Amazon

Mirage at the Kindle Oasis? Some users report issues with lighting, finish

1 May 2016

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

Although many users are happy with their new Kindle Oasis readers, it seems a good many of them aren’t. A ten-page-and-growing thread has sprung up on MobileRead’s Kindle forum complaining about uneven lighting issues that make it annoying to try to read. Some say that they see “shadow cones” on their screen, while others note the color temperature of the lighting seems to change from one side of the screen to the other.

. . . .

Forum reader Kolja reports:

I received my Oasis today also and have been trying to convince myself that the screen is fine as the device is great in all other ways. I’m one of those who sees the color shifts and the one I got has it. Overall the screen is much warmer than my Voyage and the color gets darker, almost yellow on the left. I can see slight brightness where the LEDs are on the thicker side and while minor I find it more distracting in the margin than it was on the bottom. I’m going to try reading with it for awhile to see if it bothers me enough to return it. Mine came from Best Buy and will be easy to return if necessary.

Other readers report fit and finish issues (as did some of the negative Amazon.com reviewers I mentioned the other day)—a crevice along the border of the screen where dust gets trapped, and jagged edges in places. However, others (including David Rothman and Len Edgerly) don’t report experiencing any of these issues at all.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

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Jeff Bezos just made $6 billion in 20 minutes

29 April 2016

From Fast Company:

Not a bad afternoon’s work. The Amazon CEO saw his 82.9 million shares increase in value by $6 billion as the company’s shares jumped over 10% in after-hours trading on earnings results that beat expectations.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

PG would love to know how much Amazon paid authors via KDP.

Amazon tablet shipments surge 5,000 percent YoY

29 April 2016

From ZDNet:

Tablet shipments declined more than 14 percent worldwide during the first quarter of 2016, according to the latest stats from IDC.

The research firm said the decline was due to general seasonality combined with an overall disinterested customer base.

. . . .

As for the vendors, the most dramatic year-over-year change comes from Amazon, which increased tablet shipments by an astronomical 5421.7 percent to claim the No. 3 spot on the list. The tech giant wasn’t even included in the top five tablet vendors in the first quarter of 2015.

Amazon’s growth is due primarily to its range of slate tablets, such as the $49.99 version of Amazon’s Fire tablet, which have become synonymous with the low-end of the market.

For Amazon, the low price is part of a strategy that CEO Jeff Bezos has referred to as “the Amazon Doctrine.” In a nutshell, Amazon cares less about tablets as end products and more as direct commerce channels for users to buy products from Amazon.

. . . .

Apple and Samsung still claim the No. 1 and 2 spots, respectively, however Apple’s tablet shipments declined 18.8 percent, while Samsung’s dropped just over 28 percent annually.

Link to the rest at ZDNet

Amazon.com Announces First Quarter Sales up 28% to $29.1 Billion

28 April 2016

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon.com, Inc. today announced financial results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2016.

Operating cash flow increased 44% to $11.3 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $7.8 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015. Free cash flow increased to $6.4 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $3.2 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015. Free cash flow less lease principal repayments increased to $3.5 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $1.5 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015. Free cash flow less finance lease principal repayments and assets acquired under capital leases increased to $1.6 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with an outflow of $1.2 billion for the trailing twelve months ended March 31, 2015.

. . . .

Net sales increased 28% to $29.1 billion in the first quarter, compared with $22.7 billion in first quarter 2015. Excluding the $210 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales increased 29% compared to first quarter 2015.

Operating income was $1.1 billion in the first quarter, compared with $255 million in first quarter 2015.

Net income was $513 million in the first quarter, or $1.07 per diluted share, compared with net loss of $57 million, or $0.12 per diluted share, in first quarter 2015.

“Amazon devices are the top selling products on Amazon, and customers purchased more than twice as many Fire tablets than first quarter last year,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “Earlier this week, the $39 Fire TV Stick became the first product ever — from any manufacturer — to pass 100,000 customer reviews, including over 62,000 5 star reviews, also more than any other product ever sold on Amazon. Echo too is off to an incredible start, and we can’t yet manage to keep it in stock despite all efforts. We’re building premium products at non-premium prices, and we’re thrilled so many customers are responding to our approach.”

. . . .

