Amazon

Amazon Targets Etsy With ‘Handmade’ Marketplace

25 May 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Having vanquished scores of brick-and-mortar retailers, Amazon.com Inc. has a new target: Etsy Inc.

The Seattle Web retailer is prepping a marketplace for artisan goods it is calling Handmade. Etsy sellers received invites reviewed by The Wall Street Journal over the past few days to sign up for the new section of the Amazon site.

“We’re offering artisans like you a first peek at Handmade, a new marketplace for handcrafted goods,” the Amazon email states. The invite doesn’t provide additional specifics such as when it will be rolled out or fee details.

. . . .

Amazon’s new site could present a new challenge for Etsy, whose stock has fallen about 43% since the close of its first day of trading last month. Unlike Amazon, Etsy doesn’t have its own Prime loyalty program, nor does it oversee a shipping network to expedite deliveries.

Still, Etsy’s 3.5% commission and 20-cent listing fee are potentially much less expensive than Amazon’s cut. Today, Amazon’s commission varies depending on the product sold, but for many categories it charges sellers a 15% fee on the price of each sale.

. . . .

The number of Etsy’s active buyers—those who have made at least one purchase in the past 12 months—rose to 20.8 million from 15.3 million a year earlier. But that pales in comparison with Amazon’s 278 million active accounts.

Dar Garfield, who sells handmade jewelry on Etsy through her SheekyDoodle site, said she was surprised to get an invite from Amazon, since she didn’t have a seller account with the Seattle retailer.

“Amazon has such huge traffic numbers on their website already, it’s pretty appealing,” said Ms. Garfield. “I am probably going to do it.”

. . . .

“It’s a good idea not to put all your eggs in one basket, and joining another handmade marketplace would make me feel like I’m not so dependent on Etsy for income.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Amazon’s U.K. Contract With Top Book Publisher Penguin Random House Set to Expire

23 May 2015

From re/code:

Will Amazon’s contract negotiations with the last of the “Big Five” consumer book publisher be its toughest?

The e-commerce giant’s deal to sell books on its U.K. website published by Penguin Random House, the world’s largest book publisher, is set to expire by the end of the month, according to an Amazon source. If the two sides don’t come to a new agreement by the deadline, Amazon could pull all Penguin Random House print and e-books from its U.K. online store, Amazon.co.uk.

Such a move would be costly to both sides. The publishing house accounts for about 40 percent of all consumer book titles sold worldwide, according to industry experts. Amazon’s book selection in the U.K. would look a lot thinner if it pulled all of those titles.

At the same time, Amazon is by far the biggest sales channel for e-books for the “Big Five” book publishers, so a ban in the U.K. of Penguin Random House books by the Seattle retailer would inflict pain. The contract between the two sides related to Amazon sales in the U.S. is set to expire later this year, the source said.

Link to the rest at re/code and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

I don’t want to buy books from Amazon anymore!

20 May 2015

From Medium:

I slipped into the convenience trap. I happily ordered my Ballards, my Murakamis, my Carvers from Amazon without giving much thought to my local independent bookshop, just 10 minutes from my home.

Amazon is convenient. For lazy, laptop-in-bed, impulse purchase people like me Amazon is a dream — it offers me a familiar catalogue of books, ready to purchase with a click and get delivered next day. They might not pay much tax in the UK, but when time is so precious and it’s that easy, do we really care?

The march of the machine brings more efficiency and savings but everyone knows it’s the small guys getting squeezed. When I cycled past my local bookshop, I felt a niggle. A niggle that said if I wasn’t supposed to be meeting Mario at 10am for that pre-ride coffee, I would go in there. I would buy a book, support the shop. The niggle said maybe I’ll go tomorrow or the day after? I said that would be great.

. . . .

I wanted to build something that doesn’t compete head-on with the Amazon machine, but embraces it, augments it and nudges you towards the local option to buy.

The Bookindy Google Chrome extension gives you the price of the book in your local bookshop whilst browsing Amazon. Bookindy embraces Amazon’s well-ordered and familiar catalogue for browsing and allows you to buy the book from your local independent bookshop shop if you want to.

. . . .

 I now browse Amazon and then buy books from Dulwich Books, my local independent bookshop, 0.8 miles away.

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

Can Google Outsell Amazon and eBay?

18 May 2015

From The Wall Street Journal:

Google Inc. will launch buy buttons on its search-result pages in coming weeks, a controversial step by the company toward becoming an online marketplace rivaling those run by Amazon.com Inc. and eBay Inc.

