Monthly Archives: April 2012

Fall in love and stay in love

27 April 2012

Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for.

Ray Bradbury

U.S. Escalates Google Case by Hiring Noted Outside Lawyer

27 April 2012

From the New York Times:

Federal regulators escalated their antitrust investigation of Google on Thursday by hiring a prominent litigator, sending a strong signal that they are prepared to take the Internet giant to court.

The Federal Trade Commission is examining Google’s immensely powerful and lucrative search technology, which directs users to hundreds of millions of online and offline destinations every day. The case has the potential to be the biggest showdown between regulators and Silicon Valley since the government took on Microsoft 14 years ago.

Then as now, the core question is whether power was abused. The agency’s inquiry has focused on whether Google has manipulated its search results, making it less likely that competing companies or products appear at the top of a results page.

. . . .

The Microsoft case in the late 1990s transformed the tech industry, reining in its most powerful company and allowing for the rise of new companies like Google. Now Google wields the same sort of power that Microsoft once did, and is under the same sort of scrutiny.

. . . .

Mr. Broder said antitrust cases charging the abuse of a monopoly are difficult to prove.

“There is a lot of very complex economics involved,” he said. “It can be done. But Google will undoubtedly bring to bear tremendous resources itself.”

. . . .

The general issue underlying the investigation is whether Google abuses its power in the market for Internet search. Google controls about 66 percent of the United States search market, according to comScore. Microsoft’s Bing accounts for about 15 percent of Internet searches, with Yahoo gathering 14 percent.

Competitors have said that Google at times adjusts the algorithm that produces its search results to lower the likelihood that a link to a competitor or a potential competitor for its products appears near the top of the results.

For example, if Google were to program its system so that a consumer’s search for “washing machines” is more likely to produce as its top result a link to Google-related shopping sites, that could be interpreted as putting its competitors at a disadvantage.

Link to the rest at the New York Times

Passive Guy put this up because of all the recent attention to the recent price-fixing litigation filed against Apple and five big publishers. The response of the defendants has been that Amazon is a monopolist.

As PG has discussed, having a monopoly is not against the law. Abusing a monopoly is.

The anti-Amazon collective is actively searching for any evidence that Amazon is abusing its market position. See the post about Amazon’s Larry Kirshbaum here. One of Kirshbaum’s statements gave rise to a conspiracy theory that Amazon was tweaking its recommendation algorithms to favor Amazon Publishing titles. If true, that would be precisely the sort of thing the US Federal Trade Commission investigation of Google is all about.

Amazon has said Amazon Publishing’s books do not receive special treatment in its recommendation engine.

Amazon has smart lawyers who are undoubtedly watching the Google case closely and PG expects Amazon will be careful to avoid being drawn into a similar situation.

The financial benefits for books that do well with Amazon’s various discovery tools are substantial. David Gaughran has written about the importance of Amazon’s various bestseller and popularity lists here.

Was Self-Publishing The Right Decision?

27 April 2012

From author David Gaughran:

Sunday will mark a year since I first uploaded to Amazon. At the time, I was wrestling with a question that many writers are still dealing with today: should I self-publish?

. . . .

Regular readers will know that I broke my own impasse by deciding to publish some short stories, while holding A Storm Hits Valparaiso in reserve. It was still being considered by a handful of agents, and I wasn’t completely convinced that self-publishing was the right approach.

. . . .

Looking back a year later, I’m sure I made the right decision. In my first twelve months, I sold 3,482 books and made well over $8,000. Not all of that is profit, I estimate $3,000 went out the door in expenses (haven’t tallied those yet), but $5,000+ is a pretty solid first year.

Aside from those 3,482 paid sales, I gave away well over 30,000 books and had a story go viral on Wattpad, where it is approaching one million reads.

. . . .

Whatever way you slice it, whether free or paid, thousands upon thousands of readers have been exposed to my work in the last twelve months. And I’ve made some money. Self-publishing has been paying my rent since August.

Things are looking up too. I’ve been growing month-on-month. I’ve sold around 500 books in each of the last two months. And, in a couple of weeks, my 2012 sales will overtake my total for all of 2011.

. . . .

We also mustn’t forget that the market continues to grow, both in the US and elsewhere. I’ll be releasing a variety of translations to capitalize on this, beginning with the French edition of Let’s Get Digital in a matter of weeks.

. . . .

But the biggest change has been on a personal level. I don’t even recognize that guy who used to fester in slushpiles all over Manhattan. I have more confidence in my work and in myself.

For the first time that my destiny is in my hands. Making a living from writing is no longer a mere pipe dream; now it’s a possibility within reach.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital

PG says David’s success is particularly gratifying given how much he has helped indie authors all over the world with his writing, blog posts and comments.

Piracy? You wish.

27 April 2012

From Seth Godin:

Publishers are spending a lot of time debating DRM on ebooks. Many of the powers that be are worried about piracy, they say, and they are resolute in making sure that there are locks on the books they publish.

. . . .

For me, though, the interesting notion is of book piracy itself.

How many more people would prefer a hard drive full of 10,000 songs to one with 10,000 books on it? We’re hungry for one and sort of unaware altogether of the possibility of the other. What would you even do with 10,000 books?

Software is pirated because in just a few minutes, the user saves a hundred or a thousand dollars, and feels okay about it because software seems unreasonably expensive to some.

. . . .

Books are free at the library but there’s no line out the door. Books are free to read in comfortable couches at Barnes & Noble but there aren’t teeming crowds sitting around reading all day.

Books take a long time to read, require a significant commitment, and they’re relatively cheap. And most people don’t read for fun. Most of the inputs necessary for a vibrant piracy community are missing.

