, the Company recorded a $12.5 million tax benefit, driven primarily by the utilization of previously reserved deferred tax assets. Tax expense for the full year was $52 million, largely driven by partnership tax allocations and previously recorded valuation allowances.
For fiscal year 2015, the Company expects both Retail comparable bookstore sales and Core comparable bookstore sales to decline in the low-single digits. College comparable store sales are also expected to decline in the low-single digits. The Company expects to continue to decrease EBITDA losses in the NOOK segment.
A conference call with Barnes & Noble, Inc.’s senior management will be webcast beginning at 10:00 A.M. ET onWednesday, June 25, 2014, and is accessible at www.barnesandnobleinc.com/webcasts.
Barnes & Noble, Inc. will report fiscal 2015 first quarter results on or about September 4, 2015.
Perseus Book Group was founded in 1996 and has been acquiring small imprints to expand their business. Over the course of the last few years the entire publishing industry is consolidating and Perseus was a solid acquisition target. Hachette has announced they are purchasing Perseus and absorbing all of their imprints and then selling the distribution business to Ingram.
Hachette is currently the 4th largest publisher in the US and the absorbing of Persius will boost their annual revenue an extra $700 million dollars. This stems from the many imprints it now owns, such as from Avalon Travel, Basic Books, Da Capo, The Economist, Nation Books, Running Press, Seal Press, Weinstein Books and Westview.
Not only does Hachette get access to all of the current catalog of titles but also access to 6,000 backlist of titles it can now issue as eBooks. These include perennial sellers such as “Friday Night Lights” by Buzz Bissinger and “Skinny Bitch” by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin.
Perseus can be considered by some, to be the largest book distributor in the US. Under the terms of the Hachette deal Ingram will absorb the client services division, which provides back-end services like marketing and distribution, to Ingram Content Group.