Amazon Announces Delivery to Your Car

24 April 2015


Starting in May, Amazon announced this week, customers in Munich, Germany with Audis will be able to enter their Audi as the shipping address for online orders. The car company is working together with DHL Parcel and Amazon Prime on a project that calls for parcels shipped directly to the car, with the DHL driver handling the package getting a one-time-use digital access code that allows them to open the customer’s trunk and leave the package inside.

Link to the rest at

Amazon Shares Soar to All-Time High on Cloud Surprise

24 April 2015

From The Wall Street Journal Digits blog: shares hit an all-time high Friday as investors rewarded the e-commerce giant for showing a surprise profit at its cloud-computing business and strong retail sales in North America.

A series of analyst upgrades led the Seattle retailer’s shares to jump as much as 16% in early market trading, pushing Amazon’s market capitalization up some $27 billion to more than $200 billion. The shares were recently trading up 14.5% to $56.46.

No matter that Amazon posted another loss on rising sales. It’s the company’s revelation that its Amazon Web Services cloud unit turned an operating profit — and a 17% margin — that impressed analysts and investors, many of which were convinced it was still in the red. Cloud computing requires heavy investment in data centers to enable companies to store and retrieve vast amounts of information.

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

Amazon Beats First Quarter Expectations But Still Lacks Profits

24 April 2015

From Forbes: reported earnings on Thursday that beat analyst expectations by a cent with sales figures that were boosted partly by the continued growth of its cloud computing division. In a quarter where the Jeff Bezos-led company finally provided some guidance on the size and scope of its Amazon Web Services (AWS) unit, the company experienced record first quarter sales.

The company, however, still did not report a net profit despite pressure from investors to show improvement on its bottom line. In after-hours trading, Amazon’s stock briefly traded down more than 4% from its close of $389.99, but is now up nearly 5%.

For the three months ending on March 31, the Seattle-based company reported a first quarter net loss of $57 million, or 12 cents per share, compared to net income of $108 million, or 23 cents a share, in the same period last year.

. . . .

Amazon also detailed the net income derived from AWS, which came it around $265 million, up from the $245 million it netted in the first three months of 2014. Revenue for the unit, which provides cloud-computing services for companies including Airbnb and Netflix came it at around $1.57 billion, up 49% from last year’s first quarter.

“Amazon Web Services is a $5 billion business and still growing fast–in fact it’s accelerating,” said CEO Bezos, in a statement. “Born a decade ago, AWS is a good example of how we approach ideas and risk-taking at Amazon.”

Link to the rest at Forbes

Kindle Unlimited Payout Ties Record Low $1.33 in March 2015

21 April 2015

From Ink, Bits & Pixels:

Kindle Unlimited adoption continued to grow last month, but unfortunately it grew faster than Amazon ‘s willingness to fund it.

Earlier this week Amazon released the latest statistics on KDP Select, the program used to fund indie author and publisher participation in Kindle Unlimited. Amazon reported that the pool for KDP Select for March 2015 had been increased to $9.5 million. They also announced separately that the payout for each time an ebook was read had dropped to $1.33.

Grab an envelope and crunch the numbers, and you’ll see that ebooks in KDP Select accounted for about 7.14 million reads.

That is a new record for KDP Select, and compared to January 2015 it represents an increase of about a million additional ebooks being read.

Link to the rest at Inc, Bits & Pixels

Can you really make a living by selling used books on Amazon for a penny?

15 April 2015

From The Guardian:

Sometime in early 2013, in Dallas, Texas, a generous reader donated his impeccable first-edition copy of Philip Roth’s Our Gang to the local Goodwill store, its royal blue dust jacket gleaming as brilliantly as it did in 1971.

There it sat on a shelf, priced at $1, until a semi-trailer from Books Squared whisked it away among 3,000 other leftovers. At the Books Squared warehouse in south-west Dallas, Our Gang was checked and processed by receivers and a scrupulous quality-control team, who deemed the book “like new” before scanning it into their computer system to be sold online.

Dynamic pricing software cross-referenced every active listing of a used, like-new, hardcover copy of Our Gang across online marketplaces like Amazon and Abebooks, then matched the lowest price. Last March, four months after it was listed, I bought the book for a penny, and Books Squared shipped it to my apartment in Toronto. This handsome volume is sitting proudly on my desk right now.

. . . .

Online, such literary treasures are in ample supply. But deals this good raise an obvious question. It clearly took a lot of time to usher Our Gang from the backrooms of Goodwill to Canada, where I live. So how does anyone make money selling a book for a cent?

. . . .

