Amazon

Has Authors United revised its letter to Amazon’s board?

19 September 2014

From author and TPV regular Laura Kirwan:

Anybody who’s involved in the publishing industry is well aware of the kerfuffle over Authors United’s ridiculous letter to Amazon’s board.

The thing that really riled people was this particular passage:

. . . .

Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods in response to a pricing disagreement with a wholesaler. We all appreciate discounted razor blades and cheaper shoes. But books are not consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. Books are not toasters or televisions.

. . . .

This all happened on Monday, which is when the above-referenced Business Insider article was written.  And I looked at a bunch of other articles and they cite this wording. There was definitely a reference to China.

So this morning, here’s the same reference from the Authors United website:

But books are not mere consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to another country. (emphasis added.)

So, either EVERYBODY who quoted the bit about China got it wrong, or Authors United scrubbed it out of their letter.

Not that it made it any less offensive. Now it appears they’re slamming all non-American authors. Only books written in the USA count? Well, no of course not. The Brits are fine, and Europe in general is probably acceptable.

But what about India? South America? Ahem . . . China? Did these fools really intend to expand an insult made to Chinese authors to all authors writing in somehow unacceptable countries? Seriously?

. . . .

And no understanding, apparently, about how the internet works. “Nobody will be able to access the original language, right? A quick little line edit and we can reclaim the moral high ground!”

Link to the rest at Laura Kirwan

Here’s a link to Laura Kirwan’s books

Malcolm Gladwell criticises Amazon in Hachette dispute

19 September 2014

From The Financial Times:

Amazon’s dispute with Hachette publishing house is threatening the loyalty of Amazon’s customers and sabotaging its relations with authors, according to Malcolm Gladwell, the best-selling writer of The Tipping Point and Outliers.

The online retailer’s aggressive tactics, which involve delaying shipments of Hachette books or declining to make others available for purchase, are “a violation of their best interests”, said Mr Gladwell, a Hachette author.

. . . .

In an interview for Saturday’s FT Weekend Magazine, Mr Gladwell said he was “agnostic” on the business dispute but disliked becoming a “pawn”. He said: “I thought Amazon wanted to be nice to me. I thought their endgame was to woo authors. So, then why are they sabotaging us?”

. . . .

The company also acts as a platform for the sale of self-published books, potentially challenging the historic role of publishers, whose services to authors include paying advances and publicising their work, as well as publishing and distributing books.

Mr Gladwell dismissed the idea that successful authors could cut out traditional publishers in the digital era. “I hesitate to weigh in on this most sensitive occasion. I have a very nice arrangement with my publisher,” he said.

“The truth is the relationship between an author and a publisher is not set in stone. It’s a relationship. You can structure it however you wish. And if circumstances change and you think that the publisher needs to do more or less than they’ve done in the past then you should just alter your business arrangement. These things aren’t givens.”

Link to the rest at The Financial Times (which has an unpredictable paywall. Search Google using the title of this post and you should get in) and thanks to SMH for the tip.

PG suggests that if Gladwell didn’t want to be a pawn, he shouldn’t have signed with a company like Hachette in the first place.

Can Authors Move Amazon’s Board?

18 September 2014

From The New Yorker:

There is a long tradition, in American letters, of authors directly confronting those who have offended them. Doing so was once fairly straightforward. In 1897, when Mark Twain was upset about the editing of one of his books, he wrote to his publishers about the “damned half-developed foetus” of a proofreader they had saddled him with. Eight years later, when a charlatan tried to sell him medicines, he replied that the salesman was the “scion of an ancestral procession of idiots.”

But a modern multi-billion-dollar corporation, with its phalanx of shareholders and P.R. gatekeepers, can be harder for a lone correspondent to reach. So, on Monday, the organization Authors United announced that it was gathering signatures for a letter that it planned to send, by FedEx, to the ten members of Amazon’s board of directors. The letter was a response to the online retailer’s move, during a dispute over contract terms with the publisher Hachette, to “sanction” Hachette books by delaying shipments, blocking pre-orders, and reducing discounts. (I wrote more about the battle in July, as did George Packer, in August.)

