Archive for Amazon
In a move that industry watchers are already calling a direct competition to Amazon’s purchase of book discovery platform Goodreads, TechCrunch has reported through an anonymous tip that Apple has bought Boise, Idaho-based BookLamp, creators of the Book Genome Project discovery site. The site, which pairs readers with books based on the “DNA” of books, meaning an in-depth analysis of the language in titles readers have read, offers suggestions for new reads based on what users have already enjoyed.
According to TechCrunch, things became a little cryptic in April of this year, at least on BookLamp’s end. Once the anonymous tipster let it be known that Apple had completed the purchase for between $10million and $15million, which includes all of the technology and the manpower within the company. Facebook (of all places) provided some more of the clues, as key team members from BookLamp still listed Boise as their places of residence but had multiple FB posts that were tagged from the Cupertino, California, location.
As to how this is going to help Apple take down Amazon, as some reports are already claiming, that remains to be seen. Amazon purchased Goodreads over a year ago, with some estimates on the cost ranging from between $150 million and over one billion dollars. While the move has been good for Amazon, for Goodreads, and even for readers, it doesn’t appear to have been a game changer within the bookselling industry, at least not in the way that these kinds of dollars reflect.
One thing that has come out, though, is a renewed focus on Apple’s part in terms of selling titles through its iBooks platform. With agreements already in place with publishers and even Smashwords, and with the iOS8 update coming this fall that is supposed to make book purchasing even more streamlined, incorporating a search feature for right-fit books makes a lot of sense.
Of course, as Apple explained to TechCrunch, the company has a long history of buying smaller tech companies and then not discussing the details. Apple could just as easily have plans for the BookLamp technology–say in the area of app discovery–that doesn’t have much to do with bookselling.
Amazon has opened their first the Kindle Pleasure Reading House in Shanghai, China. This is a temporary autonomous pop up store that will be open from July 18 to July 20th and then August 1-3 in Beijing.
The premise of the new Reading House in China is to draw attention to their complete lineup of Kindle e-readers and Fire tablets. They also installed two machines that will give you recommendations based on your favorite books and give you the Kindle book prices online. Amazon has also filled a bookcase with over 1,000 physical books, which they are selling.
Kindle product managers are on hand to explain what the devices do and run small workshops for groups of people to get a taste of how digital books will save them money over the long term. Amazon has also setup a small darkroom, where people can try out the Kindle Paperwhite with Frontlight and also see how the tablets perform in low light conditions. Finally, the company is running a ton of interactive games that will win people prizes of cases, books and lots more.
Amazon first opened their Chinese bookstore in December 2012, but government regulations at the time prevented them from advertising it or selling the hardware. At the time The Director of Digital Publishing Director of Press and Publication Administration Technology Wang Qiang, said that “Amazon opened its Kindle ebook store operation with their license pending, but has not yet approved.” All of this was sorted out within six months and now the Kindle China store currently has over 120,000 paid books and 600 classics.
China is a huge market for Amazon and many of its competitors have failed to enter the market in any meaningful way. These popup stores will at least give Amazon some exposure via the press and bloggers, something they exclusively rely on for their North American operations.
Subscribers to the Amazon Prime Instant Video service have longed for an Android app that would work on devices other than the proprietary Kindle Fire tablets (and oddly, iOS-based tablets which are already supported as well). Fortunately it appears that the release of an actual Android app is ‘imminent’ (according to their Marketing Director, Russell Morris).
Amazon Prime Instant Video Service is a subscription-based service not unlike those offered by Netflix or Hulu Plus. Customers are able to rent and purchase movies and television content as well as accessing a library of free titles available for instant streaming. While each service has strengths and weaknesses, Netflix has traditionally come out ahead when it comes to having a simple user interface and high quality feeds –but Amazon has announced they soon intend to support 4K Ultra HD (UHD), which would help level that playing field. Hulu Plus has content the fastest (with minimal commercial interruption) while Netflix has more original series –though Amazon recently cut a deal with HBO to deliver their original series shows, something their competitors have been unable to achieve.
No specifics have been given regarding which Android devices will be supported by the app and there isn’t a confirmed release date.
Do you have a preferred subscription service for streaming movies and television shows (or are you like me and require more than one to satisfy your multimedia needs)?
News was announced yesterday from the lawyers for the plaintiffs in one of Apple’s side lawsuits over ebook pricing that the grand total the company could have to pay out to consumers is $400 million. This amount was disclosed after the terms of the settlement were released following Judge Denise Cote’s approval of the settlement.
This settlement isn’t to be confused with the Department of Justice lawsuit against Apple for colluding with five of the then-Big Six publishers to artificially raise the prices of ebooks in order to draw some of the control over the market away from Amazon. That collusion, in which the publishers all agreed to switch to an agency pricing model instead of the previously followed wholesale model, causing a sharp increase in the price of ebooks when Amazon was no longer allowed to discount publishers’ titles.
