Amazon

Why are print sales up? Data Guy gives his reason—and it isn’t adult coloring books

18 January 2017

From TeleRead:

Perhaps the reason print book sales are on the rise has nothing to do with coloring books, digital fatigue, the “ebook fad” or book store appeal. Data Guy has offered a different reason based on the data he has scraped for Author Earnings.

To start, independent book store sales are up 5 percent from 2015, but the rest of the brick and mortar stores are down 5 percent, on average. However, the industry is up 15 percent as a whole with the difference coming from Amazon.

Data Guy states that the real reason print sales are up is because a change in how Amazon priced its titles. In 2015, discounts on ebooks for large traditional publishers was eliminated. In turn, Amazon discounted the prices of print books in mid-2015 – and that’s where we see the change in print sales.

To break down the data even further, when Amazon discounted sales in some of the spring and summers months, sale units on print books were up 7 percent. However, when it scaled back its discounts just a few short months later, the overall percentage of unit sales also dropped and at the end of the year, the industry saw an increase of just 3.3 percent from a year before.

Data Guy surmises that the question really shouldn’t be about print vs. digital. People want to read, and they are going to do it in ways that are easiest and convenient for them. This bigger question is brick and mortar vs. online sales. Online sales are ever increasing with Amazon taking the bulk of the sales.

Because we are currently seeing online sales wallop brick and mortar unit sales, he said about two-third of traditionally published adult books are bought online.

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

Don’t shop at Amazon’s new Chicago store

18 January 2017

From The Chicago Tribune:

I have a favor to ask: When Amazon opens its retail store in the Southport Corridor area of Lakeview later this year, please do not shop there.

It will be tempting, because the store will seem shiny and the merchandise will interact with your smartphone, informing you of prices and additional recommendations. You will be offered discounts on Echo, Amazon’s home “digital assistant”; Prime memberships; and access to streaming content.

And the books will be less expensive than at your local independent store.

But those few dollars saved will come at the expense of something more important: our community, our values.

Amazon is not evil, but it is a corporation, and corporations do what corporations do — whatever it takes to maximize profits and shareholder value. In the case of Amazon, in the past, that’s meant subjecting warehouse workers to inhuman conditions and their corporate employees to a kind of white-collar Hunger Games.

. . . .

Beyond the privacy issues, Amazon is unconcerned with quality of life in local communities. We have seen entire towns crash on the shoals after giving in to the siren song of Wal-Mart’s low, low prices.

Wal-Mart moves in, bringing not just those low prices but low-paying  jobs too. Unable to compete, the existing local businesses fail, putting communities into a death spiral, until so many people leave that Wal-Mart also pulls up the stakes.

Instant ghost town.

Obviously, Chicago isn’t going to become a ghost town, but we should be very aware of the cultural and community riches we have in our many independent book stores.

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune and thanks to Dave for the tip.

This was a very tempting article, but PG will limit himself to only a couple of observations.

Amazon is a “corporation”.

Gasp.

If the community bookstores the author of the OP is trying to preserve are consulting competent attorneys and accountants, they are probably doing business as corporations or limited liability companies. One good way to preserve a community bookstore is to protect the owners from random spurious lawsuits.

Entire towns “crash” because of Walmart’s low-paying jobs.

When a new small-town Walmart is nearing completion, it starts hiring staff for the store. The line of job applicants is always very long and includes a great many employees of local retailers.

Why?

After the store is finished, Walmart employees will be the best-paid retail employees in town. With much better benefits than small town retailers provide. And a career path that includes wage increases and the possibility of promotions within the local Walmart or in other Walmart stores nearby.

Working at a small-town Walmart can be a career. Working at a local small-town retailer is a dead end.

 

Is KDP getting better?

17 January 2017

PG was intrigued by a comment/question from Randall that was part of the discussion of another post:

Is KDP getting better? Most things Amazon just keep getting better. Is that true for KDP too?

What do you think?

Amazon.com – A Vengeful, Simplistic God?

17 January 2017

From author Adam Dreece:

Last week (Thurs – Jan 12, 2017), I received an email from Amazon around 11pm. They were “reaching out to me” to inform me that they had detected something called “system generated accounts” and thus, were immediately deleting my account. I’ve recently learned that there were a number of us hit, and all of us had the same thing happen.

Welcome to the world of eBook siege weapons. Launchable by any anti-fan or jealous competitor, an indie author or small press can be utterly destroyed on Amazon without defense or recourse.

