Archive for Amazon
One of Amazon’s more hotly contested and expensive legal battles has been what some states so blatantly dubbed “The Amazon Tax.” According to a decades-old Supreme Court decision, catalog retailers and online retailers do not have to charge sales tax in states where they have no physical presence, but state governments realized that Amazon’s distribution centers amounted to a physical presence. In a firestorm of legislation across the country, states began to draft legislation and file lawsuits against the retailer for sales tax.
In some cases, Amazon worked out deals with those states, promising new construction and new jobs in exchange for a delay in the new legislation or a pass on the back taxes; in other states, Amazon simply closed the centers and laid off its employees, thereby erasing its “presence” in the state. A handful of states where Amazon essentially needed to keep the centers open worked out their legislation and concerns with the retailer, and many of them agreed to a delay in Amazon’s collection of the tax.
But now that most of the states are now requiring full compliance with their own tax laws, a recent report has shown a drop in sales in states where the tax was enacted. As much as a ten percent drop in consumer spending to the site has been reported, leading some to question whether there is any truth to the long held criticism that physical retailers, especially independent bookstores, really are losing business to the big-box shopping mentality.
While Amazon maintains that it will continue to thrive for its superior prices, convenient shipping, and above standard customer service, there’s another factor that supports Amazon’s position as it pertains to sales tax. With so many county and city governments within each state charging their own sales taxes on purchases, consumers will still be better off making online purchases, regardless of whether the state collects sales tax. The dubious honor of highest combined sales tax in the country currently goes to the town of Arab, Alabama, where its citizens pay 13.5% sales tax; the state sales tax is only 4%, so online purchases make sense in that area. While some states do not charge a state sales tax on certain items, like Kentucky’s decision not to collect on books, only two states in the country charge sales tax on groceries, Mississippi and Alabama. Consumers in those states are still going to come out far ahead by buying grocery items from Amazon as the retailer is not required to collect sales tax in either of those states yet.
Amazon currently collects sales tax in twenty states, with new states still waiting to enact their taxes. The online retailer has rightfully stated that it supports and will comply with a federal sales tax decision that allows one streamlined system for online retailers, but that the need to establish fifty different modes of taxation on web-based purchases simply wasn’t feasible.
Residents of the US, Canada and Australia have early access to a new feature on eBook discovery website GoodReads. In the largest single act of synergy since Amazon purchased GoodReads last year, customers can now have all of their Kindle Books synced automatically to their bookshelf.
How do you know if you have this new feature? You’ll see the Add Amazon Book Purchases link in the Tools list on the left hand side of the My Books page (and a small announcement at the top of the page). Click on either link and you will be asked to sign in to your Amazon account. You’ll then see your Amazon book purchases. You can go through and rate each book and select the appropriate shelf for it. GoodReads gives you full control over which books to add, so you can avoid adding any books bought as gifts or anything else. Any book not rated or added to a shelf will not be added to Goodreads.
Members in the U.S., Canada, and Australia can also use the Add Your Amazon Books option on Goodreads on Kindle Paperwhite (first and second generation devices) and the new Kindle Fires. This is great for people who have installed the latest firmware updates to give you access to GoodReads right on your tablet or e-reader.
Last week Amazon acquired the largest purveyor in digital comics, Comixology. The company has been going strong since 2007 and functions as the primary distribution method for Archie, DC, GI JOE, Marvel and over 70 different publishers. These publishers are now very worried that Amazon will employ the same strong-arm tactics they did with publishers to get eBooks at rock bottom prices.
During the last few years Amazon categorically informed a large number of small and medium sized publishers that Amazon would not negotiate agency selling terms with any other publishers outside of the five initial Apple partners. The publishers were told that if they switched to an agency model for ebooks, Amazon would stop selling their entire list, in print and digital form. Amazon also played hardball with companies like S&S, HarperCollins, Hachette and Random-Penguin when the agency model was disbanded to get the best deals possible.
