Amazon is planning midnight deliveries for a ‘secret product’

24 July 2016

From Slash Gear:

Amazon has a planned not-so-secret midnight delivery event set for July 31, but it’s not saying what product is so important that it’ll get special delivery hours. News surfaced via the company’s Flex drivers who were notified in an email about the upcoming change in drivers’ schedules. Whatever the product is, Flex drivers will be delivering it in supported regions starting at midnight and operating through 2AM. Amazon is referring to the item as a ‘secret product.’

Amazon Flex drivers are contracted drivers who deliver Amazon products in certain cities, another layer of delivery option for the company on top of its usual USPS, UPS, and FedEx shipments.

. . . .

What kind of product? Amazon doesn’t say, with the email reading, “We are not able to share with you what this product is until the launch time, but you could be one of the first in the world to see it by delivering during a block created just for this release.”

Link to the rest at Slash Gear and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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Amazon Enters Student Loan Business in Partnership With Wells Fargo

22 July 2016

From The Digital Reader:

Amazon has long focused on being the one-stop shop for college students, and now its adding student loans to its catalog. Amazon entered the student loan business in a partnership with Wells Fargo on Thursday, offering cheaper rates for loans to Amazon customers who pay for a “Prime Student” subscription.

The deal calls for Wells Fargo to shave half a percentage point from its interest rate on student loans to Amazon “Prime Student” customers, who also get benefits such as free two-day shipping and access to movies, television shows and photo storage.

“Amazon’s looking for increased membership in Student Prime. That’s what they want out of this deal,” John Rasmussen, head of Wells Fargo’s Personal Lending Group, said in an interview. “What we’re looking for is exposure to our products and services and awareness. That’s the extent of the relationship.”

. . . .

A borrower who would ordinarily qualify for a 3.39 percent rate would be able to get a 2.89 percent rate by paying for a Prime Student subscription, a bank spokesman confirmed.

. . . .

Rasmussen said Wells Fargo does not compensate Amazon as part of the deal, nor does Amazon receive any compensation from Wells Fargo.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Birkenstock quits Amazon in US after counterfeit surge

21 July 2016

From CNBC:

Birkenstock is walking away from

Plagued by counterfeits and unauthorized selling on the online shopping site, the sandals company will no longer supply products to Amazon in the U.S. starting Jan. 1. Additionally, Birkenstock won’t authorize third-party merchants to sell on the site, according to a letter the company sent to several thousand retail partners on July 5.

The memo, from Birkenstock USA CEO David Kahan, was obtained confidentially by

“The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an ‘open market,’ creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand,” Kahan wrote from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Novato, California. “Policing this activity internally and in partnership with has proven impossible.”

. . . .

Birkenstock, founded more than 240 years ago in Germany, is one of the many brands, big and small, struggling with Amazon’s growth in counterfeits. It’s a problem that’s exploded since Chinese merchants started flooding the site in the last couple of years.

. . . .

Earlier this month, reported on the scores of legitimate sellers that are hurting because fraudsters are knocking off their products and utilizing tactics such as paying for reviews, jumping into their listings and taking advantage of loopholes in Amazon’s logistics system. For example, Amazon commingles inventory from distributors at its fulfillment centers, so authentic products and fakes can get mixed together.

The story included reference to Birkenstock, which has seen legions of Chinese sellers promoting its flagship Arizona sandal for $79.99, or $20 below the retail price.

Link to the rest at CNBC and thanks to Nate for the tip.

Amazon Helps 7,000 Employees Pursue New Careers in High-Demand Fields

21 July 2016

From The Amazon Media Room: today announced milestones for its innovative Career Choice Program. The key features of the company’s peculiar Career Choice Program are that it pre-pays 95 percent of the cost of tuition to remove the financial barrier associated with returning to school, makes it easier for employees to participate by offering dedicated Career Choice classrooms on-site, and exclusively supports coursework related to in-demand fields according to sources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics – even if those skills are not related to jobs at Amazon. Since its inception four years ago, more than 7,000 Amazon employees in 10 countries have participated in Career Choice.

. . . .

“Through Career Choice our employees are becoming nurses, pharmacy technicians, accountants, and commercial drivers – all high-demand fields and many that provide a great service to the community. We’re very proud of our employees who are taking advantage of the opportunity and look forward to seeing many more step forward in the years to come.”

Since the launch of Career Choice, Amazon has made several enhancements and incremental investments in the program since it first launched in July of 2012:

  • Increased the amount of tuition pre-paid for courses to $12,000 over four years.
  • Decreased the amount of time associates must be with the company to become eligible to just one year of employment.
  • Reduced associate commuting times by bringing college and vocational courses onsite.
  • Created purpose-built classrooms at eight of its U.S. fulfillment centers and announced plans earlier this year to create an additional 25 dedicated on-site Career Choice classrooms. (Associate participation rates at fulfillment centers with dedicated on-site classrooms rose by 107 percent over prior years).
  • Beginning this year, most new fulfillment centers will be built with on-site classrooms as part of their standard blueprint. Amazon will also invest in building dedicated on-site classrooms at a dozen additional existing fulfillment centers across the U.S.