  • Amazon was ranked #1 in corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies in America, according to the 23,000-person Harris Poll. Amazonwas also ranked #1 on the Reputation Institute’s U.S. RepTrak 100 list of the most reputable companies, which is based on more than 83,000 ratings.
  • U.K. consumers ranked Amazon #1 in customer satisfaction in a nationwide poll from the Institute of Customer Service. And for the second year in a row, customers selected Amazon.in as India’s most trusted online shopping brand, according to an annual Trust Research Advisory survey.
  • The Amazon Global Store on Amazon.cn has grown to over 10 million items, providing Chinese customers with an easier and more convenient shopping experience with authentic products curated from the Amazon.com website.

. . . .

Second Quarter 2016 Guidance

  • Net sales are expected to be between $28.0 billion and $30.5 billion, or to grow between 21% and 32% compared with second quarter 2015.
  • Operating income is expected to be between $375 million and $975 million, compared with $464 million in second quarter 2015.

 

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon Liable for Children’s In-App Purchases, Court Rules

28 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. is liable for in-app purchases children made years ago without their parents’ authorization, a federal court ruled late Tuesday.

The Seattle retailer didn’t provide sufficient safeguards to prevent children from making purchases within apps that were free to download, according to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington state. The Federal Trade Commission filed the case against Amazon in 2014, citing thousands of complaints about unauthorized in-app charges for virtual goods or services, totaling hundreds of dollars in some cases.

“Given the design of the Appstore and procedures around in-app purchases, it is reasonable to conclude that many customers were never aware that they had made an in-app purchase,” the court said.

Amazon has since taken measures to prevent such purchases and said it has reimbursed customers who lodged complaints. But the ruling means Amazon will face additional monetary penalties, which will be determined later.

. . . .

The FTC had reached settlements with Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2014 about similar unauthorized in-app purchases for $32.5 million and $19 million, respectively. But Amazon chose instead to challenge the agency in court. Today, those app stores require customers to type in their password for in-app purchases, which may include new levels or characters in a game or additional music options.

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

Facebook: The World’s Largest Bookstore?

28 April 2016

From Digital Book World:

A month or so ago, Facebook reported its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2015, and let’s just say they crushed the ball. Knocked the cover off. Pointed to the bleachers and then hit it out of the park.

The big moneymaker was its burgeoning video ad business. Facebook states that people are watching 100 million hours of video per day on its social platform. More than 500 million people watch Facebook video every day. Just let that sink in. Facebook isn’t simply a video discovery platform; it’s becoming the video discovery platform. And it’s still growing.

. . . .

While people in the publishing industry may find this interesting, most won’t find it particularly relevant. To ignore this news, however, would be a monumental mistake. Don’t underestimate what Facebook is and what it is becoming. Facebook is the world’s best discovery platform, and it makes money by going after digital content that keeps people spending more time on Facebook. And after video, there is a clear line to ebooks.

As dominant as Amazon currently is in ebooks, the retailer’s major weakness is discovery. More often than not, users have to find a book somewhere else and then go to Amazon and purchase it. There are additional, unnecessary steps in their process, and the company has no easy way to remedy it.

. . . .

Facebook has more than a billion users on its site every day. Friends and family are sharing everything they are watching and reading, and Facebook is getting better and better at finding ways to keep people on the site. Articles are short reads and people can leave quickly. But if Facebook had a reader for ebooks, the amount of time people would stay on the site would climb exponentially.

. . . .

The bookstore of the future is not centralized. It is decentralized, and it will give readers the ability to buy their books wherever they are, whenever they want. Readers will get their ebooks over wifi at Starbucks as a reward for buying their Under Armour running gear from the local community college, in the Target check-out line, in their McDonalds Happy Meal, or on Facebook—and it will all be readable on one e-reader. Perhaps the Facebook e-reader. And it will give users the ability to read and share in one location.

While Facebook getting into ebooks would not decimate Amazon’s bottom line—as most of the retailer’s revenue comes from various others sources—it would be an emotional kick in the groin. Bezos built his business on the foundation of books. And Zuck could usher in a changing of the guard.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

A reminder: PG does not always agree with items he includes on The Passive Voice.

Amazon Takes the Plunge into Original Virtual Reality Content

28 April 2016

From BidnessEtc:

Amazon.com, Inc. is finally ready to take the leap into virtual reality, as per a report from TheWrap. Sources familiar with the matter told the publication that the company has approached virtual-reality companies, in relation to developing original VR content.

Sources have claimed that the talks are still in early stages. Amazon Studios, the department that’s credited with TV series such as “Orphan Black,” “Man in the High Castle,” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” is said to be leading the discussion.

