Archive for Amazon
Amazon’s Fire Phone has only been available since July, but usually the hype and excitement makes the initial launch of a new smartphone the most profitable sales period. Unfortunately for Amazon, that doesn’t appear to be the case for their device. While Amazon doesn’t release sales figures of their own (famously), analysts are able to draw their own conclusions by examining ad activity data from sources like Chitika.
Review of the ad network activity Chikita provided shows that in the 20 days following the Fire’s release, only 0.02% of activity can be attributed to the device. When combined with data from ComScore evaluating smartphone subscriber market share, these results suggest there are as few as 26,400 Amazon Fire phones in use. Using a whole bunch of calculations that would take ages to explain and possibly cause you to fall asleep, correcting for under-indexing and margins or error brings the estimated total up to a meagre 35,000 total Fire phones activated.
Amazon has yet to confirm or deny this guesstimate, but even at numbers exponentially higher, the news is bad. It might be failing because of the high price-point ($200 on contract, similar to other top smartphones), or the device’s exclusivity to AT&T as a carrier… or just as likely, consumers see it as a pet project for Amazon and not lasting or true competition.
It’s doubtful that Amazon can turn these results around in a meaningful way anytime soon, but should they decide to release a second generation of the Fire phone –they had better provide real innovation as an incentive for consumers to buy-in.
Sources close to The Wall Street Journal are indicating that instead of Google, it is Amazon that is readying to acquire the Twitch.tv video game streaming service. Rumoured to be selling for a meagre $1 billion, Twitch.tv is considered to be a true streaming video giant. Using the service, over 50-million monthly active users are able to stream live video of themselves playing their favourite games.
When we first heard that Google was interested in purchasing the service, it seemed like a logical move for the company that controls YouTube. So what does Amazon want with Twitch.tv? So far it is just speculation. Perhaps they are going to try and compete with Google in the streaming amateur video arena, but that seems like a difficult place to succeed. Other thoughts swirling around the rumour mill wonder if Amazon may be wanting to extend their own video rental and sales offering –or if they plan on trying to sweep in and dominate the growing eSports genre.
Update: Amazon has purchased Twitch for $970 million in cash. Twitch’s founders have attempted to quell any concerns that the Twitch’s community may have about the acquisition.
“We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster,” wrote Mr Shear in a letter to users.
“We’re keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon’s support we’ll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.”
Amazon WhisperSync for Voice is a system that includes immersion reading and was designed to pick up where you left off in an eBook in the audio edition. It also allows you to both listen to the audiobook, while reading the eBook and text is highlighted as the words are spoken aloud. The service has just rolled out in the United Kingdom and 25,000 Kindle books and 25,000 audiobooks are supported.
Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz said: “We hear from many Kindle and Audible customers in the US that Whispersync for Voice has profoundly changed the way they read. In fact, switching back and forth between reading and listening has become their preferred way of experiencing stories. We are thrilled to be able to open this up to UK listeners and readers for the first time.”
Jorrit Van der Meulen, VP of Amazon Kindle Europe, said: “We’re working hard to help customers find more moments each day to enjoy a great book
I think WhisperSync for Voice is one of the those programs that never caught on in a big way, but people who enjoy the audiobook experience can get more synergy with the digital book edition. I know many people who read the book at night and then listen to the audiobook on the way to work or walking the dog. Its fairly cool to have both mediums synced whether you are using the iOS or Android apps, or using hardware like the Kindle Fire.
Amazon.com today announced Amazon Local Register, a secure card reader and mobile app that provides local businesses with the tools they need to quickly and easily accept credit and debit cards from a smartphone or tablet and keep track of their growing business. Amazon Local Register customers will have access to the Amazon.com award-winning, fully dedicated customer support team, as well as in-app tracking tools. Customers who sign up for Amazon Local Register before October 31 will also receive a low promotional rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe on all major credit and debit cards until January 1, 2016. Additional details are available at localregister.amazon.com.
“From clothing stores to contractors, food trucks to accountants, businesses and organizations using Amazon Local Register will enjoy industry-leading low rates, trusted and secure payment processing, and access to award-winning customer support,” said Matt Swann, Vice President of Amazon Local Commerce. “We understand that every penny and every minute counts, so we want to make accepting payments so easy and inexpensive that it no longer gets in the way of a business owner doing what they love – serving their customers and growing their business.”