As Tim O’Reilly famously said, books don’t have a piracy problem. They have an obscurity problem.

. . . .

[I]n the long tail world, overcoming obscurity is the single biggest hurdle. If only piracy was a problem…

Link to the rest at The Domino Project

One third of Britons own e-reader

27 April 2012

From The Bookseller:

Nearly a third of people in the UK own an e-reader, with a further 15% planning to buy one in the next six months, a survey by media law firm Wiggin has found.

The company conducted an online survey in March which found that many particupants anticipated taking up e-reading in the near future and a third of those currently reading e-books download them illegally.

A spokesperson for Wiggin said: “E-reading is one of the UK’s fastest rising leisure activities—four in ten of those surveyed (40%) currently read e-books and of these 39% plan to up their digital reading in the next 12 months.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Passive Guy admits a little skepticism about this survey, but he hopes it’s true (except for the piracy part).

More than 130,000 books are exclusive to the Kindle Store

27 April 2012

From Amazon’s press release announcing first quarter results:

“I’m excited to announce that we now have more than 130,000 new, in-copyright books that are exclusive to the Kindle Store – you won’t find them anywhere else. They include many of our top bestsellers – in fact, 16 of our top 100 bestselling titles are exclusive to our store,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you don’t even need to buy these titles – you can borrow them for free – with no due dates – from our revolutionary Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is heavily used by Kindle owners, and it has extremely unusual features that both authors and customers love. Every time you borrow a book, the author gets paid – and we have an inexhaustible supply of each title so you never have to wait in a queue for the book you want. Kindle is the bestselling e-reader in the world by far, and I assure you we’ll keep working hard so that the Kindle Store remains yet another reason to buy a Kindle!”

. . . .

  • Kindle Fire remains the #1 bestselling, most gifted, and most wished for product across the millions of items available on Amazon.com since launch. In the first quarter, 9 out of 10 of the top sellers on Amazon.com were digital products – Kindle, Kindle books, movies, music and apps.
  • Amazon launched Kindle Touch Wi-Fi and Kindle Touch 3G on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it, and Amazon.es. The full line of Kindle e-ink readers is now available in over 175 countries around the world. Kindle Touch 3G is the most full-featured e-reader with an easy to use touchscreen and the unparalleled convenience of free 3G – no hunting for Wi-Fi spots, simply think of a book and download it. Kindle remains the bestseller on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.it and Amazon.es since their launches.
  • Amazon introduced a new version of its popular Kindle for iPad app, which is the #5 free iPad app of all time and the #1 free books app on iPad. Millions of customers are using the new Kindle for iPad app, which is optimized for the high resolution display of the newest iPad.

. . . .

Worldwide Media sales grew 19% to $4.71 billion. Excluding the unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, sales grew 19%.

Link to the rest at Amazon

Top 1,000 Best Romance Novels

27 April 2012

Pride and Prejudice is number one.

Sense and Sensibility is number two.

Jane Eyre is number three.

997 others follow.

Link to the rest at RomanceNovels.me

Passive Voice Day!

27 April 2012

SFGate has officially declared that today is Passive Voice Day:

It is untrue that Friday, April 27, will have nothing to distinguish itself from the mass of weekdays.

It was English teachers around the world over who taught writers not to use weak constructions. Friday, though, thanks to a blogger named Shaun, their heartfelt pleas in favor of the active voice are supposed to be ignored during Passive Voice Day 2012.

The idea has been picked up by Language Log and by social media, whose members are asked to use the hashtag #passivevoiceday to make sure the fun is spread around.

A jolly good time will be had by all.

Link to the rest at SFGate and thanks to Leah for the tip.

For those who want to celebrate even more, there is even a book about The Passive Voice. 🙂

Amazon’s First-Quarter Revenue Tops Estimates on Kindle Sales

26 April 2012

From Bloomberg:

Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest Internet retailer, beat analysts’ first-quarter revenue estimates, led by demand for Kindle devices and a jump in sales for outside vendors through its website.

Net income fell to $130 million, or 28 cents a share, from $201 million, or 44 cents, a year earlier, the Seattle-based company said today in a statement. Sales rose 34 percent to $13.2 billion, compared with the average analyst estimate of $12.9 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos is looking to add customers by pouring money into new versions of the Kindle and warehouses that are equipped to send out products faster. The Kindle Fire tablet is the best-selling item on Amazon’s site, the company said. In the fourth quarter, the company shipped 4.7 million Kindle Fires, giving it 16.8 percent of the market and making it No. 2 behind Apple Inc.’s iPad, according to IDC.

. . . .

To bolster profitability, the company is adding more third- party sellers, which generate higher margins, to its website. Amazon logs all of the commission, usually about 10 percent, on any item sold by an outside vendor as profit, and collects fees if the partner elects to fulfill through its chain of warehouses, according to Mercent Corp., a consulting firm that helps retailers improve online sales.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

Amazon Stock Soars 14% on Strong Sales

26 April 2012

From the Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc.  first-quarter profit fell 35% as the online retailer’s heavy spending continued to weigh down the bottom line.

The results, however, sent shares surging more than 10% in the after hours as profit and revenue easily topped analysts’ cautious expectations.

. . . .

The online shopping giant says heavy investment will drive greater profitability in the long run—Kiva’s robots make its distribution network more efficient, for instance—though the spending spree has taxed investors’ patience.

Operating expenses grew 36% to $13 billion for the quarter—again outstripping revenue growth. Amazon said it added 9,400 employees during the quarter to bring its headcount to 65,600.

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

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