The search giant will start showing the buttons when people search for products on mobile devices, according to people familiar with the launch.

The buttons will accompany sponsored—or paid—search results, often displayed under a “Shop on Google” heading at the top of the page. Buttons won’t appear with the nonsponsored results that are driven by Google’s basic search algorithm.

If shoppers click on the buy buttons, they will be taken to another Google product page to complete the purchase, the people explained. On that page, they will be able to pick sizes and colors and shipping options, as well as complete the purchase, one of the people said.

The products will still be provided and sold by retailers, rather than by Google. Retailers including Macy’s Inc. are in talks with Google about taking part in the launch, the people added. A Macy’s spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday.

. . . .

Some retailers said they worry the move will turn Google from a valuable source of traffic into a marketplace where purchases happen on Google’s own websites. The retailers, who wouldn’t voice their concerns publicly, fear such a move will turn them into back-end order takers, weakening their relationships with shoppers.

Retailers currently send Google data feeds on the products they are selling online, and then pay Google when shoppers click through to their websites.

To mollify retailers’ concerns, Google will allow consumers to opt into the same marketing programs that they would be exposed to had they made the purchase on the retailers’ own websites, one of the people said. That means retailers will get address information and likely email addresses for future marketing efforts as long as shoppers opt in.

. . . .

Google won’t send those payment details to the retailers, one of the people said. After Google gets the money from shoppers it will pass the payment on to the retailer. Depending on how the consumer chooses to pay, Google or the retailer may show up on customer billing statements, one of the people said.

. . . .

Google will still be paid by retailers through its existing advertising model, rather than taking a cut of the sales price of items—the usual way online marketplaces like Amazon’s and eBay’s work.

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

Why the ‘Author Earnings Report’ is Misleading

14 May 2015

From Oscar Bernie dot com:

I’d seen these Author Earnings Reports flying around Facebook.  At a glance they seemed harmless — I shared with friends, all of whom were eager to pound on the Big 5 and how indie publishing is awesome, the way of the future and all.

This disturbed me.

I’m a data guy and a scientist.  And I don’t need to pimp my resume to point out three things about this report:  it has an agenda and it is biased.  And it could be a GREAT THING.

Sure, I could say that about any report.  I could point out flaws and the limitations; I generally don’t have the time or care enough.  But this report affects my friends and their career decisions.

. . . .

Problems

1. Have a Merry Christmas: We’re comparing January 2015 to May 2015 for MOST of the data. Anyone who’s taken a basic stats class will tell you this is stupid (seasonal variation). Think about it — what do January’s numbers represent? Has anybody ever heard of a Christmas break? The holiday creates a huge spike in sales that MUST be normalized. This detail alone invalidates most of the data.

2. Lots of free cheap books: January numbers are for 120,000 books and May is for 200,000 books. That’s nearly DOUBLING the sample size. And it says that we’re only looking at about half of the total sales. Where are the rest? Based on multiple references to “best seller lists”, I’d infer that they’re throwing out almost half of the data on purpose (because it’s difficult / impossible to collect) . So if the number of big 5 titles decreased and the sample size doubles, where are all of these extra books coming from? Indie published bundles and low-price books are the only answer.

3. Are Big 5 sales really decreasing? So, they’re only looking at half of the sales. They admit that their sample size of Big 5 books decreased (by how much?). So if your sample size decreases and your earnings decrease, you can’t assume that there IS ACTUALLY a decrease. You can’t quantify the data unless you’re comparing apples to apples. This is an unfounded correlation! Truth is, we have no idea what the impact to Big 5 is…

4. What about PHYSICAL books? This is the elephant in the room. We’re subjected to a bunch of hypothesis that Big 5 price increases are hurting authors. Dumb. Assume you’re the consumer. Ebook prices increase and paper-books stay the same. What do you do? Basic economics people: ebook sales decrease, print sales increase.

. . . .

Analysis

. . . .

2. Big 5 are disappearing from bestseller lists AT LEAST in part due to an increase in print sales. Again, basic economics.

. . . .

Suggestions

. . . .

1.  Analysis is great. Keep it up. But the entire report seems based around two points — you want to be right and you want to promote indie. That’s fine. But can we have the data first and the analysis after? With the current report layout, it’s all tied together to (seemingly) prove your point. We get it. You’re smart. But can’t you give us a little wiggle-room to draw our own conclusions?

. . . .

3. Give us more raw numbers.

Link to the rest at Oscar Bernie dot com and thanks to Abel for the tip.

PG will let others address this post as a whole, but, with respect to the “raw numbers” comment, he will note that each Author Earnings report includes a downloadable spreadsheet containing all the raw data summarized in the report.