Highlights of employee participation:

  • More than 7,000 hourly employees in 10 countries have participated in the program.
  • More than 1,300 associates have taken a college-level course or vocational program onsite at an Amazon fulfillment center. That’s the equivalent enrollment of a small college.
  • Amazon associates have taken classes at nearly 1,500 different educational institutions since the program’s inception. That’s more than the number of public community colleges in the U.S.
  • Since the program’s launch, employees are pursuing degrees in game design and visual communications, nursing, IT programming, and radiology, to name a few. Top chosen fields of study for Amazon employees are commercial driver license, computer and information technology, health and sciences, and accounting.
  • The most popular course taken by Amazon employees is Commercial Driver Training. Amazon employees have collectively driven semi-trailer trucks more than 15 million miles as part of their training and in the first months of their new careers. That’s the equivalent of traveling around the world 600 times.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Kindle Announces Singles Classics

19 July 2016

From the Amazon Media Room:

Today, Kindle announced the launch of Singles Classics—a way to make iconic articles, stories and essays from well-known authors writing for top magazines and periodicals available in digital form, many for the first time. Readers can now enjoy easy access to hard-to-find and long-lost articles and stories written by some of their favorite authors. Singles Classics are priced from$0.99 and available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. To discover Singles Classics visit

Launching with more than 140 essays and stories, Singles Classics includes works from writers like Susan Orlean, Norman Mailer, Gloria Steinem,Lawrence Wright, Margo Jefferson, Gay Talese and Chang-rae Lee, and short stories from best-selling authors like John le Carré and Kurt Vonnegut. Singles Classics features memorable work originally published in celebrated magazines like TIME, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone, Esquire, The Atlantic and Playboy. From magazine cover stories that defined a generation, to award-winning articles that challenged the status quo and short stories by revered writers, Singles Classics pays tribute to the lasting power of the written word.

“Some writing is meant just for the moment, but much of it—the best of it—is worth reading and rereading,” said New York Times best-selling authorSusan Orlean. “Singles Classics finally gives us a way to enjoy those timeless pieces. As a reader, I’m thrilled to have access to the stories that mattered the most to me and ones that I somehow missed the first time around. As a writer, this is a really exciting innovation. It’s a chance to revitalize past work, to introduce it to today’s readers, and to give it both new immediacy and a true permanence.”

“Today’s readers might never have the opportunity to discover great works like Ron Rosenbaum’s ‘The Secrets of the Little Blue Box,’ Marcelle Clements’ ‘The Dog Is Us’ or TIME Magazine’s legendary 1966 cover story ‘Is God Dead?,’” said David Blum, Editor of Kindle Singles. “With Singles Classics, we are making these seminal works easy to find and afford – by a student writing a term paper or by readers in search of short works by the writers they love.”

Link to the rest at Amazon

This is what Amazon’s homepage looked like when it launched 21 years ago this month

19 July 2016

From Quartz:

Long before it became the world’s go-to, online source for virtually anything, was strictly a bookseller. And before the arrival of its slick, obsessively considered menus, navigation bars, and search algorithms, the $250 billion operation’s homepage was much more basic. A screen capture from a month after its July 1995 launch is a relic from the early days of web design and branding history.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Dave for the tip.

A New Service Offers One-Hour Book Delivery or Indie Shop Pick-Up

19 July 2016

From Electric Lit:

Forget Amazon drones. A new start-up is promising book delivery within the hour.

The company is called NearSt., and it’s deploying a small army of book-toting scooter and bike messengers around London. Here’s how the service works: choose your book on the company’s site or app, enter your location, then decide whether you want Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You, Don Delillo’s Zero K, or Helen Oyeyemi’s What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours delivered to your doorstep quick as a Domino’s pizza, or whether you’d rather pop down to your local independent bookseller to pick up the book yourself. According to The Guardian, NearSt. is already working with 40 London bookshops, each of which is syncing up internal inventory systems to the site so that customers can be sure that the book they want is close by and ready.

. . . .

So far, the testimonials from booksellers sound pretty glowing. Betsy Tobin, of London bookshop Ink@84, told The Guardian it’s “dead easy: an automated phone call asks you to double-check stock is physically there, then press a button to acknowledge. A very streamlined process. My staff person has just drawn an interesting parallel with Pokémon Go, in that people enjoy using tech to track down a product but also like the physical/social process of going out to get it.”

The resurgence of the independent bookstore has been one of the year’s big literary stories. NearSt. looks to be the latest innovation in the direction away from megastores and online behemoths like Amazon.

Link to the rest at Electric Lit and thanks to Diana for the tip.