Amazon is a company that functions on margins and firmly embraces the wholesale methodology to their entire ecosystem. The big problem is comic publishers have no experience with outside companies mandating lower prices. A number of comic book publishers have told me off the record that they are really worried that they are going to receive a call from Amazon and inform them they have to reduce their prices. The vast majority will have no choice but to aquis to whatever new terms Amazon mandates, because they have no other resource to sell their comics.
Comixology is not the only player in town that sells digital comics, but is the definitive force when it comes to single issue comics. Amazon, Apple, B&N, Google and Kobo all sell graphic novels. Comic book lovers often are enamoured with single issues because they can stay current with the major storylines, instead of waiting a number of months for them to be packaged into a graphic novel. A few times a year Marvel and DC have big events that crossover into popular franchises. Fear Itself, AVX, Age of Ultron tend to have four or five comics coming out every single week. People want the single issues in order to really get into the story. Sadly, Comixology is really the only company to actively market them.
DC Comics is one company that has been branching out on their own lately, instead of exclusively relying on Comixology. The company made their first single comic distribution agreement with Google Books. Starting last week, readers will be able to buy all new issues every Wednesday. The company also pulled out all of their comics out of the Comixology app for the Kindle Fire, citing better sales on other platforms.
Marvel has been actively developing their own end-to-end solution where they want to get into the business of selling their own comics and not relying on 3rd parties. The first step to this was incorporating Marvel AR into the main Marvel app. This gives users the ability to use their tablets camera on a physical book to get commentary from the writers/artists or to check out animations. A few weeks ago Marvel unveiled the ability to have comics read aloud to you at South by Southwest. The big rumor is that Marvel plans on incorporating their Netflix for Comics Marvel Unlimited into their main app and also start selling comics themselves.
It is currently unknown what Amazon will do with Comixology. They might pull a Zappos or GoodReads and let them run autonomously, while incorporating some key technology into their own ecosystem. Alternatively they might elect to shutter it completely and if you want comics, Amazon will be the only game in town. I don’t know how DC or Marvel will enjoy the talks with Amazon to lower their prices or if they will physically resist it.
Comixology is the largest digital comics distribution platform on iOS, Android and Windows 8. The company has been going strong since 2007 and their technology powers the reading apps from Marvel, DC, Archie, and has every single comic and graphic novel of the Walking Dead. Last week, Amazon announced they acquired Comixology. This did not really surprise anyone who keeps tabs on the digital comic industry, but did Apple, B&N and Kobo miss the boat?
When it comes to selling comic books online, Amazon, Apple, B&N, Kobo, Google and many other players all sell them. Surprisingly most only sell graphic novels, instead of single issue comics. Graphic novels usually comprise of 6 issues of a series and make it easier than purchasing each one separately. This appeals to more casual readers, but hardcore readers often choose Comixology to stay on top of all of the new releases every Wednesday. The only notable exception is DC making a new agreement with Google to carry new single issue comics on the Google Books Store.
Why did Barnes & Noble, iBooks or Kobo not pursue this deal? This could have been game changers for those companies and it could have appealed to the people who have downloaded over 215 million comics from Comixology. Industry experts have speculated that the B&N executive team is not forward thinking enough to actually go through with it and they have their own turmoil in the executive ranks to think about. Kobo is exclusively focused on international expansion and Apple is only concerned with making the 30% royalty on in-app purchases and selling stuff on iTunes.
If there was a single company to benefit the most from Comixology, it was Amazon. The Seattle based company had developed comic technology called Panel View option for fixed layout illustrated ebooks. This attempt was clearly trying to clone the far superior Guided View from Comixology. Amazon also does not allow high resolution images in KF8 FXL files, which is their file format to emulate EPUB3, but also appealing to more visual and interactive titles. Considering Amazon is putting a priority on high resolution displays on the Kindle Fire HDX line of tablets, the deal with Comixology deal solves all of these issues.
