Amazon

Amazon offers up car advice with Amazon Vehicles

26 August 2016

From CNET:

Amazon is gearing up its car knowledge.

No, the e-commerce juggernaut still isn’t selling cars — not yet, anyway. Instead, the company on Thursday launched a new webpage called Amazon Vehicles that helps customers research new and classic cars.

Amazon Vehicles could help solidify Amazon’s place as the search engine for shopping. Bypassing Google’s own Google Shopping search engine could train consumers to start thinking about a purchase at Amazon first, even in the rare case the company doesn’t sell the item. That way, Amazon can condition shoppers to keep coming back to its site.

. . . .

The site includes detail pages for thousands of cars and trucks, with specs, pictures and videos. While these pages don’t provide a direct way for you to buy a vehicle, they do include general pricing information, like the manufacturer’s suggested price.

In a statement, Adam Goetsch, director of Amazon Automotive, said the purpose of the new site is to “support customers during one of the most important, research-intensive purchases in their lives by helping them make informed decisions.”

. . . .

Further down the road, Amazon Vehicles could provide a platform to sell cars, though Amazon would face a lot of online competition from eBay, Craigslist, TrueCar, AutoTrader, Cars.com and others.

Link to the rest at CNET

PG says Amazon could provide serious competition to other car-buying websites, which don’t have much in the way of technology chops.

While U.S. state laws require that new cars be sold through a licensed dealership physically located in each state (and not owned by auto manufacturers), there is no such restriction on the sale of used cars. The current auto sites with which PG is acquainted provide used car listings from dealers and private sellers and detailed information on new cars with listings of new cars available through at least some local dealers.

PG is most definitely not an expert on a single state’s auto dealership laws, let alone 50, but would be surprised if Amazon didn’t have a way to sell both used and new cars online in its plans.

While new auto dealerships are valuable businesses, Amazon has enough money to purchase new car dealerships wherever it wants to do so if permitted by law. If modifications in state dealership laws are needed, the offer to build or expand large Amazon fulfillment centers and Amazon Web Services data centers in a state could help persuade state legislatures to tweak those laws to open doors for Amazon.

As far as auto manufacturers are concerned, Amazon should have some interesting pricing strategies to discuss with them, just like it did with large publishers. PG speculates that Tesla will be all in with Amazon Vehicles, but he could be wrong.

And what about Alexa? PG would love to get into a car and say, “Alexa, take me to a nice restaurant” or “Alexa take me to Los Angeles,” then start reading a book.

Amazon plans to open a Chicago bookstore in Lakeview

26 August 2016

From The Chicago Tribune:

Amazon is opening an offline bookstore in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood.

“We are excited to be bringing Amazon Books to Southport in Chicago,” Amazon spokeswoman Deborah Bass said in an email Thursday.

Bass said the store, targeted to open next year, will be at 3443 N. Southport Ave., the former location of the now-closed Mystic Celt bar and restaurant.

. . . .

Amazon plans to mix the benefits of online and offline book shopping, with a selection chosen based on customer ratings, pre-order and sales figures, and its employees’ assessments. Customers can wander the aisles and page through a title before buying, but books face the customer, accompanied by reviews from Amazon shoppers, as they would be online. Customers can buy in-store or place an order for delivery. Amazon devices, such as the Kindle e-book reader and Fire Tablet, are also available for in-store testing.

. . . .

“I think a big part of the bookstore is building awareness of Amazon and bringing more of a human face to the brand,” said Neil Stern, senior partner at Chicago-based McMillanDoolittle. “Forty-one million of us and counting are Prime members, but you can spend a lot of money and never interact with a human. It’s a way to personalize it.”

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

PG says the new store will be a short walk from Wrigley Field, the home of the Chicago Cubs and the location of many a pleasant afternoon during PG’s younger days.

The Cubs won back-to-back World Series championships in 1907 and 1908, an amazing feat. Unfortunately, the Cubs have not won a World Series since 1908. They have not played in a World Series since 1945.

As all educated persons know, the Cubs’ World Series drought is due to the The Billygoat Curse.