. . . .

Under Preston’s charge, Authors United had previously written an open letter urging readers to e-mail Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s C.E.O., but the tactic didn’t seem to have accomplished much. “I was looking at the list of members of Amazon’s board,” he told me, “and I was really struck by how many of them are in highly creative content-creation businesses—and also how many of them appeared to be really fine people.” The board includes people like Patricia Q. Stonesifer, a former C.E.O. of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Judy McGrath, a former C.E.O. of MTV Networks. “What the heck are these people doing associating themselves with a company that’s sanctioning books and harming twenty-five hundred authors? Did they approve of this policy? ” Preston wondered. And then he thought, “We can always find out by writing them a letter and asking them.”

. . . .

“This isn’t the usual kind of issue that boards of directors respond to,” John Coffee, the director of the Center on Corporate Governance at the Columbia Law School, said of the Authors United appeal. Nor should Amazon’s board be expected to respond, he added, to what is essentially a spat between the company and a group of people who might best be described as suppliers.

. . . .

Coffee imagines that if a board member received an individual note from a favorite writer, he or she might feel compelled to respond—or even to mention the message to management. Preston told me that he and his peers are weighing other pressure tactics they might use on Amazon.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

As PG was reading this, he realized that Preston et al are a pretty pathetic bunch.

“How many of [the board members] appeared to be really fine people.”

So, of course, they’ll agree with a bunch of rich authors that Amazon should do whatever Hachette asks.

This is what the world must look like from inside a fishbowl.

 

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin to Build New Rocket Engine for US Launch Provider

18 September 2014

Nothing to do with books, but interesting, at least to PG.

From Space.com:

Blue Origin, the secretive private spaceflight company led by billionaire Jeff Bezos, has teamed up with a veteran space launch provider to build a new rocket engine designed to reduce U.S. dependence on Russian hardware.

In an announcement today (Sept. 17), Bezos and the launch provider United Launch Alliance unveiled plans to develop Blue Origin’s new BE-4 liquid rocket engine. The new partnership will allow ULA’s next-generation rockets to come equipped with engines that are built in America. At the moment, ULA uses Russian-made RD-180 engines to power its Atlas 5 rockets.

“ULA has put a satellite into orbit almost every month for the past eight years – they’re the most reliable launch provider in history and their record of success is astonishing,” Bezos, founder of Blue Origin and Amazon.com, said in a statement. “The team at Blue Origin is methodically developing technologies to enable human access to space at dramatically lower cost and increased reliability, and the BE-4 is a big step forward. With the new ULA partnership, we’re accelerating commercial development of the next great US-made rocket engine.”

Link to the rest at Space.com and thanks to Karen for the tip.

So Prime is going to include free deliveries in orbit sometime next year?

Amazon Introduces All-New Kindles and New Fire Tablets

17 September 2014

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today introduced the 7th generation of Kindle: Kindle Voyage, our most advanced e-reader ever, and the new $79 Kindle, with a 20% faster processor, twice the storage, and now with a touch interface. Meet the new Kindle and Kindle Voyage at www.amazon.com/kindle-voyage.

“Our mission with Kindle is to make the device disappear, so you can lose yourself in the author’s world,” said Jeff Bezos,Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “Kindle Voyage is the next big step in this mission. With the thinnest design, highest resolution and highest contrast display, reimagined page turns, and all of the features that readers love about Kindle—books in seconds, no eyestrain or glare, readability in bright sunlight, and battery life measured in weeks, not hours—Kindle Voyage is crafted from the ground up for readers.”

. . . .