The DOJ lawsuit still isn’t resolved, despite the fact that the publishers who were offered deals settled out of court early in order to avoid costly legal fees. Apple has been found guilty of colluding to fix prices, among other charges, and that decision has been appealed by Apple’s attorneys.
But back to the consumers…
Lawyers and states’ attorneys general have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the consumers to recover some of the millions of dollars they were illegally forced to overpay once the collusion took place, and Apple agreed last month to settle out of court…IF…
If its appeal is unsuccessful. The terms of the settlement that Apple agreed to include a clause that lets Apple get out of the settlement scott-free if the appeal in the DOJ case swings in Apple’s favor. They basically got to have their cake and eat it too, since a typical settlement is an agreement reached in order to avoid letting the issue go any further. Apple got to put a cap on the amount it would pay in the consumers’ lawsuit, all while leaving the escape hatch open in order to not have to pay anything should their appeal succeed.
At this point, the consumers who had to pay artificially inflated prices thanks to Apple’s illegal collusion will either get a share of a $400 million settlement, or they will receive nothing. Sadly, just as in the settlements offered to the publishers, the settlement (if there is one) will be paid to consumers in the form of book credits through retailers’ platforms, meaning the consumers can turn right around and pay their settlement moneys right back to the publishers and the retailer.
It’s rare that Amazon isn’t leading the charge in some aspect of the book industry, but news came out today that Amazon is experimenting with ebook subscription models. In the often-compared Netflix climate, this would allow consumers to read unlimited content for one flat monthly fee.
GigaOm grabbed a link to the page for the new feature on Amazon.com, as reported by TechCrunch only a few minutes ago. Interestingly, the image only alludes to 600,000 titles available in the Amazon catalog, not the full ebook catalog, which could mean that Amazon would have the same problem with acquiring content for lending that has plagued the ebook subscription model since it first became news back in 2010.
While several companies are still pursuing the subscription model in some format–whether it’s full-length works, long-form journalism, or e-shorts–two players in the game have actually made a viable model out of it and been able to attract both readers and publishers with content. Oyster and Scribd are currently leading the way in subscription ebooks, and Scribd’s CEO Trip Adler had this to say about Amazon’s potential move into the subscription sphere:
“The apparent entrance of Amazon into the subscription market is exciting for the industry as a whole. It’s validation that we’ve built something great here at Scribd. Publishers, authors and readers alike have all seen the benefit, so its no surprise they’d want to test the waters. Successful companies don’t fear competition, but rather embrace it, learn from it and use it to continue to fuel their own innovation which is exactly what we intend to continue doing.”
It will be interesting to see how Amazon takes on this model, if it actually does so. The Amazon page with the signup button has been cached, but hopefully it’s a sign of things to come.
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.
When Amazon introduced KDP Select, the exclusive program that offered indie authors extra benefits for only selling the ebook through their platform, critics argued that Amazon was encouraging authors to forfeit the ability to sell their books in other locations, thus hurting their overall careers. In exchange for incentives such as paid royalties when Kindle owners borrowed the books, authors were not allowed to list their ebooks for sale anywhere else, including their own websites, and were not able to use platforms like Wattpad where users could interact with the book.
While KDP Select is right for some books and not suited for others, one of the unfortunate truths about self-publishing is that many authors make it as far as uploading to KDP, then don’t go any further. In some cases, their ebooks are even available only through Amazon, and yet are not enrolled in the exclusive program and therefore not receiving those incentives. Mostly through a lack of awareness of other opportunities and difficulties authors faced in trying to create accounts on other sites, many indie ebooks simply languish alone on KDP.
While sites like Barnes and Noble’s NookPress and ebook distributor Smashwords make headlines through their blogs and travel by word of mouth, too many authors are overlooking the opportunities that Kobo’s Writing Life platform has to offer. While perhaps not the household name that Amazon is, the two-year-old platform lets indie authors take advantage of the many benefits that any book on the Kobo platform can have.
Kobo recently released some quasi-specific data on its catalog of self-published titles, showing the 250,000 or so ebooks were currently listed through the KWL platform, uploaded by more than 30,000 authors from 157 countries. These books, which encompass a spectrum of nearly 70 languages, run the gamut of genres, although data showed that romance/erotica, thriller, and fantasy were the top-selling categories.
One of the chief areas that authors are missing out on by skipping over Kobo is the international reach the company has. Despite all the attention given to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, even the “empire” and the “mainstay” don’t have the global reach that Kobo has, with a market presence in nearly 200 countries, as well as an agreement with the American Booksellers Association to allow independent booksellers sell e-reader devices and ebooks.
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.