PG downloaded the latest spreadsheet and it’s huge – almost 200,000 lines with 20-odd columns – 53 megabytes of raw data. PG isn’t aware of any other statistical report on the publishing business that provides this much data without a huge price tag.

Slumping E-books Lead to Sales Decline at HBG

13 May 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

While sales for the entire Lagardere Publishing Group rose in the first quarter of 2015, compared to last year’s first period, revenue at Hachette Book Group USA declined 12.3%, the company reported Tuesday morning.

The revenue decline in the U.S. was due to lower e-book sales plus difficult comparisons to the first quarter of 2014, when HBG had a number of big bestsellers including The Goldfinch, I Am Malala and Grain Brain. Lagardere attributed this quarter’s drop in e-book sales, in part, to the fact that the company’s results do not yet reflect a return to normal business with Amazon; HBG’s dispute over terms began in May 2014, and ended in November.

Because HBG’s new contract with Amazon started this March, Lagardere said there has been “a gradual disappearance of e-book discounts” and that this has “caused a slight loss in volumes at the end of the quarter.” With the slump in e-book sales, the format accounted for 28% of HBG revenue in the most recent quarter, down from 34% last year.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon Announces Second Indie Literary Prize Contest for Spanish-Language Authors

12 May 2015

From The Amazon Media Room:

Amazon announced today its Second Annual Indie Literary Prize Contest for Spanish-language authors. Independent authors can submit their previously unpublished works through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), making their stories available to millions of readers worldwide, and qualifying them for the opportunity to be published in print, translated into English, and distributed worldwide.Amazon invited Ismael Cala, award-winning journalist, best-selling author and motivational speaker to be the ambassador of the contest for the United States and Latin America.

From July 1st to August 31st, authors can upload their work to Amazon’s KDP platform . . . . Authors are given full control over the publishing process, from designing the cover to setting the list price. They can even choose to make a print copy of their book available for their readers by using CreateSpace . . . . Books will be reviewed based on several criteria, such as creativity, originality and quality of writing and five finalists will be chosen. Out of this group, one will be selected as the winner to have the opportunity to be published in print by La Esfera de los Libros and translated and published in digital, print and audio formats in English by AmazonCrossing, the Amazon Publishing imprint for world literature in translation.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon Publishing Marches On

10 May 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Amazon Publishing may have scaled back its plans to have a major New York City trade publishing presence since the departure of Larry Kirshbaum in early 2014, but the company still continues to expand its overall operation. The division is now composed of 14 imprints, based in six cities, and it’s set to publish about 1,200 titles in 2015. Though it was largely focused on commercial fiction when it launched in 2009, Amazon Publishing is now increasing its investments in such nonfiction areas as narrative nonfiction, memoir, and biography, according to Jeff Belle, v-p of Amazon Publishing, who responded to questions via email.

The greater involvement in nonfiction could mean an expansion of its New York office, which is currently home to its literary fiction imprint, Little A, and Two Lions, its children’s imprint, as well as the Day One literary journal app and the Kindle Singles program. Belle said he expects to add more editorial positions in New York.

. . . .

Belle acknowledged that not all booksellers carry Amazon titles, but noted that he has been “pleasantly surprised by the progress we’re seeing.” Still, he said, “authors that work with us understand that the majority of their readers will likely find them on Amazon.” And that is not necessarily a bad thing. Belle said that Amazon Publishing is now the second-largest publisher on the Kindle platform in the U.S. With its strong Kindle presence, it is not surprising that Amazon Publishing sales skew more heavily toward digital than the larger trade houses do (e-books make up 30% of total revenue at a number of these houses). Despite the heavier reliance on e-book sales, however, Amazon Publishing remains committed to publishing print books, according to Belle. “We’re encouraged by the strong growth in the business,” he said.

One area where Amazon Publishing has established a strong position is in publishing translated books through AmazonCrossing. According to statistics compiled by Chad Post’s Three Percent blog, in 2014, AmazonCrossing released 44 English translations of titles that were originally published overseas—more than any other U.S. house.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Eric for the tip.

What if printed books went by ebook rules?

9 May 2015

From OUPblog:

I love ebooks. Despite their unimaginative page design, monotonous fonts, curious approach to hyphenation, and clunky annotation utilities, they’re convenient and easy on my aging eyes. But I wish they didn’t come wrapped in legalese.