While Amazon declined to comment, the mere possibility of such a prospect excites us. With companies such as Facebook’s Oculus and HTC already gearing up to enter the space, Amazon’s entry will be perfectly timed. The available VR headsets are mainly for gaming right now, and entertainment is an avenue that is still unexplored.

Companies such as Hulu and Netflix are already offering VR modes to users who want to view content through their headsets. Headsets would definitely be an integral part of the future living room, and it seems like Amazon doesn’t want to miss out on the fast-approaching opportunity.

. . . .

In the past, the company posted job listings for people experienced in VR content distribution methods; so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the content creation happens in-house.

Link to the rest at BidnessEtc

Amazon Giveth, Amazon Taketh Away and Now… Amazon Giveth Again!

27 April 2016

From The Book Designer:

A few years back, authors and small presses could participate in a number of marketing programs at Amazon.com.

BUY X GET Y was one of my favorites. You could contact Amazon and request a link from your book to another book of similar appeal. It was not inexpensive, but it was a terrific program that exposed your book to readers interested in books similar to yours. Listmania was a free program that also linked similar books. There were FEATURED PAGES. A small press could purchase a page on Amazon that highlighted a series or group of books in a kind of “landing page”. There were a number of Amazon marketing programs like these and others that were slowly raised out of reach for small presses over the last 5 – 10 years.

Thus began the long dry stretch of desert for single title authors and small presses. Simply put, we were not given any opportunities to participate in Amazon’s marketing programs. Sure, there were tricks and manipulations we could learn, but they were not as effective as participating in Amazon sponsored marketing. Once BUY X GET Y and other programs were placed out of reach, the small press was significantly hampered and not able to compete with the bigger houses that still had marketing programs available.

. . . .

Amazon announced last week that they are launching AMS, Amazon Marketing Services. The program works like this:

As an Advantage or CreateSpace publisher you sign up for AMS and pay an annual fee of $99. This is charged to your account as a deduction of your sales so does not require up-front payment.

Once you are an AMS “member”, you will have access to marketing programs previously reserved for Amazon’s bigger vendors.

. . . .

Keyword/Tag Pay Per Click Advertising

This offering is my current favorite as AMS allows you to increase discoverability of your titles on Amazon.com by letting you set your own budget for a particular keyword or phrase. Depending upon your budget and the desirability of the keyword, your book can rise very high in the search page and you ONLY PAY if someone clicks on your book. Your click budget can be as low as $100.

“A+” Detail Pages

Want video, sample page shots, extra photos and other “juicy” offerings on your book’s page? Now you can have it! $600 gets you a LOT more on your detail page. The “A+” detail page is a deluxe detail page featuring advanced formatting and rich media content (detailed descriptions for example) to enrich the shopping experience for customers.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Amazon Continues Its War Against Fake Reviewers

26 April 2016

From Business Finance Review:

Just a year after its first official act against fake reviewers, Amazon is pursuing its third case against falsified reviews on its website

Reliability and authenticity are paramount for the success and long-term feasibility of the company-client relationships. In the age of information, reviews play a pivotal role in the sale of any good or service, it thus comes as no surprise that companies put in significant effort into ensuring the legitimacy and accuracy of reviews. As part of its ongoing complain to root out false reviews on its platform, Amazon.com, Inc. is suing five more websites that are providing fake product reviews.According to a company spokeswoman: “We will continue to pursue legal action against the root cause of reviews abuse — the sellers and manufacturers who create the demand for fraudulent reviews, as well as the ecosystem of individuals and organizations who supply fraudulent reviews.”

. . . .

The online retail giant started its war against fake reviewers in April 2015 by filing a lawsuit against them. The act, the company’s first, stood as a testament to Amazon’s commitment towards ensuring the reliability and authenticity of its 5-star review system. Following the filing in April, the online retailer continued to take a stand against deceptive users and services, filing another lawsuit in October, targeting over 1,000 users registered as sellers on the website, Fieverr — a site that allows people to sell odd services and jobs for at least $5.

In the latest case, the online retail giant filed charges against New York resident Chris Embry, CEO (alleged) of AmazonVerifiedReviews.com, and California resident Jane John-Nwankwo, who allegedly owns and operates PaidBookReviews.org. Amazon has also filed charges against the operators of ReviewConnections.com, BuyAmazonReviews.info, and AmazonReviewStar.com. The company, however, was unable to identify the websites’ owners.

