Archive for the ‘Traditional Publishers’ Category

Do we have an editor to thank for To Kill a Mockingbird?

February 5, 2015

Do we have an editor to thank for To Kill a Mockingbird?

In today’s shifting landscape of publishing, there is a lot of talk about what value the traditional systems bring to it.

Certainly, authors succeed nowadays with none of the elements of the tradpubs (traditional publishers).

Oh, without a doubt, the vast majority of them don’t.

Undeniably, though, there are books which sell well which have never had the benefit of a professional proofreader, a marketing department…or an editor.

Some people have even wondered why all authors don’t just self publish…why does a brand name author, like Stephen King or Anne Rice, even need a tradpub?

Well, if the narrative we are being given behind the upcoming release of Harper Lee’s “new” book

Go Set a Watchman (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

is true, we wouldn’t have had

To Kill a Mockingbird (at AmazonSmile)

without an editor.

I don’t just mean it wouldn’t have been the same: it probably wouldn’t have existed at all.

Go Set a Watchman can be pre-ordered now for its first publication on July 14th, but there is a reason I put “new” in quotation marks.

It was written a long time ago…before TKaM, in fact.

According to this

The Guardian story by Alison Flood

and other sources, Lee had first shopped Go Set a Watchman to a publisher.

Her editor reportedly really like the flashbacks about a main character, and recommended that Lee focus on that.

So Lee wrote a book about that character as a child…a child with the nickname of “Scout”.

Now, it’s possible that Go Set a Watchman is the superior book, but I doubt it. People talk about a “Great American Novel”, and I don’t believe there can be just one…but certainly, To Kill a Mockingbird would be in the competition.

No, it seems more likely to me that the editor was right. The editor recognized the strength in the original book, and made a suggestion to the author…which improved things.

That’s what editors should do…and why some bestselling authors love their editors and wouldn’t want to leave them.

Some indies (independently published authors) hire people to be their editors, but honestly, I don’t think that’s the same.

I think an editor who is employed by a publisher has a different outlook.

It’s their job to make books better (and to make them sell better)…and their continued success depends on, well, their continued success.

I know some people are thinking that means they need to steer people away from art and towards commercial writing. I joked about that myself in

Lose the lion

However, I think that a book’s artistic merits can be enhanced by having more than just the author involved in its creation.

Some people use beta readers or writing groups to critique their works.

That’s very different from a professional editor…I’m not saying it doesn’t work, but it’s not the same.

I’ll be looking forward to reading the book! I’ll also be thankful to the editor who made the original suggestion to Lee, to Harper Lee for acting on it so beautifully (when the author could have been stubborn and not taken the advice), and to the lawyer who found the manuscript and recognized it for what it was.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Macmillan signs on with Scribd and Oyster

January 17, 2015

Macmillan signs on with Scribd and Oyster

In something I described as “shaky” in my annual prediction post for 2015:

The Year Ahead: 2015

I “predicted” that at least one Big 5 publisher would join Amazon’s subser (that’s what I call a subscription service)

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

That hasn’t happened yet (we’re only about half way through the first month), but Macmillan recently joined up with two of the competitors, Scribd and Oyster.

On Scribd, Macmillan has 1,024 books at the time of writing.

That’s not every book Macmillan has to offer…it’s generally not the “frontlist”, the most recent and popular books.

Still, as pointed out in this

Publishers Weekly article by Calvin Reid

frontlist titles from major publishers are starting to show up more in subsers.

Macmillan joins HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster in offering books to be borrowed through Scribd and Oyster…that’s more than half of the Big Five, with Penguin Random House and Hachette not yet involved.

You might think that these big publishers are staying away from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited out of spite…the tradpubs (traditional publishers) and Amazon have often disputed things with each other (the publishers pretty much have always won…they settled when the Department of Justice went after them, but when it is directly publishers to Amazon, the e-tailer has lost. Text-to-speech is one example; the Agency Model itself ((which was one of the things that brought the DoJ into the mix, since it was used as a tool to raise e-book prices according to the Department)) is another).

However, that’s not how big business works, as a rule. Yes, Amazon removed the “Buy buttons” from Macmillan books when the Agency Model was being put into play. Sure, Amazon put barriers in the way of people buying Hachette books until a new deal was recently reached.

I doubt that Jeff Bezos and John Sargent of Macmillan are going to skip down the street holding hands any time soon.

Macmillan and Hachette both have books at Amazon now, after their respective unpleasantries. If Kindle Unlimited is the right business model for them, they’ll do it…holding their noses, perhaps, but doing it anyway.

I think KU is going to be come increasingly important throughout this year, and be a big point of discovery. People will buy books after borrowing them, in some cases…particularly to give them as gifts.

With more Big Five publishers signing up for subsers, I can only guess that preliminary data is indicating it is worth it. I think the publishers are just negotiating with Amazon.

Subsers have to be great for the backlist “long tail”, where publishers may not be making any money anyway. It’s important to note that even if they lost money in Kindle Unlimited because it cannibalized some sales, they might make a more than compensating amount from additional sales.

We’ll see what happens, but this development makes me a bit more optimistic about my prediction. ;)

What do you think? Will a Big 5 company sign up for KU this year? If they do, will it be just backlist, or frontlist, too? Do you use a subser? Does it seem worth it? Feel free to tell me and my readers what to think by commenting on this post.