Whenever I read a book on my iPad, for example, I have tacitly agreed to the 15,000-word statement of terms and conditions for the iTunes store. It’s written by lawyers in language so dense and tedious it seems designed not to be read, except by other lawyers, and that’s odd, since these Terms of Service agreements (TOS) concern the use of books that are designed to be read.

But that’s OK, because Apple, the source of iBooks, and Amazon, with its similar Kindle Store, are not really publishers and not really booksellers. They’re “content providers” who function as third-party agents. And these agents seem to think that ebooks are not really books: Apple insists on calling them, not iBooks, but “iBooks Store Products,” and Amazon calls them, not Kindle books, but “Kindle Content.”

. . . .

[I]f you get hurt in the park while reading an iBook, don’t blame Apple—they’re simply go-betweens who provide the product but take no responsibility for it:

IN NO EVENT SHALL LICENSOR BE LIABLE FOR PERSONAL INJURY OR ANY INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL, INDIRECT, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES WHATSOEVER, INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION . . . DAMAGES OR LOSSES, ARISING OUT OF OR RELATED TO YOUR USE OR INABILITY TO USE THE LICENSED APPLICATION, HOWEVER CAUSED, REGARDLESS OF THE THEORY OF LIABILITY (CONTRACT, TORT, OR OTHERWISE) AND EVEN IF LICENSOR HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. [Caps in the original]

Conventional printed books, or “book books”—which in the old days we simply called books—don’t require a click-to-agree before reading. Imagine if Gutenberg made his readers accept these conditions from Amazon’s Kindle Store before they could read the Bibles he printed on that first printing press, back in the 1450s (readers is an archaic term for what we call end users today):

Unless specifically indicated otherwise, you may not sell, rent, lease, distribute, broadcast, sublicense, or otherwise assign any rights to the Kindle Content or any portion of it to any third party, and you may not remove or modify any proprietary notices or labels on the Kindle Content. In addition, you may not bypass, modify, defeat, or circumvent security features that protect the Kindle Content.

I mean, try plugging that into Google translate and see what comes out.

. . . .

What if that applied to “book books” as well? An analog version of Kindle’s Digital Rights Management agreement (DRM) wouldn’t let you lend your Gutenberg Bible to a friend, give it away, sell it at a garage sale, donate it to an adult literacy program, or use it to press flowers. Nor could you make it publicly available, for example, by reading it aloud during a religious service. Plus it turns out that unlike Apple, which has more money than God, Gutenberg barely made ends meet selling his Bibles, even though the few copies that survived the ravages of time are worth millions today. If Gutenberg had had the foresight to license his Bibles instead of selling them outright, his descendants and heirs would still own the rights to those first books, or as they might prefer to call them, those Analog Scriptural Piety Artifacts (aSPAs).

Link to the rest at OUPblog

Trade responds to EC Digital Single Market proposals

7 May 2015

From The Bookseller:

The Booksellers Association has said it hopes the European Commission’s competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector will look specifically at market dominance in e-books.

The EC revealed yesterday (6th May) that it would hold an antitrust competition inquiry into the e-commerce sector in the European Union, as part of 16 initiatives on a digital single market to be delivered by the end of next year. As part of its inquiry, the EC will look at cross-border trade in digital content and the BA hopes it will study issues around accessibility and interoperability in e-books.

Tim Godfray, c.e.o of The Booksellers Association, said he was “interested” to see that the EC has launched this enquiry into cross-border trade and the trade body “looked forward to reading the full terms of the investigation.”

He added: “We hope the enquiry will review the market for e-books across the EC and issues around accessibility, interoperability and market dominance in particular.”

. . . .

An Amazon spokesperson told The Bookseller the company “agreed with the vision of Europe as a single market” and looked forward to working with the Commission.

“Amazon has approached Europe as a single market since we launched here more than 15 years ago,” a spokesperson said.

“We operate websites in five different languages with over 100 million products, and we operate an integrated network of 28 fulfillment centers that ship these products to customers across the EU.”

It added it also enabled small-and-medium sized businesses to offer their products to customers across Europe – “in fact, in the past year alone, Amazon’s Europe-based sellers earned more than 2.8 billion euros in revenue from cross-border sales within Europe,” the company said.

. . . .

John Longworth, director general of the BCC, said: “For too long the completion of the single market in digital services has moved forward at a snail’s pace. On the face of it, the EU Commission’s new proposals go some way to addressing the barriers digital firms encounter when trading within the EU. However, with these initiatives, the devil is in the detail. The Commission and Whitehall must have a laser sharp focus on protecting firms from the risk of additional burdens and unintended consequences stemming from new regulation.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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