Amazon and Apple end exclusive deal on audio books

21 January 2017

From The BBC:

Apple and Amazon have ended a deal that tied them into an exclusive contract for the supply and sale of audio books.

The deal was signed before 2008 when Amazon bought audio book supplier Audible, which had the Apple iBooks contract.

Pressure from anti-trust regulators in Germany and the European Commission led to the deal being abandoned.

. . . .

The terms of the agreement meant Audible could not offer audio books to any other company and Apple had to take audio books only from Audible.

The investigation into the Apple-Amazon arrangement over audio books was started by the German Federal Cartel Office in late 2015. It responded to complaints from German publishers who said the two tech giants were abusing their market dominance.

In Germany, said the publishers, more than 90% of all downloads of audio books were done via the Apple iTunes store or through the Amazon and Audible websites.

With the deal abandoned, Audible will now be able to supply firms other than Apple with audio books. In addition, Apple can now get audio books from other sources and sign up other publishers who can push their titles through its iTunes and iBooks outlets.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Political tags

21 January 2017

Political tags – such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth – are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.

Robert A. Heinlein

Controversial e-book sales tactic banned in Canada

21 January 2017

From The Globe and Mail:

Apple Inc.’s long legal struggle over alleged anti-competitive e-book pricing took another turn on Friday as the company joined a consent agreement with Canada’s Competition Bureau that will ban a controversial sales tactic for three years.

Three of Canada’s four major book publishers – Hachette Book Group Inc., Macmillan (a subsidiary of Verlagsgruppe Georg Von Holtzbrinck GmbH) and Simon & Schuster Inc. – also agreed to halt a system known as most-favoured nation (MFN) pricing, which prevented competing retailers from selling e-books at a discount compared to Apple’s minimum price. A Competition Bureau investigation had found that the MFN arrangement between Apple and the publishers led to higher prices for consumers.

There was no financial component to any of the agreements.

But a fourth major publisher – HarperCollins Publishers LLC – failed to reach an agreement, prompting the watchdog to refer the case to the Competition Tribunal, a separate body that adjudicates matters of business, economics and law.

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

Bookselling in the 21st Century: “Why Even Shop Local?”

21 January 2017

From The Literary Hub:

We had screwed up the customer’s special order. Or charged her twice for the same book. Or maybe we had forgotten to ask if she was part of our customer loyalty program before the sale and had needed to redo the transaction. It was our fault, we screwed up, all booksellers have been there. Anyone who has ever worked retail, or in any service industry job, has been there. The protocol is near-reflex, at this point: you apologize, thank the customer so much for their patience, maybe give them ten to twenty percent off their purchase, and wish them a great rest of their day. Once, at the end of such an interaction, which had taken a serious turn for the worse my former boss (also my Dad, who probably doesn’t recall this, and will be embarrassed to be reminded that he ever said such a thing) joked to the customer: “Why even shop local?”

This joke is the opposite of that other punch-line you hear in independent bookstores—“You don’t get this kind of customer service online”—but they are based on the same premise. People go to their local bookstores for that “personal” touch. While other folks (let’s keep them abstract and cold for now) sell you online services which require no human interaction whatsoever, such as zero-click burrito ordering, booksellers across the world open their doors, play their eclectic music, and try to help you find a good book. But, as the very product we sell teaches us, humans are awful and not to be trusted. That’s why I love independent bookstores: our strongest talent is also our biggest weakness.

. . . .

An algorithm does not take the joke too far; a search engine won’t judge your taste. Of course we should continue to call out the online behemoths about the biases of their algorithms, the treatment of their employees, or how they can screw up your order and put you on hold for an hour. But these transgressions aren’t scalable, to use the lingo of corporate America—the stressful and awful rule of retail is that a person will tell twice as many people about a bad experience as a good one. Each customer interaction holds exponentially more weight for us than it does for Amazon.

. . . .

The fear of torches might be a little much, for now, but it points to a reality that I think every bookseller knows and will admit: our position is a precarious one. Our existence depends on the theory that people will continue to come back and hear our (usually wrong, and always subjective) thoughts on books, art, and sometimes even life.

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

Retailers Turn to Silicon Valley to Lure Customers

21 January 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

In the age of Inc., other retailers are scrambling to find a way to keep consumers shopping on their sites and in stores.

The trick? Personalization, via data and tech.

Sunglass Hut is employing deep learning and image-recognition technology from San Francisco-based Sentient Technologies Holdings Ltd. for its e-commerce site. When a shopper clicks on a pair of shades, the “see similar styles” option uses image recognition to show other sunglass choices, instead of predicting what the person might want based on what other people have purchased.

Personalization “is the Holy Grail,” says Salesforce Commerce Cloud Chief Executive Jeff Barnett, who works with brands including L’Oreal and Under Armour.

With online pricing and inventory easily accessible, consumers are increasingly becoming brand and retailer agnostic. So retailers are turning to Silicon Valley for everything from artificial intelligence to data to draw consumers in.