Kindle Voyage uses a brand new Paperwhite display, with the highest resolution, highest contrast, and highest brightness of any Kindle. With 300 pixels per inch, the new Paperwhite display delivers laser-quality text and images. The exclusive flush-front display stack uses specially strengthened glass, which is designed to resist scratches. Since regular glass would create glare, the cover glass on Kindle Voyage is micro-etched in order to diffuse light, ensuring you can read easily in bright light without glare. The etching pattern on the glass also serves to match the feel of paper.

Adaptive Front Light—Our Smartest Front Light

In addition to being our brightest front light ever—39% brighter—the new adaptive front light automatically adjusts the brightness of the display based on the surrounding light. And because not everyone has the same lighting preferences, the adaptive front light can be fine-tuned to your personal preference. Also, since the human eye adjusts to darkness over time, the light you need when you start reading in the dark will seem too bright 30 minutes later—the adaptive front light slowly lowers the display’s brightness over time to match the way the eye responds to darkness.

. . . .

Kindle—Now With Touch, Just $79

The all-new Kindle includes a 20% faster processor, twice the storage, and now features a touch interface and all of the latest features customers love about Kindle, including Kindle FreeTime, Goodreads, and Smart Lookup. The new Kindle is small, light, and portable—toss it in a beach bag or put it in a pocket to always have your reading with you.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon also announced a $99 Fire HD tablet, an 8.9 inch Fire HDX tablet and a Fire HD Kids Edition

Why Amazon Has No Profits (And Why It Works)

17 September 2014

From Andreessen Horowitz

Amazon has a tendency to polarize people. On one hand, there is the ruthless, relentless, ferociously efficient company that’s building the Sears Roebuck of the 21st Century. But on the other, there is the fact that almost 20 years after it was launched, it has yet to report a meaningful profit.

. . . .

Amazon is in fact organized not just in these segments, but in dozens and dozens of separate teams, each with their own internal P&L and a high degree of autonomy. So, say, shoes in Germany, electronics in France or makeup in the USA are all different teams. Each of these businesses, incidentally, sets its own prices. Meanwhile, all of these businesses are at different stages of maturity. Some are relatively old and well established. And while these mature businesses are growing slower, they are profitable. Others are new startups building their business and losing money as they do so, like any other new business. Some are very profitable, and some sell at cost or as loss-leaders to drive traffic and loyalty to the site. Books are a good example. There’s a widespread perception that Amazon sells books at a loss, but the average sales price actually seems to be very close to physical retailers – it discounts some books, but not all, and despite all the argument in the Agency lawsuits, quite how many and how much is (deliberately) as clear as mud.

Amazon is a bundle.

The clearest expression of this is Prime, in which (amongst other things) entertainment content is included at a high fixed cost to Amazon (buying the rights) but no marginal cost beyond bandwidth, as a way to enhance the appeal of being a Prime ‘member’. Prime membership in turn draws people to switch more and more of their online and offline spending to Amazon. Trying to look at the profitability of the video alone misses the point.

. . . .

[T]he logistics and commerce infrastructure themselves are a platform for lots and lots of different Amazon businesses, and also for lots of other companies selling physical products through Amazon’s site. Third party sales of products through Amazon’s own platform are now 40% of unit sales, and the fees charged to these vendors are now 20% of Amazon’s revenue.

This means, in passing, that for close to half of the units sold on Amazon.com, Amazon does not set the price, it just takes a margin. This alone should point to the weakness of the idea that Amazon’s growth is based on selling at cost or at a loss.

The tricky thing about these third party (‘3P’) sales is that Amazon only recognizes revenue from the services it provides to those companies, not the value of the goods sold. So if you buy a pair of shoes on Amazon from a third party, Amazon might collect payment through your Amazon account and ship them from its warehouse using its shipping partners – but only show the shipping and payment fees it charged to the shoe vendor as revenue. It does not disclose the gross revenue (‘GMV’). Given that (as it does disclose) third party sales tend to have a higher unit value, this means that the total value of goods that pass though Amazon with Amazon taking a percentage is perhaps double the revenue that Amazon actually reports. The revenue line is not really telling you what’s going on, and this is also one reason why gross margin is pretty misleading too.