The curse began in 1945 when Billy Goat Tavern owner Billy Sianis was thrown out of game 4 of the World Series against the Detroit Tigers. Cubs owner P.K. Wrigley gave the order because the strong odor of Sianis’ pet goat, which accompanied Billy to the game, was bothering other fans.

Sianis, a Greek immigrant, was deeply offended. For his revenge against Wrigley, he uttered the fateful words, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more,” which has been interpreted to mean that there would never be another World Series game won at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs immediately lost that fateful game and Detroit won the series.

Sam Sianis, nephew of Billy Sianis, has been brought out to Wrigley Field with a goat multiple times in attempts to break the curse. In 2008, a Greek Orthodox priest sought to end the curse during the 2008 playoffs with a spraying of holy water in and around the Cubs dugout to no avail.

PG predicts the nearby Amazon store will, at long last, lift the curse. When the Cubs finally win the World Series, grateful Cubs fans will erect a statue of Jeff Bezos outside Wrigley Field, right next to the statue of Mr. Cub, Hall of Fame first baseman Ernie Banks.

Frank Ocean’s release of Blonde marks the start of a major fight in the music industry

25 August 2016

From The Verge:

It was only a matter of time.

The release of Blonde marked much more than Frank Ocean’s musical return after four years away. After satisfying his Def Jam deal with the release of Endless, Ocean released Blonde independently in a move that marks the first shot in an inevitable fight between music labels and streaming services.

The relationship between an artist and a music label has been a notoriously fraught one, but until recently, there was nowhere an artist could run to when they tired of their label besides the next label down the street. Now, in a race to get more subscribers for their streaming services, the biggest company in the world and one run by an artist have positioned themselves as a friendly alternative for musicians. Meanwhile the labels, in a bid to avoid a future they may not be able to survive, may ultimately end up on the side of some fans who want music available through every viable medium.

. . . .

This is the nightmare scenario for music labels. For years, labels have feared that as streaming services grew in power and scope, there could come a time when some artists could choose to forego working with the labels and engage directly with a streaming service to reach their fans.

Up until now this hasn’t been the case with an artist of consequence, for a few reasons. Younger artists need the structure and nurturing that a music label can provide, and established superstars have usually built up a rapport and are loyal to the group of people — most of whom work for the label — that have helped them become stars and simply choose to stay, after getting a big payday.

. . . .

But what Frank Ocean has done is different. This isn’t going independent while still using a major label for distribution, like Jay Z has done in the past. This is a complete avoidance of the traditional musical hierarchy. Ocean has a young, rabid fanbase that primarily interacts with him online; he doesn’t need to distribute physical copies of albums to thousands of stores like Adele or Taylor Swift. He is part of a small club of superstars who don’t need the label system, and who have the leverage to do deals with streaming services instead of re-signing their contracts. And that’s scary for music labels.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Will for the tip.

Music Publishing and Book Publishing, different coasts, same story.

Amazon outstripped Flipkart as India’s biggest online retailer

24 August 2016

From Mashable:

India’s local poster boy of online retail, Flipkart, has a big problem. A $5 billion big problem to be precise.

. . . .

Amazon India may have surpassed Flipkart to become the biggest online retailer in the country last month. This comes weeks after Seattle-based company’s boss announced that he will be investing an additional $3 billion in India, making the total investment in the country to $5 billion dollars in three years.

Amazon India had better gross sales in the month of July, reports Livemint citing five people with knowledge of financial numbers. The American company’s Indian subsidiary had gross sales (value of goods sold) of over Rs 2,000 crores, a figure that Flipkart missed.

. . . .