Join more than a thousand readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #276: PRH on subsers, Boehner blocks

November 15, 2014

Round up #276: PRH on subsers, Boehner blocks

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

No Active Content for the Voyage?

This question had come up before, but according to this

post in The Digital Reader by Nate Hoffelder

Amazon is not planning to add Active Content for the

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

their flagship model.

Hoffelder reports having been told by Amazon that their “…focus is on building the best purpose-built reading devices.”

I suppose I can understand as a goal, but Active Content is one of those really non-intrusive things. If you don’t want to use it, you don’t. Games have been on the Kindles since the very first one in 2007 (although the games on that one were hidden…I played Minesweeper on mine, though). It’s an interesting decision.

There are over 1,500 customer reviews for

Every Word (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

in the USA Kindle store, with an average rating of 4.3 stars (out of 5). There have been ten reviews at time of writing in November 2014…and almost all of them were five stars.

It’s currently ranked #2,397 free in the Kindle store…out of 64,497, making it in the top 4% of sellers.

My guess is that this really has more to do with associated expenses (adapting the Amazon published ones for new models, customer service) than it really has to do with what customers say. However, I have had e-mail exchanges with the person listed by Hoffelder, and that person has always seemed nice and knowledgeable to me…so I’m sure there is some evidence for what the rep says.

$80 worth of apps free through Saturday 11/15

While I probably do more reading on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

than I do anything else (counting text-to-speech as reading…which I do), it certainly isn’t a “purpose-built reading device”.

I’m sure some people would argue that Amazon is turning away from Active Content to encourage people to buy Fires…but I think they’d be happiest if people had both. ;)

For those of you who do use a Fire and want apps, Amazon has a promotion going on through today (Saturday) with $80 worth of apps being given away. They are calling it an

App Toolbox (at AmazonSmile*)

Note that not all of these will work on a Fire tablet (the ones that don’t may work on the Fire Phone, if you are one of the rarities like me who owns one). ;)

Titles include:

  • Office Calculator Pro: 4.4 stars, 172 reviews
  • MathsApp Graphing Calculator: 4.4 stars, 63 reviews
  • EasyTether: 4.3 stars, 861 reviews
  • Open Document Reader: 5.0 stars, 3 reviews
  • Oxford Dictionary of English: 3.5 stars, 8 reviews…normally $24.99

and twelve more.

Amazon and others advocate for Equal Collection Legislation

It’s been a while since I’ve written about this issue, but it’s back in the news.

Congress is considering a bill which would mean that sales tax would be collected on online purchases in a way similar to how it is collected now in brick and mortar stores.

Amazon and Barnes & Noble both support the current legislation, along with many other entities.

The

National Retail Federation

has sent a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, urging passage. Unfortunately, every link on their website to that letter is failing for me…they may be overwhelmed because of the coverage.

Why does this matter now?

If the current bill isn’t passed before the new Congress takes over in January of 2015, it’s dead…and they have to start all over (again).

It might surprise you that Amazon and B&N are on the same side on this.

Amazon has argued for it before. They don’t want there to be lots of different rules about how this happens all over the country: they want one clear sales tax collection policy (not rate, policy) at the national level.

This (and previous bills) bill is not about people owing more taxes, but it would certainly mean that many people pay more.

Check the sales tax category (linked at the end of this post) for more information, but essentially, what happens now is that many people are supposed to pay tax on things they buy on the internet…and they don’t. Every year, my family adds more when we pay our State taxes for those uncollected taxes…it would be far easier if they just collected them at the time of purchase.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you had to track your in-store purchases yourself to figure out what sales tax you owed?

Amazon has repeatedly said that when they are in situations where sales tax is collected on their purchases, it doesn’t hurt their market share.

I believe that. Oh, that’s not to say that some people might buy very expensive items from Amazon to avoid having sales tax collected. Of course, they might be quite surprised if they ever get audited…not having paid that will not get you invited to the IRS offices for tea. ;) It might get you invited somewhere else less pleasant, though…

According to this

The Hill article by Bernie Becker

Speaker Boehner is blocking the bill, despite some significant bipartisan support.

It’s worth noting that not every state would collect sales tax on e-books anyway (California doesn’t, when they are delivered electronically…at least, that’s how it was last time I looked), but this still could affect Kindleers.

PRH C.E.O. doesn’t like subsers

Generally, I’ve found Random House to be pretty forward thinking…but this

The Bookseller article by Benedicte Page

makes me question that.

C.E.O. (Chief Executive Officer) Tom Weldon of Penguin Random House makes several statements.

One of them has to do with keeping e-book royalty rates the same, but the headline item is really about not believing in subsers (subscription services), like Amazon’s

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

In this short excerpt, Weldon is quoted as saying:

“We are not convinced it is what readers want. ‘Eat everything you can’ isn’t a reader’s mindset. In music or film you might want 10,000 songs or films, but I don’t think you want 10,000 books.”

Well, as someone with something like 10,000 paperbooks on my shelves, I beg to differ. ;)

Certainly, it usually takes longer to read a book than it does to listen to a song or watch a movie, so you might think you need access to fewer…but you still need to make the choices as to which ones to consume.

While I think there is a lot future in curation (people, and perhaps software, picking books that you are likely to like), having a variety is important now.