Customers can get started with Amazon Local Register in three simple steps: create an account on localregister.amazon.com, purchase a $10 card reader, and download the free mobile app from Amazon Appstore, Apple App Store or Google Play. Starting today, the card reader is available with Free Two-Day Shipping on Amazon.com. Beginning August 19, customers can also purchase a card reader at Staples retail locations nationwide. The Amazon Local Register card reader and free mobile app are compatible with a variety of smartphones and tablets, including Apple devices running iOS7, Kindle Fire tablets, select Android smartphones, and coming soon to the new Fire phone. Each customer’s first $10 in transaction fees will be credited back to the customer’s account once Amazon Local Register is in use – allowing customers to fully recoup the cost of the card reader. Money from transactions can be deposited directly into a bank account within one business day, or spent on Amazon.com within minutes – see the website for more details. Amazon Local Register also provides:
Exceptional value: Amazon Local Register accepts all major credit and debit cards for a low, flat rate with no hidden fees. Plus, there are no long-term contracts. Customers who register before October 31 will receive a low promotional rate of 1.75 percent per card swipe until January 1, 2016. Customers who sign up after this promotional period will pay a flat rate of 2.5 percent on all swiped transactions.
Amazon customer support: Access the award-winning, fully dedicated customer support team, available by phone and email. Plus, Kindle Fire HDX owners can take advantage of the Mayday button to connect to an Amazon tech advisor 24 hours a day, 365 days per year – for free.
Secure and stabilized card reader: A stabilized card reader limits swivel, making it easier to swipe once and go. Plus, each transaction is backed by the same services that securely power Amazon.com purchases.
Business tracking tools: In-app reporting enables a business to quickly check bottom line performance, sales trends, peak sales times and more. All reporting is easily accessible from a smartphone or tablet and is password-protected.
Compatible accessories: Shop for compatible accessories including cash drawers, receipt printers, smartphone cases and stands. Find everything needed to build a point-of-sale system including massive selection, available at the best price, all on Amazon.com.
Early users of Amazon Local Register share their experiences:
“Amazon Local Register has simplified, organized and improved efficiency for my business. The feature I am most impressed with is the outstanding customer support I receive any time I have a question or for whatever help I need. The reports are easy to understand and help me figure out how my business is performing.” Erin H, hair & makeup artist
“I’m always looking for ways to reduce my business expenses. Amazon Local Register’s low price means that I can invest more in my business, while still ensuring that I’m accepting customer payments safely and securely.” – Kevin L, gallery and event venue owner
“My customers used to always ask if they could pay with a credit card and I always said no, as it always seemed too complicated to set up. It was easy to get started with Amazon Local Register, and taking payments is a breeze. My customers are VERY happy and prefer to pay with their card. Another benefit is that I don’t have to deal with going to the bank to deposit cash and checks.” Jannine H, massage therapist
Over the weekend Amazon launched a new propaganda website that dumbs down the contract dispute between Hachette and Amazon. It targets the readers and proclaims that Amazon just wants to keep book prices around the $9.99 mark and doesn’t think its fair that users pay beyond that. Amazon encouraged its readers to directly email Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch to end the dispute for good, here is what he said.
“Thank you for writing to me in response to Amazon’s email. I appreciate that you care enough about books to take the time to write. We usually don’t comment publicly while negotiating,but I’ve received a lot of requests for Hachette’s response to the issues raised by Amazon, and want to reply with a few facts.
Hachette sets prices for our books entirely on our own, not in collusion with anyone.
We set our ebook prices far below corresponding print book prices, reflecting savings in manufacturing and shipping.
More than 80% of the ebooks we publish are priced at $9.99 or lower.
Those few priced higher—most at $11.99 and $12.99—are less than half the price of their print versions.
Those higher priced ebooks will have lower prices soon, when the paperback version is published.
The invention of mass-market paperbacks was great for all because it was not intended to replace hardbacks but to create a new format available later, at a lower price.
As a publisher, we work to bring a variety of great books to readers, in a variety of formats and prices. We know by experience that there is not one appropriate price for all ebooks, and that all ebooks do not belong in the same $9.99 box. Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books, often for years, before we see any revenue. We invest in advances against royalties, editing, design, production, marketing, warehousing, shipping, piracy protection, and more. We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book that we publish — hardcover, paperback, large print, audio, and ebook. While ebooks do not have the $2-$3 costs of manufacturing, warehousing, and shipping that print books have, their selling price carries share of all our investments in the book.
This dispute started because Amazon is seeking a lot more profit and even more market share, at the expense of authors, bricks and mortar bookstores, and ourselves. Both Hachette and Amazon are big businesses and neither should claim a monopoly on enlightenment, but we do believe in a book industry where talent is respected and choice continues to be offered to the reading public.