Every book, every book review, everything I’ve built up over years, is gone. No proof was provided, no opportunity to defend myself given. Like an ancient, vengeful god who had been tricked, Amazon acted as judge and executioner, with no need for jury or trial.

In December, I’d decided to enter their KDP Select program. This was my reward.

When I got the email, I sprang out of bed and emailed them immediately (They were “kind enough” to provide an email address “in case I had any questions.”). It thought it had been bad enough that I had been hammered with emails by them over the Xmas holidays to prove I had the copyright of each of my books, but I did. Now, things had gone nuclear.

I included in that email to them, an email thread between me and one of their KDP support people from a few weeks earlier. I’d noticed a weird spiky behaviour in KU reads, 25k, 0, 10k. It looked suspicious to me, so being the boy-scout that I am, I raised it. I even posted about it on FB, as it was really weird.

The KDP Support person’s response was clearly they thought me cute and naive, and they assured me there was no problem. I said I was scared that the Fiverr promo I’d used (which was new to me, but had over 650 reviews and was a top seller) could have been a scam or something, and they told me no. I even DOUBLE checked with them to please check everything, and I was told everything was fine. I’ve since learned that scammers have been pointing their bots at other authors, often targeting the #1 in smaller categories, so to throw suspicion away from their fake books. There’s no way for me to know though, because Amazon gave me no information.

The reply I got back from them was terse, “We will need some time to investigate this matter.”

. . . .

Last night when I was on FB, I read in a group that a woman just saw the same pattern happen. An inexplicable, 25k page read bump. She was wondering whether she should report it or not. I was going to share what happened to me, but I didn’t want to freak her out or presume that I was right. I then read elsewhere someone else getting hit with an unexpected 5k bump that was ‘instant’. I wondered what was happening. Then a friend pointed out another author she knew had been nuked by Amazon last week too. I read his FB post, and it was exactly the same as what happened to me. However, he’d been following this story a bit longer than me, and had heard of this type of thing happening. Now, he was a victim of it.

I realized that anyone can do this to anyone, and there’s no defense. Amazon assumes and acts, and doesn’t even leave us a means for proving our innocence. A friend asked if I had a lawyer, and I laughed. Have you ever seen someone go up against a titan? You’re bankrupt before you get anywhere near anything resembling justice.

. . . .

I understand Amazon needing to stop scammers from taking any share of the money from their KU money pool, absolutely, but WTF?! If you can detect these “systematic generated accounts” or whatever, then filter them the F out! Don’t make authors like me collateral damage in your simplistic approach. Give us little guys some kind of defense! Or how about a means to prove our innocence? Is it simply that there are so many authors out there that you don’t have to care? How about looking at all of those legal documents and copyright notices you asked me to provide just before nuking me?

Link to the rest at Adam Dreece and thanks to Randall and several others for the tip.

Unfortunately, PG has heard similar stories from other authors in recent months.

One of the things that most impressed PG when he first met a group of Amazon employees who managed KDP several years ago was their statement, repeated several times, that they regarded authors as their customers. Given Amazon’s stellar customer service, this was an impressive attitude toward authors, far different than the perspective traditional publishing has about all but its bestselling authors.

PG is concerned that this attitude may have eroded into something much less author-friendly.

On some occasions, law enforcement officers sink to a cynical view of the communities in which they operate, forgetting that, even in the worst neighborhoods, most people are not criminals. This is part of an emotional burnout that can effect those who spend a lot of time dealing with bad actors.

OTOH, there are people who try to game KDP Select and Amazon’s sales rank algorithms in ways that are inimical to both readers and honest authors. For obvious reasons, readers and honest authors would like such scammers kicked off Amazon. They stink up the place in many different ways.

PG suggests that Amazon needs to put some additional work on both its back-end systems designed to catch bad behavior and on the people side of scammer detection operations. The company needs to up its game to maintain operational excellence in this facet of its business.

One of the fundamental tenets of customer relations is that it’s much easier to keep an existing customer than to attract a new one. Another tenet is that handling small customer transactions well is important because a satisfied customer is much more likely to return.

The sum of small transactions adds up to a larger and larger number over time and the lifetime value of a customer, including an author who is an Amazon customer, is huge.

 

How could Amazon deliver without an address?

17 January 2017

From ZDNet:

Forget Amazon’s much-vaunted testing of drone deliveries to your home. South African startup WumDrop has launched a new precision service that delivers parcels to GPS coordinates taken from a customer’s phone, rather than a physical address.