. . . .

So, we have dozens of separate businesses within Amazon, and over two million third party seller accounts, all sitting on top of the Amazon fulfillment and commerce platform. Some of them are mature and profitable, and some are not. And someone at Amazon has the job of making sure that each quarter, this nets out to as close to zero as possible — at least as far as net income goes. That is, the problem with net income is that all it tells us is that every quarter, Amazon spends whatever’s left over to get the number to zero or thereabouts. There’s really no other way to achieve that sort of consistency.

If you listen closely, Amazon itself tells us this. The image below comes straight from Amazon – originally it was a napkin sketch by Jeff Bezos. Note that there’s no arrow pointing outwards labeled ‘take profits.’ This is a closed loop.

a1

. . . .

Amazon’s business is delivering very rapid revenue growth but not accumulating any surplus cash or profits, because every penny of cash is being ploughed back into expanding the business further. But, this is not because any given business runs permanently at a loss – it is because the profits from what is already there are spent on making new businesses.

Link to the rest at Andreessen Horowitz and thanks to Will for the tip.

Kindle security flaw can be exploited by hidden codes in e-books

17 September 2014

From Engadget:

Next time you come across a Kindle e-book link somewhere other than Amazon itself, you may want to make sure it’s not some dubious website before you hit download or “Send to Kindle.” A security researcher by the name of Benjamin Daniel Musser hasdiscovered that the “Manage Your Kindle” page contains a security hole — one that hackers can take advantage of with the help of e-books hiding malicious lines of code. Once you load the Kindle Library with a corrupted e-book (typically with a subject that includes <script src=”https://www.example.org/script.js”></script>), a hacker gets access to your cookies, and, hence, your Amazon account credentials.

Based on the updates Musser wrote at the bottom of the report’s web page, he first discovered the flaw in October last year. Amazon patched it up shortly after he reported it, but it made its way back after a “Manage Your Kindle” overhaul. Still, he believes the issue should be easy to avoid, so long as you don’t download e-books (pirated or otherwise) from websites you don’t know.

Link to the rest at Engadget and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Amazon Launches a Literary Magazine

17 September 2014

Regular suggester of posts Joshua pointed out that Amazon has started a literary magazine called Day One.

Here’s a link

KDP Select Global Fund Updates

17 September 2014

From Kindle Direct Publishing:

We have continued to see significant early trial response from customers to Kindle Unlimited (KU). Similar to what we’ve done in the past around holiday spikes in borrowing activity, we are adding a bonus of $2.7 million in August on top of the regular base fund amount of $2 million.

To further highlight the KDP Select books and authors that are most popular with customers, we are introducing a new element to the program: “KDP Select All-Stars”. Based on what KDPS titles are being read the most during the month, we will identify each All-Star author and title on each applicable KDPS title’s detail page. In addition, KDP Select All-Stars will earn financial bonuses. Anyone with titles in KDPS–even a debut author with a single title–can qualify if their work becomes a customer favorite.

For August, we will pay out All-Star bonuses to the top 100 most-read authors and, separately, the top 100 most-read titles. We will calculate ‘most-read’ by combining books sold plus qualified borrows from KU and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) during the month. Calculations only include sales and qualified borrows for titles enrolled in KDPS. Recipients will be contacted in the next few days.

The top 100 most-read KDPS authors will each be awarded the following amounts:

  • Authors 1 through 10 will receive $25,000
  • Authors 11 through 20 will receive $10,000
  • Authors 21 through 30 will receive $5,000
  • Authors 31 through 50 will receive $2,500
  • Authors 51 through 100 will receive $1,000

Authors of the top 100 KDPS titles will each earn the following amounts:

  • Titles 1 through 10 will receive $2,500
  • Titles 11 through 50 will receive $1,000
  • Titles 51 through 100 will receive $500

Denoting All-Stars on detail pages is a new element of KDPS and we expect our approach to this will evolve over time. We hope it adds a little fun and adventure to the program!

