Amazon

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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.

 

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In the latest twist in the Amazon-Hachette dispute, Amazon has proven once again that it has the best PR team in corporate history. Following an open letter from authors involved in the current issue which stated that their livelihoods were being impacted by Amazon’s refusal to concede to Hachette’s terms, Amazon offered to give the authors 100% of the price of their sales until the matter is resolved. This offer would have meant that neither Amazon nor Hachette would receive any of the sales price on these authors’ titles, a move which Amazon claimed was meant to spur the parties into reaching an agreement while still ensuring that the authors were not harmed by the negotiations.

Interestingly, despite insisting publicly that Amazon’s ongoing inability to accept the new publisher terms is hurting its authors, Hachette turned down Amazon’s suggestion and dismissed it as simply a ploy. Other entities like the Authors Guild followed suit, quickly spurning Amazon’s offer.

Now, Amazon has offered to take its percentage and Hachette’s percentage and offer those to literacy charities, while still giving the authors their royalty. While the intention is still to ensure that authors are not affected by the drama, the retailer feels like this will force the two parties involved to come to terms that both can agree on.

According to an article in The Bookseller, author Douglas Preston informed Publisher’s Weekly about the offer from Amazon, but said that it has already been rejected by Authors United, the group which penned the open letter and has promised a forthcoming letter to be published as a full-page ad in the New York Times. What is truly interesting is the coverage that this announcement has received, including headlines like this one, and the noticeable reduction in anti-Amazon sentiment in the comments sections of these posts.

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As Hachette, Amazon, and the laundry list of household name authors who make up the faux-power group Authors United continue to battle and make headlines over the contract dispute, there’s another major player who’s caught in the crossfire of the whole mess: the readers.

While critics and supporters on both sides argue over the costs of doing business, the power of capitalism, even the poor contract terms that many traditionally published authors face, the sad fact is that the readers are being left out of much of the discussion. How the contract agreement–whenever it may come about–affects book pricing will directly impact consumers and their ability to continue to purchase books.

Unfortunately, Authors United, the group of authors who penned an open letter to Amazon asking the retailer to resolve the issue and agree to terms, has now threatened to call on its readers to help stand their ground, despite Amazon’s offer to give Hachette’s authors 100% of the sale price of their books until the matter is concluded. AU has now written a second letter stating that it will write another letter…then post that letter in a full-page ad in the New York Times.

Through author Douglas Preston, AU has made the following bold statement: “We have many loyal and committed readers. They listen when we speak. That represents power; perhaps even enough power to face down one of the world’s largest corporations.”

The level of arrogance required to state that AU can use its own reader fans in its fight to increase the price of books for those very fans is astounding, as this is one of the biggest shows of us-versus-them in publishing to be made public in quite some time. Hopefully these authors will quickly come to understand that if it weren’t for Amazon, many of those readers couldn’t even afford to be their fans.

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New information and knowledge have come to light thanks to the efforts of a core group of individuals; author Hugh Howey and his mathematical number cruncher Data Guy have released exhaustive information through the Author Earnings reports designed to help authors make informed decisions concerning their publishing.

Rather than fight the Author Earnings efforts and information with their collective heads in the sand, Amazon seems to be reading and incorporating the information into tools for their authors. In the public beta of a new feature, KDP Pricing Support, Amazon has opened a new toolbox for authors to better understand their book pricing and the impact is has on their overall sales.

Amazon’s new tool gives authors who wish to use the free service a snapshot of where similar books are performing and at which price points, thereby recommending a price for their titles. Authors are then given the option to one-click to institute that price for their books. It’s interesting to note that when a Good e-Reader staffer tested the new service, it was discovered that some of the author’s titles were priced as much as seven dollars US lower than the typical book performing at peak sales for that category; other titles were already priced at the recommended $2.99. None of the authors’ books were priced higher than the service’s recommendation, a characteristic that is common among self-published authors who tend to underprice their content.

The tool is available for all KDP authors to try out by clicking on the button in the “Rights and Pricing” section of their dashboards, and Amazon has stated that the beta period is open to all users in an attempt to help them uncover which features authors rely on. Books that are not enrolled in Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program are still eligible for the service, and more information can be found HERE.

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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.

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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.