I really feel like Barnes and Noble and Kobo really missed a golden oportonity to purchase Comixology. Both of them would have been better caretakers of the comic company and could have benefited from something no one else had. The deep pockets of Kobo owned Rakuten could have financed the deal and could have added the last piece of the puzzle to their trifecta of eBooks, Kids titles and magazines. Barnes and Noble could have really had a great content distribution system that is a proven revenue earner to offset the losses on Nook hardware and eBooks.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos wrote a lengthy progress report to shareholders at a recent earnings call. The Seattle based e-commerce giant is not known for divulging specifics, whether its revenue or legitimate figures. Instead, they speak in generalities, which makes it quite hard to gauge exactly how healthy their company is. Today, we are going to look at the essential things he talked about, in regards to Kindle, Prime and eBooks.
Bezos said that the company is “investing heavily on behalf of readers,” and he pointed to such 2013 achievements as the launch of the new, high-contrast Kindle Paperwhite, the integration of the “very impressive” Goodreads into the first and second generation Kindle Paperwhite, and the launch of Kindle in India, Mexico, and Australia. The company also launched various publishing imprints and fan-fiction service Kindle Worlds in 2013.
Audible is really growing up fast. The company is seeing massive success distributing their content via iTunes to customers on the iPad and iPhone. The ACX community is growing strong, where Amazon connects authors and producers to boost the catalog even further. Jeff called 2013 a “landmark year” for Audible, noting that Audible customers downloaded “close to 600 million listening hours” of audiobooks last year. One of the breakout titles of 2013 was the Great Gatsby, which sold 100,000 copies in the movie tie-in.
Amazon Prime has recently increased in cost from $79.99 to $99.99. There aren’t many new incentives to justify the price increase, but Amazon did mention they are expanding on their Sunday delivery service with the US Postal Service. There are “tens of millions of Prime members worldwide,” Bezos wrote and more than 20 million products that are eligible to be shipped under Prime.
What is Amazon planning for the rest of the year? They plan on issuing 500 published novels via their publishing imprints in the US and UK. This stems from books they bid on at the recent London Book Fair and mandated by senior agents and editors. The company will also release three new tablets and 2 new e-readers towards the end of the year. Amazon also has just commercially released Dash and Fire TV. One of the big unknowns is what they intend on doing with the purchase of Comixology.
Comixology is the largest digital comic reseller in the world. They account for the vast majority of sales for DC, Marvel, Archie, GI JOE and many other top publishers. Not only do they sell the comics in their own app, but they have developed custom apps for these publishers as well. Amazon has announced today that it has reached an agreement to acquire comiXology.
The writing was on the wall for the last year that Amazon was in negotiations to purchase Comixology. This prompted Marvel to make sweeping changes to their Marvel AR and Marvel Unlimited subscription program and lay the groundwork to sell their own comics.
The purchase of Comixology will finally allow Amazon to make a series bid to control the entire digital comics market. The comics giant has had over 200 million downloads since its launch in 2007. Comixology recently expanded their European offerings—the digital vendor opened a French office last year—announcing a manga digital distribution agreement with VIZ Media Europe and its French subsidiary, Kazé.
Amazon has always sold digital graphic novels in their Kindle store. One of the pitfalls of their strategy is the series are rather dated and series comic lovers often buy the single issues as soon as they are released. Amazon will now be selling single issues from over 70 publishers in their store in the near future. Amazon also expressed great interest in the self-publishing platform Comixology Submit and it is currently unknown if this program will play a part in Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle Lending Library and Create Space.
“ComiXology’s mission is to spread the love of comics and graphic novels in all forms,” said David Steinberger, co-founder and CEO of comiXology. “There is no better home for comiXology than Amazon to see this vision through. Working together, we look to accelerate a new age for comic books and graphic novels.”
“Amazon and comiXology share a passion for reinventing reading in a digital world,” said David Naggar, Amazon Vice President, Content Acquisition and Independent Publishing. “We’ve long admired the passion comiXology brings to changing the way we buy and read comics and graphic novels. We look forward to investing in the business, growing the team, and together, bringing comics and graphic novels to even more readers.”