The only trouble is the low quality of that yield. Mike Ward, owner of Thrift Books – the largest of the used book sellers in the US and parent company to a number of subsidiaries, including Books Squared – likens the book collection process to “a very large salvage operation”. His network of warehouses is bringing in, on average, 15 semi-trailer trucks full of used books every day, but less than 20% of those books arrive in saleable condition.

The first thing Ward’s handlers must deal with is the garbage: “three-ring binders, Bibles, old Reader’s Digests, books that aren’t even books, books that are totally destroyed”.

From there the stock moves on to the receivers, who inspect each book’s condition and determine, by computer, its likely demand. “At that point they’re throwing away about 65% of what they touch,” Ward says – in part for the poor state many of them arrive in, of course, and in part as a consequence of supply and demand.

“There’s a limit to how many copies of Jurassic Park I can sell,” he explains. “If I already have a thousand in inventory and I think I’m only going to sell 500 in the next three months, I don’t want any more.”

. . . .

Root through enough charity shops and library discard piles, and you’re bound to come across a few valuables. In such cases the used book seller becomes a sort of antique dealer: with a few keystrokes they can put a true rarity online where those most interested can find it. Perhaps that’s why Mike Ward says Thrift Books is in the business of “matching people up with the treasures they want”.

. . . .

Penny books, of course, don’t seem quite so lucrative as a $45 volume on cattle. “If you talked to me 10 years ago and said that you’d be selling books for a cent on the internet, I’d have said that’s impossible,” Roberts says. But there’s some money to be made for those who are, as he puts it, “extremely efficient”.

The price point is partly a result of the market’s downward pressure: at a certain level of supply and demand the race to the lowest price swiftly plummets to the bottom. What remains inflexible is the $3.99 fee Amazon charges the buyer for shipping. From that $4, Amazon takes what they call a “variable closing fee” of $1.35. They also charge the seller 15% of the item’s price – which in the case of a penny book is zero. That leaves $2.64 to cover postage, acquisition cost and overhead.

“All told,” Mike Ward concedes, “we only make a few cents on a penny book sale like that.” Now that hardly seems like much, true. “But keep in mind,” he adds, “that last year we sold 11.5m books.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave and several others for the tip.

Amazon Is Steadily Growing Its Inventory Selection

15 April 2015

From The Street:

Amazon, known as the “Everything Store,” is reinforcing its nickname as it continuously increases the breadth of products on its site.

In its ninth quarterly survey, Baird discovered that the total unit selection on Amazon surpassed 300 million for the first time, growing 32% from the first quarter of 2014. This follows a 24% fourth-quarter increase on the same basis.

. . . .

As Baird analyst Colin Sebastian notes in the report, selection is “among the key levers for retail segment growth.”

. . . .

“Amazon continues to add product selection at a fairly rapid clip, which we view as one of the fundamental drivers of the company’s unit sales growth,” Sebastian writes.

The top categories on Amazon based on number of listed items were Books, Home & Kitchen, Electronics, MP3 Music, Sports & Outdoors, and Clothing & Accessories. Health & Personal Care, Office Products, and Tools & Home Improvement were among the bottom categories in terms of number of listed items.

. . . .

During the first quarter of 2015, the number of Prime-eligible units grew 49% over 2014, with more than 33 million Prime-eligible products on

. . . .

Prime is one of the key priorities for Amazon, and the company is constantly adding new features and benefits to the program to attract more members.

Link to the rest at The Street

Amazon, HarperCollins Reach Multiyear Publishing Deal

14 April 2015

From The Wall Street Journal: Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers have reached agreement on a new multiyear publishing pact that covers both print and digital titles, HarperCollins said.

The agreement calls for HarperCollins to set the retail prices of its digital books, with incentives for HarperCollins to provide lower prices to consumers, according to a person familiar with the situation.

. . . .

The move benefits HarperCollins and its authors, because it means their titles will continue to be promoted and sold without interruption by Amazon, which dominates the sale of physical books online as well as e-book sales.

. . . .

The deal also benefits Amazon because it assures the retailer of a profit on HarperCollins digital titles. Under the so-called agency pricing model, publishers keep roughly 70% of the revenue from each individual sale, with retailers receiving an estimated 30% as their fee. Discounting is done only with approval of the publisher.

The pact with HarperCollins, which like The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones Newswires is owned by News Corp, appears to be similar in scope to those struck with three other major publishers in 2014.

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

Goat Rentals Take Off In Seattle On First Day Of Amazon Home Services

11 April 2015

From KUOW:

When Amazon launched its Amazon Home Services this week, the stars of the new initiative were …


Seattle goats, specifically, ready to trim back your pesky shrubbery.