Deep-pocketed Amazon has been investing in technologies like these for years, aiming to make it easy to find items and click buy. Tech providers are filling that gap for other traditional retailers that don’t necessarily have the means to do the same.

Even the smallest changes online—facilitated by artificial intelligence and algorithms—can make a difference in sales, retailers are discovering.

Using Sentient’s technology to run multiple tests at once, Italian lingerie brand Cosabella gauged customer response to change the color of its “buy” button to pink and its banner to specify it is Italian family-owned, bumping up revenue by 38%. It is also using image-recognition technology similar to Sunglass Hut, tailoring its website to individual customers based on the advertising image they click to get to the site.

. . . .

Technology giant SAP SE is working with retailers on technology to help identify customers and their likes and dislikes as soon as they walk into a store, creating more of a shopper experience, said Lori Mitchell-Keller, global general manager of consumer industries.

For example, Burberry Group PLC can ask for a customer’s name and type it into an app when the person walks in, giving access to personal data, including his or her last purchase and whether the person prefers still or sparkling water—and potentially some of his or her public social media presence, too.

“If they understand you, they know how to interact with you and how to advertise to your likes,” said Ms. Mitchell-Keller.

Amazon has been customizing and refining its site for shoppers for years using deep learning and artificial intelligence—something it touted at its Amazon Web Services conference late last year, when it introduced new offerings for customers based off its expertise. On its retail site, that technology enables better search results and recommendations for customers, among other benefits.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Isaac Asimov wrote almost 500 books in his lifetime—these are the six ways he did it

20 January 2017

From Quartz:

If there’s one word to describe Isaac Asimov, it’s “prolific.”

To match the number of novels, letters, essays, and other scribblings Asimov produced in his lifetime, you would have to write a full-length novel every two weeks for 25 years.

Why was Asimov able to have so many good ideas when the rest of us seem to only have one or two in a lifetime? To find out, I looked into Asimov’s autobiography, It’s Been a Good Life.

. . . .

Growing up, Asimov read everything:

All this incredibly miscellaneous reading, the result of lack of guidance, left its indelible mark. My interest was aroused in twenty different directions and all those interests remained. I have written books on mythology, on the Bible, on Shakespeare, on history, on science, and so on.

. . . .

It’s refreshing to know that, like myself, Asimov often got stuck:

Frequently, when I am at work on a science-fiction novel, I find myself heartily sick of it and unable to write another word.

Getting stuck is normal. It’s what happens next, our reaction, that separates the professional from the amateur.

Asimov didn’t let getting stuck stop him. Over the years, he developed a strategy:

I don’t stare at blank sheets of paper. I don’t spend days and nights cudgeling a head that is empty of ideas. Instead, I simply leave the novel and go on to any of the dozen other projects that are on tap. I write an editorial, or an essay, or a short story, or work on one of my nonfiction books. By the time I’ve grown tired of these things, my mind has been able to do its proper work and fill up again. I return to my novel and find myself able to write easily once more.

Link to the rest at Quartz

Print vs Digital, Traditional vs Non-Traditional, Bookstore vs Online: 2016 Trade Publishing by the numbers

20 January 2017

DataGuy’s slides from his presentation at Digital Book World have just been posted at Author Earnings.

Following are a few slides from a much longer presentation.


Link to the rest at Author Earnings

It is clear

20 January 2017

It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way about. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.

Agatha Christie, The Clocks

Booksellers Wonder if Booze Will Save Them

20 January 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

At a Digital Book World panel called “Will Bars Save Bookstores?”, panelists, among them, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, bookseller Jessica Bagnulo and IPG CEO Joe Matthew, cracked jokes (“retailers turn to drink”) but used the opportunity to examine a wave of new strategies behind a resurgent independent bookselling sector.

Teicher called the booze in bookstores theme, “a euphemism for all things smart entrepreneurial spaces are doing to attract consumers.” And it’s not just beverages, Teicher said. Bookstores, he said, are running summer camps, offering dance classes, hosting travel events, “hundreds of innovative things that are helping stores thrive in a very competitive environment.”

. . . .

 In an environment where e-books, online retailing and less time for reading is challenging business of physical bookstores, Matthews said, “we need experimentation. This is an effort to drive traffic and keep consumers in the store. You can’t download a cocktail.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Nielsen Sells BookScan, Other U.S. Book Industry Services to NPD Group

20 January 2017

From the American Booksellers Association:

Nielsen has sold its U.S. market information and research services for the book industry to the NPD Group. The sale, announced on January 20, includes U.S.-based BookScan, PubTrack™ Digital, PubTrack™ Higher Education, PubTrack™ Christian, Books & Consumers™, PubEasy®, and PubNet®, all of which will become NPD-branded services in the U.S.

Nielsen will provide operations support for NPD BookScan and related U.S. services during a transition period, and no immediate changes are expected in the way American Booksellers Association member stores report to the Indie Bestseller Lists via BookScan.

NPD,  which has been in business for more than 50 years, provides market information and analytic solutions for over 20 industries and partners with more than 1,200 retailers, representing over 165,000 stores worldwide.

Link to the rest at American Booksellers Association

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