Though Flipkart, founded in 2007, still assumes its lead in the Indian e-commerce market, it is facing more competition than ever from Amazon India, which entered the country in 2013. Flipkart had 37 percent of the market share in India as of March this year, while Amazon India’s was pegged between 21 to 24 percent during the same period. To make things worse for Flipkart, Amazon India is attracting more people on the website, according to data from several marketing research firms

Link to the rest at Mashable

Online bookseller Bookman & Black cancelled

22 August 2016

From The Bookseller:

David Headley, founder of Goldsboro Books in London’s Cecil Court, told The Bookseller he was “hugely disappointed” about the development, which followed some “unexpected setbacks” with the website which have resulted in the project under the Bookman & Black name being abandoned. Headley declined to say more about the cancellation of the venture, which was due to launch in October, for legal reasons.

Subscribers to the Bookman & Black website in its beta form only received a newsletter last month explaining it would be launching soon with an inventory of over 250,000 books, adding that the company was “working closely with authors, publishers and fellow book lovers to create a range of exciting and exclusive content”.

. . . .

“It is, of course, hugely disappointing that we are not going to launch,” Headley said. “I continue to be a firm believer that online bookselling needs a new approach. The support from the literary community in setting the company up, from well-known authors and major publishing houses, has been overwhelming and encouraging and I am grateful for their support.”

. . . .

Its aim was to aspire to replicate the experience of an independent bookshop online, with Headley saying at the time: “At Bookman & Black we believe it’s time for a change in the field of online bookselling. We will be looking to work with publishers and authors to provide readers with an alternative online shopping experience, with all the joy and magic of browsing a physical bookshop, offering the knowledge and expertise of the professional bookseller.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG has no knowledge of what went on behind the scenes of this project.

However, he speculates:

  1. One of the partners in this venture was a bookstore owner (two individual owners, actually, according to their website) and the other was a website developer. They spoke different languages.
  2. The bookstore owner knew nothing of note about the internet, the web, etc., etc., etc.
  3. The website developer thought it would be building an extension of a typical bookstore website like the one it had created for the bookstore owner.
  4. The original project plan kept growing and growing and growing as the bookstore owner requested one vague new feature after another. In part, these requests resulted from the bookstore owner examining Amazon’s website, perhaps for the first time.
  5. The website developer kept soldiering along so long as the bookstore owner kept paying the bills.
  6. The bookstore owner ran out of money.
  7. The bookstore owner was sincere in his/their belief that “it’s time for a change in the field of online bookselling” (translation: Let’s take down Amazon and save physical bookstores).
  8. Building an online bookstore to seriously compete with Amazon and constructing a perpetual motion machine require about the same effort.
  9. “Support from the literary community . . . from well-known authors and major publishing houses” and £4.90 will buy you a ride on the Underground.

Again, this is all speculation. PG could be wrong about the whole thing. Perhaps Bezos hired the Russian mob to strangle this initiative in the cradle before it could grow to destroy his empire. Maybe the Cecil Court merchant’s association applied pressure through Theresa May’s office. Or Brexit ruined everything.

One of the atypical aspects of this project is the public announcement via The Bookseller that it’s a flop. Most of the time, participants in these sorts of failures are content to have everyone forget the project ever existed.

Hyundai Introduces “Prime Now. Drive Now.”

22 August 2016

From a Hyundai press release:

Hyundai Motor America, in collaboration with Amazon, announces a limited-time, first-to-market on-demand vehicle test drive program, “Prime Now. Drive Now.,” in which prospective buyers in theLos Angeles/Orange County areas can book 2017 Hyundai Elantra test drives at the location of their choice through Amazon’s Prime Now service at www.amazon.com/primenowdrivenow. Launched in 2014, Prime Now is a way for Prime members in more than 25 metropolitan areas in the U.S. to get quick delivery on tens of thousands of items.

“Prime Now. Drive Now.” will run for two weekends (August 20-21 and August 27-28) and is available to Los Angeles/Orange County-area residents in the market for a 2017 Hyundai Elantra. Prospective buyers will have the chance to schedule a 45- to 60-minute test drive in which a trained expert conveniently brings a 2017 Hyundai Elantra to their location — front door step, office, local coffee shop — making for a simple and quick test drive experience. After the test drive, participants will be directed to their local Hyundai dealer to finalize the transaction should they wish to purchase.

Link to the rest at PR Newswire

PG says Prime members are a rich target for all sorts of merchandise.