Amazon controls digital books by a wide margin compared to the competition. With the acquisition of Comixology the company will now dominate the digital comic market too.
The broken record of the publishing industry is playing the same old song: Amazon is evil and must be destroyed. At least, that’s the sentiment that came out of the first day conference of the London Book Fair. The digital publishing-themed pre-event got underway with an in-depth look at how Amazon continues to destroy basically the entire world.
This particular rendition of the song that has been playing since the rise of the Kindle e-reader included a sentiment that is far-too-prevalent in the industry: Amazon is horrible, but yes, as a matter of fact, I do sell my content on their site.
The particular hypocrite in question is UK author Anthony Horowitz, whose keynote address at the conference referred to Amazon as “evil bastards” before continuing by saying, “I loathe them.” Horowitz, the author of the Alex Rider series and a number of other titles, currently has several bestselling titles listed on the site, and his own Amazon author page offers a very tongue-in-cheek peek into what is possibly one of the worst childhoods in the history of children; if his candid profile is any indication, it’s possible that Horowitz’s opening remarks were intended to make light of the fact that these conference have an agenda against the online retailer.
The worst thing about this keynote is not the blatant hypocrisy or the name-calling, it’s the fact that this is not a new revelation. Countless conferences around the world continue to open and close with lengthy boring treatises on what Amazon has done to destroy publishing, bookselling, reading, and even democracy, but there’s nothing new to be said. Instead of coming up with viable alternatives or solutions to the crisis-level loss of bookstores and libraries, the same talking heads continue to spout the same paranoia, all while listing their books with Amazon.
Horowitz did have an admonishment for the assembled audience: if they want to continue to be profitable, they will have to embrace digital publishing and all that goes with it. The only way to continue to have a market is to grow one through avid readership, something that cannot happen if book access is denied.
Amazon is poised to announce a new television service in the form of a physical box or dongle. The plan is to showcase their Amazon Instant Video service and also secure 3rd party services, such as Netflix and the WWE Network. Sadly, the essence of this service will not work outside the USA or UK. Amazon does not allow international viewers to watch any of their streaming music or videos, so the new box is basically irrelevant.
Next week at an event in New York, Amazon plans on announcing a new television service. No one really knows what it is all about, but they did file a series of FCC applications for a box, controller and other gizmos. Amazon has an extensive track record of being narrowly focused on the USA market when it comes to marketing their Instant Video services. The main reason people who would be excited about this box is the fact they can view Amazon Originals. Another component is being able to watch pilots and vote on the box if you want it to get made into a 13 episode season.
In reality, no one outside the UK and USA should even care about what Amazon is doing. Ultimately, no matter what they release, Canadians won’t be able to view any of the Amazon content. If you want to get a box with Netflix and WWE Network and other things, get a Apple TV or ROKU.
New research by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech has revealed Apple, Amazon, and Samsung are the key players in the US tablet market, controlling 43, 24,and 11 percent of the user base respectively. However, the market itself seems to be losing steam, with the slowdown being attributed to market saturation. The findings reveal tablet growth reached 37 percent, a 54 percent growth over 2012. A sizeable 53 percent of consumers stated they won’t buy a new tablet in 2014, while another 34 percent said they are yet to make up their minds. Nearly 67 percent of those who said they are unsure about buying a tablet claim to know very little about tablet devices. Thankfully for the manufacturers, tablet awareness as a whole is considerably higher in the US, with just 4 percent stating they’ve never heard of the devices.
Of the 53 percent who ruled out buying a tablet in the next 12 months, the majority (72 percent) said they are pleased with their current laptop or PC, while 42 percent said they aren’t attracted to tablet devices; another 31 percent said they don’t think owning a tablet makes much of a difference.
A common reason for many (47 percent of those who are unsure and 25 percent of those who said they won’t buy a tablet ) to not invest in a tablet was the high price, despite the fact that the average cost has dropped to $300.
As for particular brands, the iPad is on top with 32 percent claiming to use it daily. Samsung’s Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note devices come in second with 24 percent claiming to use it every day. Kindle Fire makes up the third slot with 10 percent claiming to use it regularly.