Let’s say you like 1% of the books that are published each year. 10,000 gives you one to enjoy every three days. That’s a pretty good pace.

I think subsers are a big part (but not the only part) of the book market in the next few years, and I suspect Random House may come on board with it. Weldon didn’t rule it out, although the CEO thought they were more likely to succeed in emerging markets. If they did there, that might encourage them to join in more developed markets.

I recommend the article: see what Weldon has to say about PRH selling directly to consumers…I think what’s said there is wise.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

Amazon and Simon & Schuster reach a deal

October 22, 2014

Amazon and Simon & Schuster reach a deal

There is a future for Big Five books in the Kindle store.

That certainly seemed like the most likely outcome, although the day may come when Amazon doesn’t need them any more.

Why even doubt that the biggest bookstore would carry books from the biggest publishers?

Well, Amazon has been in a dispute with Hachette, another of the Big Five…for more than six months. What I call the “Hachazon War” certainly enters another phase with Amazon reportedly reaching an agreement with Simon & Schuster.

It makes it much harder for Hachette to paint Amazon as an “impossible to negotiate with” Big Bad.

It gives authors something to consider…how much of the stand-off is Hachette’s fault? When their deals with that publisher are done, should they be shopping? Douglas Preston, an author who has led the authors who have publicly expressed concerns with Amazon, wants to know the e-tailer has offered the same deal to Hachette. If it has…why didn’t Hachette take it? Retailers don’t have to give the same terms to everybody, of course.

It also changes the dynamic if there is a Department of Justice investigation of Amazon’s negotiating tactics (Authors United has asked for at least a look into it). If nobody can make a deal with you, that makes it a lot worse than a fifty/fifty split.

I’m going to link to stories on this, but I’ve seen both that this will be a return to the “Agency Model”, and that Amazon will be able to discount the books.

Those aren’t exactly contradictory. In the Agency Model, the publisher (not the retailer) sells the books (the former retailer just acts as an “agent”), and sets the customer prices. The publisher could set the price…and still, in some way, let Amazon discount under circumstances. For example, they might allow a three for the price of two deal to be offered. That doesn’t change the actual price of the book.

While we don’t actually know the terms of the deal, it is reassuring that a deal was reached at all. As a reader, I’d like Amazon to carry every book. However, the conditions under which they carry them do matter. I wouldn’t want Amazon to carry S&S books if the prices doubled…well, I guess I would, for folks who would pay that, but I wouldn’t like it for me. ;)

It’s possible that Amazon let the publisher set the customer price within certain constraints…that would be a form of compromise which could work for them both.

My intuition is that Amazon will make a deal with HarperCollins, and I would think they will with Penguin Random House. They’ve had trouble with Macmillan before…we could see a repeat there.

With publishers not standing united, though, I think everybody will deal before the end of the first quarter of next year.

This might also help Amazon’s stock a bit. Investors hate uncertainty.

Here are some of the articles:

Update: there has been a brief

Amazon announcement (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

in the official Kindle forum about the deal. They don’t say much about it, except that they are happy, it’s a multi-year deal, and it involves both e-books and p-books (paperbooks). Interestingly, they chose to make it a ” no reply thread”…they aren’t taking comments on it.

What do you think? Does Amazon need the Big Five? What should they be willing to give up to get their books? Where is the line in the sand? Will this mean Hachette settles quickly? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Who is still blocking text-to-speech access?

October 8, 2014

Who is still blocking text-to-speech access?

A Kindle with text-to-speech access can use software to read aloud any text downloaded to it…provided that the ability to do that is not blocked by the publisher inserting code into the file which prevents it.

I haven’t written much about this in a while (although it still comes up), but it is an important issue to me. I believe that blocking the access disproportionately disadvantages the disabled. Personally, I don’t get books which have the access blocked, and I don’t intentionally link to books with the access blocked in the blog (I don’t want to give the publisher money on books where that decision has been made, and I don’t want to benefit from it by people clicking on the link in my blog).

However, I do believe this is a personal decision, and there are good arguments for supporting the author by buying the book (the author often has very little influence over whether it is blocked or not).

If you want more information on the issue, see my post from a bit over four years ago

The Disabled Deserve to Read

There was a time when blocking the access seemed much more common: Random House used to flat out state that they blocked it on all titles…but they later reversed that decision.

I thought it was going away. I think it’s generally a bad economic decision on the publisher’s part to block the access…I think it reduces the size of the audience. I use TTS myself quite a bit…I typically listen to it for hours a week in the car (I’d rather listen to a book than talk radio or music). That means I finish a book a lot more quickly, and need another book sooner.

Most people guess that publishers block it because they think it competes with the audiobook market. They are really two very different things. The audiobook is read by a human being (often, the author or an actor). TTS is just software (which incorporates a human’s voice, but that human was not reading this particular book…see my article

An ILMK interview with September Day, the voice of the Kindle Fire HD)

I’m sure I’m unusual in this, but I prefer TTS (unless I’ve read the book before). I don’t like the narrator interpreting the characters for me.