. . . .

The online retailing titan is suing for trademark infringement amongst other claims, demanding that the aforementioned website not only cease using the company’s trademark, but also offering reviews to items and services.

Link to the rest at Business Finance Review

A Cautionary Tale, Part 2

26 April 2016

From author Amanda S. Green via Mad Genius Club:

Last week, I wrote “A Cautionary Tale” about what initially appeared to be a bump in the road in the release of Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). What I didn’t know was that the problem would continue to exist not just for that day but for days and days. In fact, it isn’t completely dealt with as I type this. Things are better, for certain definitions of better, but I’m still seeing the negative impact of what happened.

A quick reminder of what happened. A week ago yesterday, I woke to an email from Kindle Quality Control saying there was a problem with the file for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3). It had the right cover but the wrong ASIN and interior file. Within half an hour I updated the file. Approximately six hours later, I received notice that the file had gone live. Except it hadn’t. For most of the next five days, the purchase and KU read for free buttons would not be active. Some of the time, it would say the book was unavailable. Or the buttons would be there but the disclaimer that the book was under review and therefore not available for purchase would be present. Those few times you could buy the book, you might have gotten the correct book or you might not have.

Making matters worse, for whatever reason, the emails that should have been sent out to those who had pre-ordered or purchased before the file was pulled were not. Nor did Kindle Customer Support have a clear idea of what was going on. Some of those who tried helping those with the wrong file did what they were supposed to do — the pushed through the updated file. Others said to return the book and try to buy it later. Still others said to wait and see if the update came through later.

. . . .

Finally, last Wednesday, I had had enough and I e-mailed Jeff Bezos. I knew he wouldn’t actually see the email but it made me feel better. It was a business-like letter, detailing everything I had been through to that point. Much to my surprise, I received a phone call late in the day from someone who had gotten the job of trying to find out what was going on and making sure things got cleared up.

Long story short, she talked to different departments and made sure the web page was made stable and my book could be purchased. She talked to the folks in charge of reviews. She listened as I explained how this fiasco had impacted the book’s release and prevented me from doing any true marketing because I couldn’t guarantee those interested would be able to buy the book — or that they would receive the right one when they did.

She admitted that the problem pointed out some shortfalls in their process when a book is under review after the quality of it is called into question by Amazon customers. There is no clear procedure for letting Kindle Support know what is going on or what phase of the review they are at. Nor is there a clear procedure for letting the author know what is going on. All authors get is an email saying the book is under review and they will be contacted when it is approved. Well, you get a note from KDP saying the file has been approved but that isn’t the same as QA saying it is approved. So my contact at Amazon is recommending that this process be improved so others don’t have to go through what I have.

As for the 1-star reviews based on getting the wrong file, well, I’m stuck with them.

. . . .

For me:

  • I have to be even more careful than ever before to make sure there is no issue with my work when I get ready to upload a file.
  • I am going to think long and hard about doing pre-orders in the future. Not only because of the impact they have on publication day numbers (As Dorothy pointed out, pre-orders don’t count toward release date rankings but count on the day of the pre-order) but because of the length of time it has taken to deal with the current situation.
  • While I am still frustrated and disappointed in Amazon and the way it has handled this situation, especially the negative reviews, I will continue working with them. They have tried to do what they can to assist me and they are still the big dog when it comes to indie publishing. They are also the easiest of the outlets to access and use, both as a reader and as a writer.

. . . .

Regarding Amazon:

  • It is still the only real game in town so I will continue working with them.
  • Amazon needs to improve the communication between departments within the KDP process.
  • Amazon needs to reconsider its policy about reviews and make it easier for authors to challenge reviews. I have no problem getting a negative review because someone doesn’t like my work. But when, as in this case, I have jumped through every hoop to correct a technical problem and yet Amazon drags its feet, those reviews are on them and not on me. I should not continue to be punished as a result. No author should.
  • Amazon needs to make it easier — as in possible — to contact the Kindle KDP QA people after a book has been removed for review. As it stands right now, the only thing you can do is contact Kindle KDP support (which can be fun in and of itself) and then ask them to contact QA. You may or may not be successful.

The biggest decision I have to make now is about what my next step should be. I will continue letting my contact at Amazon know of any problems with the book’s download that are brought to my attention.

Link to the rest at Mad Genius Club

Here’s a link to Amanda S. Green’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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