 

Amazon Deletes Kannada-Langauge eBook, Indian Literary Community Freaks Out

16 August 2016

From The Digital Reader:

The Times of India, Bangalore Mirror, and other sites are reporting that Amazon won’t let a Kannada-language ebook into the Kindle Store. (According to Wikipedia, there are around 50 million people in the world who speak that language.)

Amazon’s apparent reluctance to allow Kannada e-books on its Kindle platform has angered sections of writers and Kannada groups pitting the Kannada Development Authority, a statutory body, and Kannada Sahitya Parishat, the apex literary body, against the Seattle-based ecommerce behemoth.

The two organisations are gathering details to decide on its next move to get Amazon to respond to the request of writers to introduce Kannada e-books on Kindle.

The spat is showing signs of gaining momentum in the coming days as Amazon India, headquartered out of Bengaluru, is said to be planning to offer books in Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Malayalam and Gujarati on its e-reader.

While the Kannada Development Authority has written a letter to Amazon, the Sahitya Parishat is consulting experts to guide it in the matter.

“We have written to Amazon requesting it to treat Kannada in the same way as it wishes to treat other Indian languages. We have also asked them to explain why they want to exclude Kannada from Kindle,” Hanumanthaiah, the Authority Chairman told ET. “We will decide our future course of action after receiving Amazon’s reply,” he added.

. . . .

For the record, Amazon launched the international Kindle store in 2009, and seven years later it still neglects to support most of the languages on this planet.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

The post below discusses books and trigger warnings. PG suspects Amazon just managed to trigger 50 million people without having any intention to do so.

Someone needs to ask the AAP and the Authors Guild where they stand on the dire shortage of US books translated into Kanarese and how long Kannada speakers will be relegated to second-class status.

Perspectives On Amazon’s E-Commerce Leadership

15 August 2016

From Seeking Alpha:

To put things into perspective, Amazon.com generated around $111 billion in e-commerce revenue, of which over $71 billion was within North America, over the trailing twelve-month (TTM) period through June 2016. Wal-Mart Stores is estimated to have recently generated roughly $14 to $15 billion, of which $11 billion was within the U.S., in e-commerce revenue; while Target Corporation is estimated to have generated around $2 billion.

These three companies reflect the top U.S.-based e-commerce companies for domestic and global online sales. Amazon’s lead is substantial, and is a primary driver which has led to Walmart’s joint venture with JD.com in China and the recent acquisition of Jet.com.

Recent research from Moody’s has alluded to the possibility that Walmart may not be in a position to compete with Amazon.com for the top e-commerce title over the long-term, regardless of the Jet.com $3.3 billion acquisition. In fact, Moody’s has stated that they do not believe that Walmart, let alone any brick-and-mortar retailer, will be able to catch up with Amazon from both a revenue and brand perspective.

Instead Moody’s has suggested that Walmart’s current moves have created an advantage over its competitors in the race to be the second largest e-commerce company based in the U.S. Let it be clear that physical retail is still the most dominant platform for retail purchases with 2014 retail sales excluding motor vehicles and parts dealers at around $3.6 trillion. The electronic shopping and mail-order houses category was just under $400 billion and reflected around 11 percent of the retail sales total.

. . . .

 So just as Moody’s believes that Walmart’s chances of overtaking Amazon for e-commerce over the long-term are far-fetched, the same could be said for Amazon’s ability to unseat Walmart’s market share lead based upon the long-term evolution of physical retail.

. . . .

Within the U.S., traditional retailers like Radio Shack, Best Buy, Sears, Office Depot, Staples and Sports Authority, among others have been some of the major casualties of e-commerce, namely Amazon. The most recent news which is a major indication of e-commerce’s impact was Macy’s Inc. earnings report in which the company announced the closure of 15 percent of its total 728 stores, totaling 100 stores.