Whether you prefer TTS or an audiobook, though, I’m sure the preference tends to be pretty strong. They aren’t the same: it’s a very different experience. I find it pretty unlikely that people who would have bought the audiobook otherwise decide not to do it because TTS is available. If someone is print disabled and needs an accessible version, they can often get one for free (if they can certify the disability), so that’s not the audience here. From what I’ve seen, audiobooks wouldn’t tend to be their choice, because they are too slow. Many people with print disabilities listen to TTS on very fast speeds: they can interpret it that quickly, where as many people have trouble with it going that fast.

I noticed recently, though, that a number of books from the publisher Simon & Schuster seemed to be blocking access on a lot of books.

I decided to check: I like to see the data. :)

There are now a Big Five of USA trade (the kind of books you buy in a bookstore, rather than textbooks and such) publishers.

I took the top ten books for each publisher, and looked to see howmany had it blocked.

  • Simon and Schuster (I searched for “Simon”): 100% blocked
  • Hachette (I searched for “Grand Central”): 20% blocked
  • Penguin Random House (I searched for “Penguin”): 0% blocked
  • Macmillan (I searched for “Macmillan”): 0% blocked
  • HarperCollins (I searched for “HarperCollins”): 0% blocked

So, with this limited sample, my observation seems to have been right: Simon & Schuster does seems to be blocking it much more.

For quite a while, I had a personal policy of not buying books from companies which blocked, but eventually became convinced (see? I am flexible) ;) that just not buying the ones which are blocked is a clearer message to the publisher. I have also communicated with them more directly and explicitly about how I feel about the situation.

S&S is the smallest of the Big 5 and, well, I don’t this policy is going to help them change that.

What might change it?

One wild possibility is Amazon buying Simon & Schuster. Amazon does not block TTS in its traditionally published books. It discourages blocking it in books going through its Kindle Direct Publishing. Leaving it unblocked is one of the things you have to do to be eligible for a 70% royalty (versus a 35% royalty).

Earlier this year, Nate Hoffelder in this

The Digital Reader article

suggested it was a possibility that Amazon was in talks to buy S&S.

Being the smallest, and perhaps most vulnerable in terms of parent company relationships, it could be the most likely one.

Would Amazon want a tradpub (traditional publisher)? Maybe…they’ve owned an audiobook publisher (Brilliance). They are doing more and more traditional publishing on their own.

I don’t know that they would buy it and keep it as Simon and Schuster…I think they might be happy just owning the backlist. However, in several of their acquisitions, they have kept the names and even basic structures (Zappos and IMDb come to mind).

If they did keep it as S&S, that might even make legal challenges more likely. Buying the backlist is one thing. Operating a content producer and content distributor both can be something else. There was a time when movie studios owned movie theatre chains: that got broken up. That parallel would not be left unremarked by other publishers.

Hoffelder has called mergers before…although this is a case of it being called “possible” not “probable”.

Short of Amazon buying it, S&S could change the policy. I can tell you that we bought one of their most popular books when it wasn’t blocked…and then they blocked it subsequently. I even wrote the author on that one, because I really like the book and wanted to be able to recommend it freely.

That suggests to me that it isn’t simply a case of waiting for contracts to run out (perhaps related to audiobooks)…this decision is happening currently.

I sincerely hope they stop blocking it…we’ll keep an eye on the trends here.

What do you think? Should Amazon buy S&S? Should they buy another big publisher? Would the Department of Justice allow it? Does TTS hurt audiobook sales? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #266: genre map, Hachette’s sales are…

September 1, 2014

Round up #266: genre map, Hachette’s sales are…

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Hachette e-book sales down 34%

Behold the awesome power of Amazon!

Er…sort of. ;)

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

traditional publishers didn’t have a great first six months of 2014.

It’s worth reading the article to get the stats for the reporting publishers involved (HarperCollins, which I now tend to think of as one of the most customer-friendly of the tradpubs…traditional publishers…seems to have done the best).

While not taking too much away from it, I will call out this:

“The increase came despite a decline in U.S. e-book sales, which fell to 29% of trade HBG [Hachette Book Group] sales in the first half of 2014, down from 34% in the same period last year. HBG cited fewer movie tie-ins and the “punitive” action of Amazon as causes of the drop in revenue.”

Book Country interactive genre map: are publishers figuring out how to do discovery without Amazon?

I’ve written before about how Amazon is looking for a way not to be dependent on the tradpubs, and the tradpubs are looking for a way not to be dependent on Amazon.

I think Amazon is making progress…

Kindle Unlimited (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

may train people away from just reading “People Magazine books” (the books you would read about in that mainstream periodical). That’s just one place.

The tradpubs?

Well, they do keep trying things, but I’m not sure I’m seeing that much evidence of success.  HarperCollins is participating in the Oyster subser (subscription service), which is one path…and could have contributed to the better year we see above (although it’s hard to say how much influence that income could have, since we don’t know what it is).

One main reason why tradpubs need Amazon is for discovery: how will people find your books if they aren’t on the increasingly easy to access e-tail behemoth?

Here’s an interesting (and useful) attempt at a solution:

Book Country Genre Map

Thanks to EBOOK FRIENDLY

for the heads up on that!

What you do is hover over the map to find a genre you like, then click on it.

Once you do that, you’ll get

  • a definition of the genre (those seemed okay to me)
  • subgenres
  • “landmark” titles in the genre (I wouldn’t have picked the ones listed
  • Book Country titles in the genre (I got 165 results for science fiction…none of them well-known that I noticed at first)
  • latest science fiction discussions
  • Book Country science fiction people

As you can probably tell, there’s quite a social component to this (there are reviews and such) and what certainly seems to be independent publishing.