Apple is still waiting for the final decision from Judge Denise Cote in the ebook price fixing scandal, entered into with five of the then-Big Six publishers in order to drive out some of Amazon’s market share. While the publishers settled out of court, Apple wasn’t so lucky. The final damages in the suit–which certain provisions under the law could cause to come in at almost $900 million–have yet to be determined, and Apple’s legal battles have been lengthy during this now four-year-old process.
But new plaintiffs have now announced that they’re coming on board to recover some of the damage done to their businesses due to Apple’s push for agency pricing over the wholesale model. A 2013 suit filed by Australian ebook retailer DNAML was the beginning, but it has now been joined by the owners of the Diesel ebookstore and Abbey House Media. All three of the plaintiffs are sharing the same attorneys and expect their cases to become one case against Apple.
The crux of this latest suit is similar–nay, almost identical–in wording to other documents in the case, all of which allege that Apple’s actions caused these companies to no longer be able to compete in the industry. Unfortunately for Apple, these three plaintiffs have been able to demonstrate profits and constant growth among their catalogs of titles and their customers bases leading up to the collusion. They specifically cite the inability to discount and bundle titles together as a customer incentive, one of the features of bookselling that changed for Amazon during the switch to agency pricing.
Amazon has dispatched eBook refunds to millions of readers living in the USA. Anyone who has purchased a digital book from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin or Macmillan between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 gets a credit of $3.17 if that book was a New York Times bestseller and a credit of $0.73 if the book was never a NYT bestseller.
Amazon is the first company to begin offering credits to customers. The Seattle based e-commence giant has begun to send out emails today, informing customers that they have refunds are available. Customers don’t need to do anything special to get the credits, they are automatically available in your account. Under the terms of the agreements, you have until March 25 2015 to use the credits to buy content.
Canadian customers that purchased eBooks from Amazon, before they opened their dedicated .ca store, now have credits available. The credits are only available if you basically bought eBooks from the main .com address between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012.
Why is there credits available between these particular dates? This is primarily due to “Agency” pricing, which had published collude with Apple to have a fixed price. This model was best for competition, because Amazon lost the ability to undercut the competition into oblivion. Last year all major publishers agreed to settle with the Justice Department, instead of fighting it out in court. Sadly, when agency was abolished, Kobo and Sony abandoned the US market and B&N saw record loses.
The wheels of justice do, indeed, turn slowly. Turtles stampeding through peanut butter kind of slowly. Because the end result of an investigation by the Department of Justice that first began back in 2010 has finally resulted in emails going out to customers informing them of the credits on their Amazon accounts. While I’m not sure that consumers are supposed to disclose the amount of their credits, let’s just say that if I were able to wrangle six other customers who received a credit similar to mine, we could pool our money and share a small latte at Starbucks.
In the almost $300 million settlement that five of the then-Big Six had to pay, why is my sixth-of-a-latte settlement so small?
The lion’s share of the damages in a class action suit go to the attorneys involved in the settlement, and around thirty-five states’ attorneys general were involved in the investigation and allegations of price fixing. There were also a handful of class action suits brought about by independent law firms on behalf of consumers.
I bet all those guys each got to have their own lattes.
More importantly, though, the distribution of the remaining portion of the settlement–the part that actually trickled down to consumers–was actually based on spending activity. The more ebooks you bought from these publishers, the more reimbursement for overpaying you received. Big Foot porn wasn’t a real genre back then, so I hadn’t bought that many ebooks when this all went down.
According to the message from Amazon, “The credit results from legal settlements reached with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin in antitrust lawsuits filed by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of eBooks.
“You don’t have to do anything to claim your credit, we have already added your credit to your Amazon account. We will automatically apply your available credit to your next purchase of a Kindle book or print book sold by Amazon.com, regardless of publisher. The credit applied to your purchase will appear in your order summary. If your account does not reflect this credit, please contact Amazon’s customer service.”