The demise of traditional retail is not solely an outcome from Amazon and e-commerce directly, but rather a slow shift away from what originally made retail stores great, namely customer service. Today’s retail experience is mostly based upon older looking buildings with less upkeep and improvements, and unmotivated employees (without incentives to work hard a lot of times) which is a perfect equation for lackluster service.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Yes, Amazon cares about books—here’s proof

13 August 2016

From Teleread:

Here’s a question I like to ask a friend who asserts that Amazon doesn’t care about books any more than it cares about bobby pins,motor oil, or anything else you can buy at Amazon.com: How do you explain AmazonCrossing?

If the friend hasn’t heard about Amazon Publishing’s translation imprint, launched six years ago, I tell him or her that it now publishes more English translations of foreign-language books than any other publisher.

In fact, AmazonPublishing last year in the U.S. published 75 translations, three times the number published by its nearest competitor.

AmazonCrossing senior editor Gabriella Page-Fort, my guest in this week’s Kindle Chronicles podcast, cites Ayse Kulin’s Love in Exile as a great example of Amazon’s commitment to bringing “distinguished voices from diverse cultures” to English-speaking readers. Written in Turkish, the novel was published in an English translation by Kenneth Dakan on June 14.

“She crosses borders very well,” Page-Fort said of Kulin, whose books have sold more than 10 million copies in Turkey.

“Her stories are of the people, which is I think what draws readers like me into them,” the editor added. “She shows human behavior under extraordinary circumstances, and always leaves the reader with a great respect for the bonds of family and the power of human will, and the sweeping, history-making effect of love. Those are very powerful things for an author to bring to the world stage.”

. . . .

AmazonCrossing’s commitment to world literature in translation reminds me of what Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in last week’s interview described as the difference between missionaries and mercenaries. As sometimes happens with missionaries, AmazonCrossing’s publication of Ayse Kulin’s writing has paid off financially as well.

Last Train to Istanbul, Kulin’s novel published by Amazon in October of 2013, has sold more than 250,000 copies, Page-Fort told me.

Link to the rest at Teleread

How Amazon’s Investments Could Wipe Out Retail Stores

12 August 2016

From Forbes:

Despite Amazon.com’s scale and growth, it accounted for a mere 3% of 2015 retail sales.

So even though Amazon took a whopping 24% of all the retail sales growth in 2015, it still has plenty of room to get bigger.

Why? Unlike most American companies which are suffering from a drop in productivity, Amazon — whose sales per employee increased about 26% from$816,786 in June 2015 to $1,028,440 in June 2016 — is making huge investments that have already paid off in terms of lower shipping costs.

In the next decade, it could see even bigger payoffs in logistics networks that reduce further its costs and the time it takes to ship. The result could be a more-difficult-to-replicate set of advantages that will deliver consumers wider product variety, lower prices, and better service.

If that happens, it is difficult to see why Amazon will not gain a much larger share of the market for retail goods — at the expense of retail stores like WalMart — which just spent $3.3 billion to buy cash hemorrhaging e-commerce company Jet.com – Sears Holdings, JC Penney and so on.

. . . .

Drone delivery seems laughable now — it is sadly not hard to imagine our armed populace using Amazon drones for target practice.

But if it could overcome the regulatory barriers to drone delivery — and use the drones to deliver goods to houses from fleets of trucks that would drive around different neighborhoods stocked with the most popular local goods, Deutsche Bank estimates that by 2026, Amazon could deliver in minutes and its shipping cost per box could plunge in half to $2.13.

“If that happens, the economic threat to competitors would be punishing — ‘retail stores would cease to exist,’ Deutsche’s analysts suggested, and we would live in a world more like that of ‘The Jetsons’ than our own,” noted the Times.

Amazon is already beating traditional retailers in e-commerce and growth.

For example, in 2015, eMarketer found that Amazon controlled 50% of the $159 billion in top 25 retailer online sales — with WalMart and Apple coming in distant second and third at 9% and 8%, respectively.

Larger retailers have very little in the way of e-commerce as a proportion of total sales. eMarketer found the following: Wal-Mart (2.8%), Target (3.4%),  Walgreen’s (1.7%), and Sears (7.9%).

Link to the rest at Forbes

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