The “landmark” titles could be clicked on and purchased…and those appeared to be from tradpubs (traditional publishers).

The site is run by…Penguin Random House.

I think this shows that the tradpubs are trying new things…not sure how successful it will be.

You may find it useful for discovery.

Back in 2009, I listed literary websites, and one of the ones I mentioned (still in operation) is AllReaders.com. I think that has an interesting discovery system, where you can put in elements, and it will find books for you. For example, you could search for a humorous time travel book with clones (I found several). You can search for a librarian who is a super genius (aren’t they all), and so on.

I think we’ll continue to see Amazon and the tradpubs try to make it on their own. I have to say, I probably give the edge to Amazon, since I would guess they have many more customer transactions in a year, giving them more opportunity to figure out what works.

Win a Kobo Touch

You can enter this

contest

to have a chance to win a Kobo Touch. You have to enter by September 1st.

Kobos get good reviews and have a lot of fans…I would say they are seen as somewhat upscale compared to Amazon. In fact, their new “waterproof”

Kobo Aura H20

can be ordered starting September 1st (that’s not the one being given away).

It is $179.99, so certainly on the high end for an EBR (E-Book Reader)…but lots of people worry about reading their Kindles in the bath or at the beach, and this seems like a good solution. In case it starts to rain, I carry a gallon-size Ziploc bag. I can seal it…and keep reading. :)

What do you think? Besides Amazon, where do you find out about books? What’s the weirdest, most specific book topic for which you’ve ever searched? Had a Kobo? Have you had an EBR/tablet water damaged? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #256: 6 AmazonLocal coupons, DoJ looking at AMZN?

June 4, 2014

Round up #256: 6 AmazonLocal coupons, DoJ looking at AMZN?

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Cloud Collections are on Kindle for Android

A number of people had negative reactions to Cloud Collections when they were first introduced…certainly, there was confusion about them. That led me to write this post:

I really like them, personally. I find it easy to manage our Kindle books. There is a Collection for me to read, and one for my Significant Other. When my SO buys a book, I stick it in the appropriate Collection (I can do that on my device), and my SO doesn’t have to hunt around for the books.

Amazon has been spreading them out to more devices and apps.

You can now get to them on:

  • Kindle Fire HDXs
  • Kindle Fire HD 2nd Generation
  • Kindle Paperwhite (1st and 2nd Generation)
  • iDevices (iPad, iPhone, iPod touch)
  • On Android devices
  • In the Kindle for Samsung app

So, what currently sold as new devices (hardware Kindles/apps) don’t have them?

  • The “Mindle” (which is what I call the lowest priced model)
  • Blackberry
  • Anything Windows
  • Mac desktop/laptops (“non-mobile” Apple devices)
  • The Kindle Cloud reader (Amazon’s browser-based reader)

On my Samsung (running Kindle for Android), I tap the menu, then tap Collections. I don’t have a lot of Collections on individual devices, so what came up worked fine for me.

When I “long press” (hold a finger or stylus on it for about a second) one of those collections, I get the choice to trash it or edit it (using a pencil icon). Choosing “Edit” only lets me rename it.

If I tap a Collection to open it, I can use the menu to sort by author, most recent, or title.

Again, there is a pencil edit icon, and a plus in a circle, which lets me add titles.

Long pressing a title within the Collection gives me a plus circle, a minus circle, and a menu (three squares). Tapping the menu lets me download it, view it in the store, or see the Shelfari book extras. Clicking the plus  circle lets me add that book to other Cloud collections.

For me, again, this is a nice new feature!

I know a lot of people swear AT their devices, but… ;)

This is…well, I’m going to have to say cute. :)

In this

NBC News post by Erin McClam”>

I learned that Suzi LeVine, the new American ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein, was sworn into office…by putting a hand on a Kindle!

It’s a cool picture, and shows how integrated they’ve become.

The file was open to the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution…

Department of Justice looking at Amazon?

I’ve been flipping lots of articles about the Hachazon War (the Hachette and Amazon “negotiations”) into the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard. I’ll link a few here, but one interesting thing is the number of people who say that what Amazon is doing with Hachette may be illegal.

Running a search for “Amazon illegal Hachette” nets quite a few results:

https://www.google.com/search?client=aff-maxthon-maxthon4&channel=t26&q=amazon%20illegal&gws_rd=ssl#channel=t26&q=amazon+illegal+hachette&tbm=nws

Apparently, the DoJ (Department of Justice) is asking publishers about their new dealings with Amazon.

Now, that might not be to target Amazon…it might just be checking in with publishers that settled over the Agency model with the DoJ.

Still, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if some entities (including the Authors Guild) might have asked the DoJ to investigate.

Sure, a store could stop carrying somebody’s product (like Amazon dropping Hachette, if they were to do that…which they haven’t) and that’s legal. There’s no obligation to carry everybody’s everything.

However, there might be other concerns.

Take a look in particular at this

New York Times opinion piece by Bob Kohn

Kohn is a lawyer, and explains the concept of a “monopsony”. I think my vocabulary is pretty good, but I didn’t know this one.

In a monopoly, a seller has excessive (that can be arguable) control over customers.