Once again, we call on Amazon to withdraw the sanctions against Hachette’s authors that they have unilaterally imposed, and restore their books to normal levels of availability. We are negotiating in good faith. These punitive actions are not necessary, nor what we would expect from a trusted business partner.
Thank you again and best wishes,
Amazon has started a new website that explains the nature of the Hachette eBook dispute and hopes to alleviate some concerns. It is aimed primarily at readers and how they will pay less money for their favorite digital titles. The full note is quite detailed and is available to read below.
Just ahead of World War II, there was a radical invention that shook the foundations of book publishing. It was the paperback book. This was a time when movie tickets cost 10 or 20 cents, and books cost $2.50. The new paperback cost 25 cents — it was ten times cheaper. Readers loved the paperback and millions of copies were sold in just the first year.
With it being so inexpensive and with so many more people able to afford to buy and read books, you would think the literary establishment of the day would have celebrated the invention of the paperback, yes? Nope. Instead, they dug in and circled the wagons. They believed low cost paperbacks would destroy literary culture and harm the industry (not to mention their own bank accounts). Many bookstores refused to stock them, and the early paperback publishers had to use unconventional methods of distribution — places like newsstands and drugstores. The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.
Well… history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.
Fast forward to today, and it’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette — a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate — are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. We want lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. 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 and should be less expensive.
Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.
The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.
Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.
Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. 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 the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.
But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books — he was wrong about that.
And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read). A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.
We recognize that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle. We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity. But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.
We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.
Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch: Michael.Pietsch@hbgusa.com
Copy us at: email@example.com
Please consider including these points:
– We have noted your illegal collusion. Please stop working so hard to overcharge for ebooks. They can and should be less expensive.
– Lowering e-book prices will help — not hurt — the reading culture, just like paperbacks did.
– Stop using your authors as leverage and accept one of Amazon’s offers to take them out of the middle.
– Especially if you’re an author yourself: Remind them that authors are not united on this issue.
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.
Kindle is already one of the most frequently used digital reading apps available for iOS, boasting access to over 1,000,000 books in the Kindle store in addition to hundreds of newspapers and magazines. While the existing interface was clean and easy to use, Amazon has implemented a number of updates in version 4.4 that promise to make sync and navigation easier.
One of the handiest new features is the ability to sync to the most recent page read. This means that all of your devices (whether they are iOS, Android or any device using the reading app and registered to your Amazon account) will agree on the last page you actually read (instead of just the furthest page). This is incredibly convenient when you read books like I do –needing to jump backward to remind yourself of past happenings in the volume and then continue from where you were.
Placeholders are also new, allowing you to flip around and explore new areas of your book without changing your current bookmark.
Finally, notes export is a fantastic tool for students and researchers alike. As you are reading, highlighting, and making notes, you can then email these items to yourself. Features like this are critical if electronic books are ever going to fully replace paper textbooks in classrooms.
If you are using an iPad or iPhone, you can download Kindle for your iOS device for free from the Apple App Store. If you are using an Android device, you can download Amazon Kindle (though you won’t see these latest updates in this version just yet).
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.”
Amazon has announced a new partnership with Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. The two sides will publish digitally at first, gauging the market to see if a print run is warranted.
The new imprint, which will also use the Alloy Entertainment name, will publish young adult, new adult and commercial fiction titles. Three titles were released for the Kindle today, as part of the partnership; Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand, Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter, and Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart.
Warner Bros is hoping to leverage films, television and media properties it owns to develop original works for the Kindle. Leslie Morgenstein, president of Alloy Entertainment, said: “One of our strengths is working with talented authors to create and develop properties that have mass entertainment appeal. This program is an exciting extension of our business and will allow us to leverage Amazon’s ability to distribute to an incredibly diverse and broad readership.”
“Alloy has a tremendous track record developing stories, like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars and The Vampire Diaries, that our customers love,” said Jeff Belle, Vice President of Amazon Publishing. “We’re thrilled to promote these books from Alloy Entertainment with our Powered by Amazon program. It’s a great fit.”
Warner Bros and Amazon have been working together for quite awhile with the Alloy properties. Kindle Worlds, the officially sanctioned fan fiction publishing initiative has been using Vampire Diaries, Pretty Little Liars and Gossip girls as properties for aspiring writings to craft original stories, set in that particular universe. The solidification of Alloy and Amazon might see some of these authors get proper publishing contracts, but likely we will just see movie and television show tie-ins.
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.