Categories : e-reader, e-Reader News
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Unlimited
Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, the ebook and audiobook subscription service that lets members pay a flat monthly fee for unlimited access to its catalog, went live today, offering users a thirty day free trial and the option to pay $9.99 a month for the service. According to a press release issued by Amazon, the service is compatible with both Kindle reading devices and tablets, as well as through the Kindle reading app on other popular brands of mobile devices.

“With Kindle Unlimited, you won’t have to think twice before you try a new author or genre—you can just start reading and listening,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Kindle. “In addition to offering over 600,000 eBooks, Kindle Unlimited is also by far the most cost-effective way to enjoy audiobooks and eBooks together. With thousands of Whispersync for Voice-enabled audiobooks to choose from, you can easily switch between reading and listening to a book, allowing the story to continue even when your eyes are busy. We hope you take advantage of the 30-day free trial and try it for yourself.”

In the most interesting news about the launch, the Unlimited catalog–which features 600,000 ebooks and 2,000 audiobooks–automatically includes self-published works that authors have listed in Amazon’s exclusive program, KDP Select. However, any author who wishes to unenroll from KDP Select to avoid including his titles in Kindle Unlimited may do so immediately, without having to wait for the ninety day period.

Amazon representatives told Good e-Reader this morning: “There are many self-published titles in the catalog. If you have a book enrolled in KDP Select, it will automatically be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. If you do not want your books in Kindle Unlimited, you have the option to immediately remove your book from KDP Select. To do so, please include the ASIN for your book when you complete this Contact Us form. We will remove your book from KDPS right away and contact you to confirm. You can see our forum post on the announcement for KDP authors here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AA9BSAGNO1YJH.”

Self-published authors will be compensated in much the same way as they are when consumers borrow their books through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. When Kindle Unlimited customers read at least ten percent of an indie author’s book through the service, that will count as a “read” for compensation from the KDP Select Global Fund, just as if a non-member had borrowed the title through KOLL.

As an added incentive for membership, readers who join Kindle Unlimited will also be given a free three-month membership to Audible to try out their catalog of over 150,000 audiobooks. Full details on the service and the free trials can be found at amazon.com/KindleUnlimited.


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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)?

Categories : Android News
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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.

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Unlimited
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.

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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.


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In a semi-olive branch move, Amazon offered last week to extend 100% of the sales price of Hachette titles to the authors themselves, in a conciliatory move meant to eradicate fears that Amazon’s alleged “sanctions” against Hachette have hurt their authors. In an effort to avoid dragging the children into this while the grown-ups fight, Amazon offered to give the entire purchase price of Hachette titles to the authors, assuming that Hachette also wouldn’t take any percentage, as a push to get both sides to work harder on a resolution.

Of course Hachette refused.

Yes, the very publisher who claims to be fighting for its authors in this situation refused Amazon’s generous offer, basically calling it a PR stunt. What is so interesting is the vocal criticism from (shock, surprise, horror!) the Authors Guild. The same organization who keeps claiming to speak up for authors has also refused to accept Amazon’s offer, which is really interesting because the Guild has no dog in this fight other than sticking its collective nose in.

Admittedly Amazon did send an outline of the terms to Authors Guild as a respectful gesture prior to submitting it to Hachette, but as mothers everywhere state, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Instead, AG opened its mouth and took the opportunity to rail against Amazon, rising to the challenge of proving once again that it has nothing to do with authors’ best interests, and instead is focused on being an elitist club so disconnected from the reality of funding one’s own writing that it sides with a traditional publisher when terms are offered to benefit authors.

Publisher’s Weekly posted Amazon’s statement in response to being thwarted in its efforts to support authors during this difficult time:

“Our offer is sincere and it stands—Hachette need only say yes to help their authors. We also wonder what this letter [from AG] would look like if Hachette had posed this idea and Amazon had rejected it. The letter conflates the long-term structure of the industry with a short-term proposal designed to take authors, the constituency this organization supposedly represents, out of the line of fire of a negotiation between large corporations. Given that the Authors Guild are an author’s advocacy group, it is hard to believe they don’t support this. They are the Authors Guild, not the Publishers Guild.”

What purpose does the Authors Guild serve, exactly?

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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.

Categories : e-Reader News
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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.

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