In a monopsony a seller has excessive control over wholesalers.

That’s the way I understand it, and I don’t know the legal detail on it (I’m not a lawyer).

To illustrate, though:

If there was one car dealer in town, and they charged a million dollars per car to customers, that would be exerting monopoly power.

If that same car dealer only agreed to pay the auto company ten dollars a car (for the cars they sell to the customers), that would be exerting monopsony power.

If someone does practice law in this are and would like to comment, I’d appreciate it.

Some other dispatches from the Hachazon War front:

AmazonLocal coupons

There are a bunch of relevant coupons through AmazonLocal right now!

You do need a free AmazonLocal account to take advantage of these, but why not? Well, I suppose some of you might not want to give them your information, but I’d be surprised if very many readers of this blog don’t already have Amazon relationships.

Update for Kindle Fire HDX rolling out?

One of my regular readers and commenters, jjhitt, mentioned getting an update for a Kindle Fire HDX to 13.3.2.3.1.

I don’t have that yet on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile: support a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Mine is still at 13.3.2.2…most likely, it is just bug fixes. My version is the one that shows for both the 7″ and the 8.9″ at

http://www.amazon.com/kindlesoftwareupdates (at AmazonSmile)

I’ll keep an eye on it for you and let you know if I see an update becoming broadly available.

What do you think? Are you sick of Hachazon War stories? As regular readers know, I try to keep the blog eclectic, covering lots of different topics. This one is getting so much coverage, though, that it’s a bit hard to avoid mentioning it. ;) Have you found good uses for Cloud Collections? Since they aren’t on the Mindle, does that suggest the Mindle is going to be discontinued? Does Amazon need a Kindle device which is lower-priced than the Paperwhite? Will the DoJ go after Amazon? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Is the Hachazon War over?

May 28, 2014

Is the Hachazon War over?

Update: according to Amazon, the answer is no. After I wrote this, I saw that Amazon has posted a statement on this issue in the Kindle forum:

Announcement Hachette/Amazon Business Interruption (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

Before I address the content, let me first say that I think it is a very good thing that they have said something.

Amazon often keeps things quite private…famously, they don’t release sales figures for Kindle devices or e-books (except sometimes), for example.

This

Reuters blog post by Jack Shafer

does not express a unique position:

“If Amazon thinks I don’t care about its silence, it’s wrong. I take it personally that the company doesn’t think it owes me even a half-baked explanation for why I can’t buy some books from it.”

Now that Amazon has ended that silence, what did they say?

When we negotiate with suppliers, we are doing so on behalf of customers. Negotiating for acceptable terms is an essential business practice that is critical to keeping service and value high for customers in the medium and long term.”

It is an intriguingly “high road” post. Where Hachette’s public statements seemed to suggest they were baffled by what could be seen as Amazon’s bad behavior, Amazon defends Hachette:

Hachette has operated in good faith and we admire the company and its executives.”

I think Amazon makes a mistake in the post in explaining what a tiny part of their business this is. People extrapolate from the specific to the general, not the other way around. In other words, they will assume that a broader class has the same characteristics as an individual case they know well. You can tell someone that 99% of snakes never bite anyone, but if they’ve been bitten by one snake once, that’s going to matter more to them.

What solution does Amazon suggest?

 If you do need one of the affected titles quickly, we regret the inconvenience and encourage you to purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.”

When I wrote what follows on Tuesday night, I suggested that it looked like maybe things were getting better in the Hachazon War. Amazon suggests in the post that they don’t see it that way:

Even more unfortunate, though we remain hopeful and are working hard to come to a resolution as soon as possible, we are not optimistic that this will be resolved soon.”

Looking at it again this morning, I’m seeing about the same results as I did last night…so my optimistic thought that I was perhaps seeing an indicator that the dispute was ending is not being validated.

What follows is my original post:

===

Interestingly, some of the books which were previously affected by the Hachette/Amazon dispute appear to be unaffected today.

In this search for

Grand Central books (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

one of the big Hachette imprints, I’m seeing some which had been…made inconvenient, no longer having that issue.

For example, you can get Robin Roberts’ book right away now.

Now, I’m still seeing some which are affected…J.K. Rowling’s next book (writing as Robert Galbraith) still says you can sign up to be notified when it is available.

My guess is that they may be just updating everything after an agreement…let’s take a look at it again in the morning.

This has been a messy, messy disagreement, with a lot of bad public relations out of it (on both sides, but I would say I saw a lot more people not liking Amazon’s tactics).

I have expressed my unease with more than one outlet refusing to carry books when the disagreement is with the supplier or publisher of that book…as a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager myself, I understand making a principled stand not to carry something, or an economic decision that it won’t sell…but trying to go after a business partner (and Hachette and Amazon do work together…that’s what I mean by partners, not anything legally organizational) by doing something that broadly inconveniences your customers doesn’t seem like good business to me.

Customers don’t generally understand the deep reasons why you don’t have something and someone else has it sooner and/or cheaper…they just know you don’t have it when they want it.

Hoping this is over!

New! Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #253: Jeff Bezos in class, best reviewed “mother” books

May 11, 2014

Round up #253: Jeff Bezos in class, best reviewed “mother” books

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

My Flipboard magazines take off!