The Deliver2Me service, which relies on old-fashioned trucks and bikes to drop off packages rather than drones, is launching with the backing of a local retail group but has been on trial since November.

Founder Simon Hartley says during the testing phase, the firm boasted “100 percent accuracy” for delivery, beating traditionally-addressed deliveries over the same space of time.

Delivery to GPS coordinates has long been mooted as a solution to a global problem that impedes the growth of e-commerce in many developing countries. Lots of people in many nations don’t have formal addresses.

Unless you’re the victim of unfortunate circumstances or have made a specific life choice, chances are that if you’re reading this, you probably know where you live. And that’s important, because without an address you probably can’t get a job, a bank account, apply for credit — and you probably can’t buy much online if no one can deliver it to you.

. . . .

UN organisation the Universal Postal Union reckons there are four billion people who don’t have a proper address, while the International Telecommunications Union estimated that 3.2 billion people were online in some form by the end of 2015.

“Even in South Africa, which has arguably the best road and address infrastructure in Africa, address data has an unacceptably high rate of inaccuracy,” Hartley says.

As in many African countries, there are large areas of South Africa which simply don’t have formal street names and numbers. This inhibits the deployment of emergency services, and postal services, even in the relatively wealthy middle classes, are still sub-par and not reliable or accurate enough for many.

Link to the rest at ZDNet and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Amazon Echo and Echo Dot update adds “Computer” wake word to help complete the Star Trek fantasy

16 January 2017

From AFTV News:

A new software update for the Amazon Echo and the Echo Dot seems to be rolling out that adds the option to select “Computer” as the device’s wake word. Instead of using “Alexa,” or one of the alternatives like “Echo” and “Amazon”, you’ll be able to get a little closer to the ultimate dream of having the Star Trek computer in your home.

Link to the rest at AFTV News and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Amazon Is Killing Department Stores

16 January 2017

From Seeking Alpha:

In our opinion, multiple early data points support the thesis that Amazon dominated the 2016 holiday spending season. Most crucially, we point investors to the Census Bureau’s Advance Monthly Retail Report released on Friday, 1/13. While December Retail Sales fell short of expectations, they confirmed a 2016 sales shift trend which is bullish for Amazon and bearish for department stores like Wal-Mart and Target. Investors have become accustomed to non-store retailers putting up the biggest growth numbers in the Census Bureau’s monthly reports, but that growth rate has been slowing. In 2010, non-store retailers saw a 14% increase in sales in the important holiday shopping months of October, November, and December. In the same time frame the following year, sales were up 13%. That slowed to 11% in 2012, 8% in 2013, and 7% in both 2014 and 2015.

The multi-year downtrend in non-store retailers’ growth rate, though, broke this year, and in significant fashion. In October, November, and December, non-store retailers’ YoY growth rate jumped to 13%. That is the strongest holiday sales growth the segment has experienced since 2010, and is additionally impressive considering how much larger the sales base is today than it was in 2010.

. . . .

Not by coincidence, department stores saw an acceleration in their sales decline rate this year in the holiday shopping season. Department stores have been in decline for several years, but the declines have been predictable and marginal. Since 2010, sales at department stores have fallen between 1% and 3% per year in October, November, and December. That trend broke this year, and in equally significant fashion, as losses expanded to nearly 8%.

. . . .

This is the macro backdrop to poor holiday sales updates from Big Box department stores like Macy’s, Kohl’s, and J.C. Penney. It is also coupled with data from Slice Intelligence, which reported a near-40% market share for Amazon in the rapidly expanding e-commerce market, and First Data, which reported that online sales grew to account for 21.3% of all holiday spending in 2016 (up from 15.4% in 2015), while department stores saw sales decline 4.8%.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Amazon Has a Lot More Room to Scale Before the E-Commerce Retail Market is Saturated

15 January 2017

From Seeking Alpha:

A lot of investors have looked at Amazon with consternation, as the company has not only not followed the normal pattern or retailers in general, but it also hasn’t followed the pattern most tech companies have followed in the recent past. This has resulted in the company outperforming in many quarters, followed by projections it’ll get crushed under the weight of weak margins and earnings.

Granted, a lot of that happened before the emergence of its powerful AWS cloud service. Yet, even with that as a significant part of the company’s overall growth, the retail segment still is the largest part of AMZN and continues to defy the odds. This isn’t because its model is misunderstood, but I believe because the transition to e-commerce by consumers is stretching out a lot longer than other tech businesses have experienced when scaling and disrupting existing markets.