Finally, many authors outside the U.S. derive most of their qualified borrows from the KOLL and have not been able to benefit from the growth of KU. This has meaningfully altered their ability to compete within the wider pool of KDPS loans. To adjust for this, we are adding an additional bonus of $80,000 to be paid out on all KOLL loans outside of the U.S.

Link to the rest at Kindle Direct Publishing and thanks to J.A. for the tip.

Thanks, KDP Select! How I became an overnight (okay 30 year) success.

16 September 2014

From author Wayne Stinnett via Kindleboards:

For all you new folks wondering if your dream can ever come true. Yes, it can! But, dreaming about it won’t do it.

. . . .

Did I dream about making a better living for me and my family with my story telling? Yeah, for many years. Since before most of you on here were born. But, I was target fixated. That’s when a fighter pilot concentrates so hard on the tango he’s trying to shoot down, he completely misses the other one coming up behind him. My target for nearly three decades was getting on the bookstore shelves. I’d never heard of an ebook. Then, our oldest daughter and her husband (the one who is one of Amazon’s lower level execs) gave me a Kindle for Christmas two years ago. At the time, I didn’t even know he worked for Amazon. He was good to her and provided for her and that’s all that mattered. When I mentioned once that I’d been reading a lot of authors I’d never heard of on it, he told me they were probably self published. When I mentioned I’d been trying to get published since the eighties, he explained and showed me on my laptop how to do it. That was in June, 2013, one year and three months ago.

. . . .

I cranked out my first book, with little or no guidance, in three months and published it last October. I put it out of my mind completely and started on the second one. Though it was 20K words longer, I cranked it out in 2-1/2 months. Mind you, I was working upwards of 70 hours a week as an over the road truck driver and writing in the sleeper of the truck. My first goal was getting both books published before Christmas and that’s just what I did, 178K words in less than six months, publishing my second book on 10/23. January sales were over $2500, more than enough for all the tools I wanted.

That’s when it hit me. I could make a living at this. Something else hit me at about the same time. The numbers. I realized I’d written 178,000 of my own words in two stories, in 178 days. One thousand words a day. And those two stories earned me $2500. It wasn’t hard to calculate that two more stories in six months would double that income.

. . . .

I wanted to write about something that I was emotionally too close to, so I sought the help of a young Marine who’d recently left the Corps after three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan as an Infantryman. He’s the son of a friend and suffered post traumatic stress. At first he was reluctant, until I told him about my own demons from Beirut. It took us a while, but I like to think we put together a fictional story that might help others to seek out someone to talk to. I published Fallen Pride in early April, 2014. Sales that month were equal to my best month as a truck driver. I was almost there.

From these boards, I learned a “feeder” was needed, but I was reluctant to reduce the price of my first book, or EGAD, make it permafree. So in just six weeks, I cranked out a 53K page prequel to the others and knowing that my dream was doable and already having a good emergency savings and retirement in place, I QUIT MY JOB half way through writing it. Fallen Out was published on May 30, two weeks before the one year anniversary of the first time I ever heard about self publishing. Since day one, it’s been my sales leader, drawing in more and more readers. I intentionally made it a little jerky, to more closely match the pace of my first book.

Last month, I earned more than four times my best trucking month and now KDP wants to reward that hard work by slapping on another three grand? Yes, my friends, dreams really can come true. But, not without sacrifice and hard work. Oh, and planning to succeed. In the Corps, I had a Platoon leader who always reminded us of the “Seven P’s”, “Proper prior planning prevents p!ss poor performance”.

Link to the rest at Kindleboards  and thanks to Michael for the tip.

Here’s a link to Wayne Stinnett’s books

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