Thanks to those of you who are reading my new Flipboard magazines:

ILMK magazine at Flipboard

and

The Measured Circle magazine at Flipboard

I already have over 100 readers, which seems like a lot to me at this stage.

I wrote about this before:

Flip your way into being a magazine editor…I did

but I have to say, it is fun to see these results!

What happens is that I do my normal morning

Flipboard (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

read on my

Kindle Fire HDX (at AmazonSmile*)

and as I read the articles, I “flip” them into one of the two magazines…which you can then read.

This is just my curation: I don’t even get to add comments, which I think is fine.

Oh, and how do I get compensated for this?

Just by knowing people are reading it. :)

Unlike the subscribers to this blog (thanks, subscribers!) I don’t get royalties. If you are seeing any ads, they are put there by Flipboard, not me.

I’ve actually flipped more articles into The Measured Circle (174 at time of writing, versus 160 into ILMK), but ILMK is a lot more active (there have been 1,382 page flips there, as opposed to 233 at The Measured Circle).

There are lots of magazines being created by others…have you created one?

If you are reading either of mine, do you have any feedback to share?

Jeff Bezos speaks…to an eighth grade class

I’m always interested in what Jeff Bezos has to say. While I certainly find the company interesting, I’m also interested in Jeff as a human being. Often what the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) communicates is philosophy…and it’s important to keep that first in a business setting.

In this

New York Times article by Nick Wingfield

we get to see a parent’s tweets when Jeff spoke to a class of kids.

This is pretty different from that Princeton commencement speech back in 2010 (which you can watch here), but the ideas are not that different.

One thing which was? Jeff brought a drone!

Bezos is quoted as saying, “Who succeeds at amazon? “Explorers and pioneers”. Who fails? Those who focus on killing our competitors.”

I think that’s key to success…that, and not over-estimating your customers’ loyalty. I’ve said before, I think that’s how market leaders tend to lose that position…

HarperCollins credits e-books when profits jump 83%

Now that they aren’t spending all that money fighting over the Agency Model, publishers can start making money again. ;)

According to this

Publishers Weekly article by Jim Milliot

HarperCollins said, “…sales of more profitable e-books, ongoing operational efficiencies and higher revenue, EBITDA rose 83% at HarperCollins for the third quarter of fiscal 2014 which ended March 31. EBITDA hit $53 million, up from $29 million in last year’s third quarter. Revenue increased 14%, to $354 million. Both sales and profits were driven by the Divergent series which sold more than 8 million units in the quarter. Total e-book revenue increased 46% and accounted for 26% of HC sales, up from 21% a year ago.”

It might surprise you that only 26% of HC sales are e-books…but units for e-books are going to be much higher than that.

They mention the

the Divergent series (at AmazonSmile)

as being a major contributor.

While certainly adults have read those books, it’s nice to me that young people are, in a lot of ways, driving book profits. That bodes well for the future. :)

The “mother” of all best reviewed books ;)

Just for fun, here’s a search of the

Best reviewed books with “mother” in the title (at AmazonSmile)

One that stands out to me right away?

Are You My Mother? (at AmazonSmile)

by P.D. Eastman. I remember this one! It’s a great kid’s book…and even though it is illustrated, it is accessible with text-to-speech.

Have a great day on Sunday!

Enjoy!

What do you think? I’ve tended to like HarperCollins as a publisher…did it surprise you that the percentage of e-book sales are still that low? Does this result change your feeling about the future of traditional publishers? I mentioned kids’ books driving profits…but 50 Shades of Grey did, too. Neither of those are really the mainstream…what is the future of literary fiction? Do you have a Flipboard magazine? Should Jeff Bezos have brought a book, rather than a drone? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Is Amazon delaying Hachette books?

May 10, 2014

Is Amazon delaying Hachette books?

This story is all over the blogosphere. Here’s a Google search with several big name results (CNNMoney, Christian Science Monitor, Publishers Weekly, Slate, New York Times…):

Google news search for “Hachette”

The source of it appears to have been this

New York Times article by David Streitfeld

The article, which seems to uncritically accept what one party in the situation says, starts with:

“Amazon has begun discouraging customers from buying books by Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert, J. D. Salinger and other popular writers, a flexing of its muscle as a battle with a publisher spills into the open.”

Are you sure you don’t want to throw an “allegedly” or “reportedly” in there?

I mean, this is the New York Times, right? Not some anonymous book blog?

Well, I’m sure they verified Amazon’s actions and motivations before running the article…or not.

The gist of the story is that Amazon is REPORTEDLY deliberately keeping low stock on some Hachette p-books (paperbooks), which results in waits of two weeks or more for customers to get them.

Before I start commenting on this, let me say that my background might paint me as prejudiced…on one side or the other. ;) I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, so that might put me in Amazon’s camp (since they are, in this instance a book retailer). I am also not an Amazon employee, but I have gotten money from them (royalties, for one thing).

On the other hand, I am (in a very small way) a publisher. I’ve published my own titles to the Kindle store…and Amazon could certainly mess me up if it chose to do that.

Okay, with that out of the way…

My first question is…is it true?