. . . .

Consumers are increasingly moving toward the convenience of online shopping and all the perks associated with it. Amazon is by far the best at doing this, and e-commerce is far from being a saturated market not only in the U.S., but also globally.

With that in mind, the announcement by Amazon it’s going to add another 100,000 jobs in the U.S. supports the thesis that it sees a lot more room to grow before it considers the U.S. market saturated. As for the rest of the world, there is even more growth potential there.

. . . .

The online U.S. retail trend has a lot of impetus left in it, and when measured by overall retail sales, remains less than 10 percent of all U.S. sales. That is only going to increase, and if Amazon maintains its superior service, it’s going to get by far the largest portion of those sales.

. . . .

What has stymied some of those commenting on what is perceived as Amazon’s weak earnings model, is they’re measuring it by the usual way tech companies perform in the early years of the business. Normally a tech company will seemingly emerge out of nowhere and disrupt a market. It isn’t concerned about generating profits in the early years, instead focusing on scaling and grabbing a big piece of market share before it looks at how to improve margins and earnings.
With Amazon, that hasn’t been how it has played out, and it makes a lot of analysts and pundits nervous, which has produced skepticism concerning whether or not AMZN has an earnings end game in mind.

I think the problem there has been growing market share on the e-commerce retail side is a much longer process than totally disrupting a market. Amazon isn’t about to settle in and work on improving margins and earnings when it could lose its momentum on the growth side.

What I’m saying is this isn’t the relatively quick play associated with the majority of tech segments.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

My holiday shopping adventures and Amazon’s continued retail dominance

13 January 2017

From Kotke.org:

I did quite a bit of holiday shopping this year…went a bit nuts making up for some not-so-great efforts the past two years. The kids and I shopped for Toys for Tots (twice), I bought gifts for them from me and from Santa, I bought non-holiday stuff like clothes for myself, and I shopped virtually for the gift guide. I shopped every which way: small, locally, at big box stores, and online at 4-5 different retailers. My main takeaway from that experience? Amazon is miles and miles and miles ahead of everyone else. It is not even close.

Sure, Walmart had the drone in stock, but when I’d tried shopping with them earlier in the month, the product page threw a 404 error. I switched to Safari and was able to put the item into my cart, but then a form in the ordering flow wouldn’t work, so I had to get that item elsewhere. (When I did finally create an account while ordering the drone, Walmart thought my name was “Ashley”?!)

Target’s site was so slow that it was nearly unusable (like 30-40 seconds for a product page to start loading). But I persevered because they had an item I really wanted that no one else had in stock. I got an email two days before Xmas saying they were out of stock and couldn’t ship until Jan 4 at the earliest, but that if I still wanted the item, I would have to log in to my account to verify the new shipping date. I didn’t want the item later, so I did nothing. Guess what arrived on my doorstep last week?

. . . .

And Amazon? The site is always fast, I have never seen a 404’d product page, the URLs for their products haven’t changed in almost 20 years,
each product page was clearly marked with holiday shipping information, they showed the number of items in stock if they were running low, shipping was free (b/c I’m a Prime member), returns are often free, and the items arrived on time as promised. More than 20 years after the invention of online retailing, how is it that Amazon seems to be the only one that’s figured all this out?

Link to the rest at Kotke.org and thanks to JR for the tip.

Jeff Bezos is the anonymous buyer of the biggest house in Washington

13 January 2017

From The Washington Post:

Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood just keeps getting swankier: Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos has bought the former Textile Museum, a 27,000 square-foot property, intending to convert it into a single-family home, according to a person with knowledge of the sale.

Bezos’s neighbors will include President Obama and his family, who are renting a property nearby for their post-White House home, as well as future first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, incoming presidential adviser Jared Kushner.

. . . .

The home — the largest in Washington — sold Oct. 21 for $23 million in cash (a million over its list price) to a buyer described in public documents as the Cherry Revocable Trust. But word about the identity of the new billionaire next door has been circulating around the enclave that ambassadors and Cabinet secretaries have long called home.

. . . .

There are no indications he will move here permanently.

The home is expected to be an East Coast pied-à-terre for the family — allowing him to avoid hotel bills — but the ample square footage means there’s plenty of room for entertaining.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Becca and others for the tip.

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