“We bring the goats and unload him,” said Tammy Dunakin, head goat wrangler and owner of Rent-A-Ruminant LLC. “The second they hit the ground, they’re eating. It’s incredible to watch. It’s kind of like watching marbles scatter when you drop them on the pavement. And the goats start eating everything in sight.”

. . . .

Amazon approached Dunakin to list her service, and she readily agreed.

“You know the hardest part of any business is usually getting customers,” Dunakin said. “I felt like it was a really great way to educate people that this is out there, because it’s going to get a huge amount of viewing, and it benefits me and it benefits the industry.”

Link to the rest at KUOW and thanks to India for the tip.

Does Agency Pricing Hurt Reading Consumers?

10 April 2015

From GoodEreader:

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords and a long-time supporter of the agency model, spoke to Good e-Reader about why this model is good for authors and publishers–the two stakeholders who must secure a profit in order to continue providing books–and good for smaller retailers who otherwise couldn’t compete with a corporate behemoth in terms of pricing. More importantly, Coke addressed one often overlooked concern:does the agency pricing model hurt consumers?

. . . .

“If an author or publisher is trying to screw them over with a price that is just outrageous, readers can say no. And publishers will hear that. Authors will hear that. Readers can put pressure on authors…if a reader feels like an author’s book is priced too high by the publisher, you can bet that all they have to do is tweet at that author about the book being priced too high, and the publisher’s going to be hearing that customers are angry. The marketplace has a lot of power. If readers can accept that it’s important that authors and publishers profit from the sale of a book since it’s their profit that allows them to continue this great service of providing books, then everyone can be happy. If readers think everything should be free, that’s obviously an attitude that is not sustainable.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

PG says price competition is a fundamental fact of life for most consumer products in most of the prosperous nations of the world.

The argument that books are special and shouldn’t be exposed to the horribleness of price competition is designed to protect traditional publishers and physical bookstores. PG doesn’t see that authors as a group have received great benefits from publisher-enforced pricing for books.

And why would anyone believe that Big Publishing knows enough to set the optimum prices for books? The last retail store owned by a publisher closed decades ago. Tradpub’s lame direct sales attempts are a joke.

For all of its attractions, New York is a fiendishly expensive place to live and the concentration of publishing headquarters in that metro area means publishing executives have no experience with how the rest of the country responds to pricing.

OTOH, from the viewpoint of indie authors, PG says choosing legacy publishing prices on the forty-first floor will mean more readers buy indie books and indie authors make more money.


The Horror of Amazon’s New Dash Button

10 April 2015

From The New Yorker:

Amazon’s new Dash Button, which will allow shoppers to reorder frequently used domestic products like laundry detergent or paper towels with the click of a real-life button, is not a joke. Many people assumed it was, mostly because the announcement came the day before April Fool’s, but also because the idea seemed to poke fun at Amazon’s omnipresence, making it visibly manifest with little plastic one-click shopping buttons adhered to surfaces all over your home.

There was also something slightly off about the promotional video. It opens with a montage of repeated household tasks—squeezing a tube of moisturizer, running a coffee maker, microwaving a container of Easy Mac, starting a washing machine—that gets interrupted when a woman reaches for a coffee pod, only to discover that there are none left. She leans forward and exhales, resigned. It’s going to be a long day. But then, thanks to Dash, the montage starts up again, with those familiar Amazon boxes arriving continuously in the mail—and in them a supply of coffee, lotion, and macaroni and cheese for as many days as we may live to need them. “Don’t let running out ruin your rhythm,” a voiceover tells us.

As propaganda, the video seems more like a condemnation of consumption than a celebration of it. All that stuff, the same stuff, used and discarded day after day. It’s the kind of montage that a movie director would use to show just how sad and soulless a character’s life was. And the idea of shopping buttons placed just within our reach conjures an uneasy image of our homes as giant Skinner boxes, and of us as rats pressing pleasure levers until we pass out from exhaustion. But according to Amazon, these products represent the actual rhythm of life, any interruption of which might lead not only to inconvenience but to the kind of coffee-deprived despair that we see when the woman realizes that she has run out of K-cups. That’s the real dystopia: not that our daily lives could be reduced to a state of constant shopping but that we might ever have to, even for a moment, stop shopping.

Link to the rest at The New Yorker and thanks to Mia for the tip.

PG was going to comment on the horror of New York City (where he once had to walk around a dead body on the sidewalk), but he will refrain.

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