First, I did a search for Grand Central (one of Hachette’s imprints…and one suggested by the article) print books at Amazon.com:

Grand Central print books at Amazon.com (at AmazonSmile)

Looking at the “New and Popular” sort, I see

  1. No delay
  2. No delay
  3. No delay
  4. Pre-order
  5. Usually ships in 1 to 3 weeks (this is Robin Roberts’ Everybody’s Got Something)
  6. Pre-order
  7. No delay
  8. Pre-order
  9. No delay
  10. No delay
  11. No delay
  12. Usually ships in 3 to 4 weeks (The Hit by David Baldacci)
  13. No delay
  14. Usually ships in 3 to 4 weeks (Gone by James Patterson)
  15. No delay
  16. Usually ships in 2 to 5 weeks (Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food by Jody Williams and Mario Batali)
  17. No delay
  18. Pre-order
  19. No delay
  20. No delay

Well, there are some books there with a significant delay.

My next question: are the books delayed at Amazon also delayed at Barnes & Noble?

Assuming that “usually ships within 24 hours” means that they don’t expect a delay, the answer was no…for all four of these.

Next, I’ll try some Random House titles, to see if they also have significant delays. I checked the top twenty Random House books, using the same technique I did for Grand Central: no delays.

So, tentatively at this point, I’ll say the evidence supports Hachette’s reported contention…Amazon may in fact be understocking Hachette’s books.

“Understocking?”

By that I mean that they aren’t keeping enough in stock to meet customer demand and get them delivered in a c0uple of days.

Why would that be the case?

It could be a deliberate bargaining tactic, as the stories suggest. The idea is that by delaying delivery, they are hurting Hachette.

However, wouldn’t that also hurt Amazon? The way they would be hurting the publisher is by reducing the sales…which also hurts Amazon.

I never think it’s a good tactic to annoy your customers to get back at your suppliers…I didn’t like it when stores did it to Amazon by not carrying Amazon’s traditionally published books, for example.

I think there might be a couple of other possible explanations.

One is that Amazon just blew it on the ordering. Certainly, that happened sometimes in my store. We way over-ordered on a Suzanne Summers book…because she lived in the area and we thought there would be a lot of interest. Maybe Robin Roberts got more publicity than they expected?

I don’t really think that’s likely. I think Amazon is generally good at ordering…and it would be pretty fluky if they just happened to be one publisher’s books (unless that publisher did something unexpected in terms of publicity).

Another one is that Amazon is experimenting…maybe trying to drive customers to e-books instead. In a case like that, they might pick one publisher’s books, or books that fit a certain profile (which might, coincidentally, align with a publisher’s content choices).

I would consider that…possible. Amazon has more (and I would guess increasingly) control in the e-book market than they do in the p-book market (although they are a major player there too, of course…and perhaps, becoming even more powerful as B&N wobbles on the edge of a cliff).

This might also simply be a way to try to cut costs and up profits…Roger Knights, one of my regular readers and commenters, had a strongly correct prediction about e-book prices rising at Amazon.

It costs money to store books. Every day a book sits in your warehouse (or back room, in a bookstore the size of the one I ran), you lose money on the sale. Maybe that’s making Amazon take more chances with low stock…and if Hachette’s return policies aren’t as friendly as other publishers, that could make them more likely to be hit by it…that’s just speculation, though.

Let’s sum this up:

Books unavailable? That’s a bad thing.

Is Amazon at fault here? I think that’s the most likely scenario.

What’s the plus side (there is always a plus side)? I suppose it might accelerate the shift to e-books, which I do see generally as a good thing (they are more accessible, less expensive for the most part, and as I understand it, more ecologically friendly).

If Hachette decides it needs to go more directly to readers, that’s very much more likely to be with e-books than p-books. Amazon is a behemoth in delivery, and does it for a lot of other companies. It would be very hard for a publisher to start doing D2R (Direct To Readers) with p-books…but a snap (logistically…marketing is a different question) with e-books.

Update: this additional

New York Times article, again by David Streitfeld

has two additional accusations against Amazon…claiming two more tactics against Hachette use by the e-tailer.

One is higher prices.

The other one, more intriguing, is running banner ads on a book’s Amazon product page…recommending similar, less expensive books.

That latter one, if true (and my intuition, without additional evidence, is that the story wouldn’t include this if it wasn’t), changes the math.

It would mean that Amazon could actually profit by reducing the sales of the Hachette books. Readers could be directed to books with more favorable terms..perhaps ones published by Amazon itself.

Nothing illegal about that…I wouldn’t even say it is unethical.

But it is sneaky. ;)

This second article focuses on how authors are hurt in these sorts of “spats”…certainly, that’s a motivation for them to publish independently in the future. Is that good for Amazon? Sure, that’s where most of them would indie publish!

Is that the real goal? Get authors out of publishers completely, and into controlling their own destinies…but using Amazon’s distribution platform?

Hmmmmmm….

Customers, of course, are also hurt by this…that’s where I would advise Amazon to be careful, if they are doing this at all. Even if a customer can get a cheaper (perhaps even better) alternative, most of them won’t get that emotionally. They’ll just get that Amazon doesn’t have the book they wanted it, when they wanted it, at the price they wanted.

That’s the sort of mistake Amazon hasn’t tended to make in the past…I hope they don’t let pressure for greater profits make them change their three core values: price; service; and selection.

What do you think? How bad is this? If this is Amazon’s fault, would that surprise you? Do you see it as part of a general trend? If the move towards popular reading being done with e-books rather than p-books accelerates, do you think that’s a good thing? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

New! Try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


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