So it’s better to buy from indie bookstores and use bike messenger companies, both known for how little they pay their workers, than it is to buy from Amazon, which pays its workers very well.

If you want your physical book delivered from Amazon, the UPS delivery person is also paid very well, is represented by a union and will have an excellent company pension to rely on during retirement.

Apparently it’s more virtuous to exploit Millennials who are desperate for work to cobble together a delivery system full of dead-end jobs than to use a sophisticated Amazon fulfillment system that pays its workers at least a living wage (and often much better) and provides a genuine career path.


Jeff Bezos Plays An Alien

18 July 2016

From The Guardian:

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, has achieved every Trekker’s fantasy, by playing an alien in the new Star Trek film.

Bezos is listed, as “Starfleet Official”, in the credits for Star Trek Beyond, the third instalment of the rebooted sci-fi franchise. In interviews on Friday, producer JJ Abrams and director Justin Lin confirmed his appearance.

Lin said the billionaire arrived with plentiful security for a day of filming and waited patiently for crews to shoot the single tracking shot that includes his character.

“He was awesome,” Lin said. “It was like a president was visiting, you know? He had a big entourage. But it didn’t matter because he was so into it. He had to wait around all day because it was one day we were shooting like three different scenes and, it was also credit to Jeff because … he just nailed it every time.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Mel for the tip.

To boldly go . . . .

2016 Romance Writers of America RWA PAN Presentation

16 July 2016

From Author Earnings:



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Link to the rest at Author Earnings and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Jeff Bezos’ quest to conquer the world

16 July 2016

From Newsweek:

“The clouds surrounding are thickening,” began theWashington Post article by David Streitfeld on Feb. 21, 2001. In the previous year, stockholders had suddenly learned that the internet was not immune to the boom-and-bust cycles of more earthbound forms of economic endeavor, and it seemed the Seattle-based bookseller was going to go the way of, the most infamous example of late 1990s cyberhubris. Streitfeld noted that one detractor of Amazon “expects the internet retailer to run out of money to adequately fund its operations later this year.”

Amazon did not run out of money — nor was it subsumed into a bigger competitor like Walmart — but it wasn’t until 2003 that it ended a year with a profit. That milestone led The Wall Street Journal to call it “one of the most powerful survivors on the internet.”

Today, the question is not whether Amazon can survive but whether we can survive without Amazon. It is in the pantheon of corporations we need more than we need most federal agencies. Just as you can search for updates on Drake’s romantic life on Bing instead of Google or post updates about your own romantic life on Ello instead of Facebook, you can buy beef jerky in bulk on Overstock instead of Amazon. But why would you? Entirely credible reasons exist to dislike Amazon: its treatment of workers, its alleged evasion of taxes, a tendency toward monopoly. But you can’t escape it. The company is lodged deep into our culture, a complex creature that engenders equally complex emotions, much like turkey bacon and the Kardashians.

. . . .

Kara Swisher, the Recode co-founder many regard as Silicon Valley’s premier journalist, has watched Bezos from the start. “He’s kind of on this kick to be a better person,” she tells me. “He realizes his power — that hehas power.” Though she is critical of some Amazon practices, she admires Bezos for his recent defense of free speech and journalism. “He’s enjoying the limelight a little bit more.”

. . . .

Amazon is “the most secret tech company,” says New York Times technology columnist Farhad Manjoo, who tells me he is frequently surprised by Bezos’s moves. The company is about as forthcoming as the Kremlin under Stalin, so that many of even the most basic questions about its operations remain unanswered, subject to amusing but unconvincing internet speculation: How many packages does it ship a day? How many Kindle e-book readers has it sold? How much of the world’s cardboard is branded with the Amazon logo?

The company’s most profitable arm is also its most discreet: Amazon Web Services, which since 2006 has offered cloud computing to everyone from the CIA to Netflix. AWS controls a third of the cloud-computing market. If it were a stand-alone company, it would be worth about $160 billion, its projected value thus exceeding IBM’s market cap. Most people, though, have no idea that AWS exists, that so much of the internet’s bedrock is a Bezos property.

Lately, though, Bezos has made an important shift in Amazon’s mission. No longer a company that merely delivers stuff, Amazon is aggressively pushing into the content-creation business. It has tried this before, with Amazon Publishing, but these new ventures are far more auspicious.

. . . .

“Is Amazon out to rule the world?” Bloomberg television wondered as Amazon was announcing its foray into streaming with its Fire TV streaming technology. One of the commentators for the segment, Shahid Khan of Mediamorph, asserted that Amazon’s objective was indeed “world domination.” He made this claim with slightly disconcerting nonchalance, as if he’d already been assured of some comfortable provincial posting in the Kingdom of Jeff. But, Khan cautioned, “you cannot dominate the world if you don’t control the living room.”

Link to the rest at Newsweek and thanks to Julia for the tip.

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