Apple

Apple Secretly Acquired “Pandora For Books” Startup BookLamp To Battle Amazon

26 July 2014

From MacRumors:

Apple has acquired BookLamp, a “Pandora for books” startup that aimed to provide personalized book recommendations to readers via specialized algorithms, reports TechCrunch. BookLamp first shut down in April.

BookLamp was known for its Book Genome project, a book discovery engine that analyzed the text of books to break them down by various themes and variables to let readers search for books similar to books they liked.

For example, analyzing The Da Vinci Code, the search engine would break it down to elements of 18.6% Religion and Religions Institutions, 9.4% Police & Murder Investigation, 8.2% Art and Art Galleries, and 6.7% Secret Societies and Communities, and then it would be able to recommend a book similar to The Da Vinci Code based on that data.

. . . .

BookLamp also provided content analysis services to a number of e-book distributors like Amazon, Apple, and other publishers, screening books for categorization and providing a platform for publishers to screen manuscripts. The acquisition will see Apple ramping up its focus on books, according to one source with knowledge of the acquisition.

Part of the reason that Apple made the move to acquire BookLamp was because of this long list of clients. “At first Apple and BookLamp talked about growing their contract, but then they talked more from a strategic standpoint,” a source says. “What Apple wanted to do was, instead of contract, they wanted to make sure whatever work was done was done just for them.”

And what is that work? The details are not clear yet, but the source says, “in broad strokes, the goal that [founder Aaron] Stanton and three of the folks he was working with from the original BookLamp crew is to beat Amazon at their own game.”

Link to the rest at MacRumors and thanks to Simon for the tip.

Passive Guy has no idea whether BookLamp will go anywhere for Apple or just disappear like some Apple acquisitions do.

However, PG believes if someone wants to compete with Amazon, tech innovation is the best way to do it.

Apple’s iPad reaches 78% North American tablet share as Amazon’s Kindle Fire passes Samsung, Google

23 July 2014

From AppleInsider:

iPad is making gains in North American tablet web usage, reaching an 78 percent share in Apple’s “first quarter-over-quarter usage share gain since June 2013,” notes a new report by Chitika.

. . . .

Chitika Insights published its latest figures on tablet web traffic for the U.S. and Canada, noting that Amazon’s Kindle Fire, albeit with just one tenth the share of iPad, has moved into second place ahead of Samsung and Google, both of whom are selling ‘pure Android’ tablets.

“Since April 2014, the share of tablet Web traffic generated by North American Apple iPad and Kindle Fire users has increased by 0.8 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively,” the firm stated.

“These represent the two largest quarter-over-quarter increases for any tablet brand, while Samsung’s user base exhibited the largest share loss over the same timeframe, dropping two full percentage points.”

Link to the rest at AppleInsider

Apple prepared to pay $450 million for e-book price fixing case

17 July 2014

From Cult of Mac:

One year after being found guilty of e-book price fixing, Apple has reached a conditional settlement with the U.S. State to pay $450 million for its role in the price fixing conspiracy that involved five major publishers.

Apple’s settlement could bring $400 million back to consumers’ wallets, reports Reuters, but the court documents filed on Wednesday reveal that the company isn’t quite ready to throw in the towel yet, with hopes that its appeal will shrink that fee down to just $70 million.

Link to the rest at Cult of Mac and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

The French Do Buy Books. Real Books.

10 July 2014

From The New York Times:

One of the maddening things about being a foreigner in France is that hardly anyone in the rest of the world knows what’s really happening here. They think Paris is a Socialist museum where people are exceptionally good at eating small bits of chocolate and tying scarves.

In fact, the French have all kinds of worthwhile ideas on larger matters. This occurred to me recently when I was strolling through my museum-like neighborhood in central Paris, and realized there were — I kid you not — seven bookstores within a 10-minute walk of my apartment. Granted, I live in a bookish area. But still: Do the French know something about the book business that we Americans don’t?

I was in a bookstore-counting mood because of the news that Amazon has delayed or stopped delivering some books, over its dispute with the publisher Hachette. This has prompted soul-searching over Amazon’s 41 percent share of new book sales in America and its 65 percent share of new books sold online. For a few bucks off and the pleasure of shopping from bed, have we handed over a precious natural resource — our nation’s books — to an ambitious billionaire with an engineering degree?

France, meanwhile, has just unanimously passed a so-called anti-Amazonlaw, which says online sellers can’t offer free shipping on discounted books.

. . . .

The French secret is deeply un-American: fixed book prices. Its 1981 “Lang law,” named after former Culture Minister Jack Lang, says that no seller can offer more than 5 percent off the cover price of new books. That means a book costs more or less the same wherever you buy it in France, even online. The Lang law was designed to make sure France continues to have lots of different books, publishers and booksellers.

Fixing book prices may sound shocking to Americans, but it’s common around the world, for the same reason. In Germany, retailers aren’t allowed to discount most books at all. Six of the world’s 10 biggest book-selling countries — Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Spain and South Korea — have versions of fixed book prices.

Even with the state’s help, French bookstores are struggling.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to James for the tip.

Let’s see. 1. The French “secret” is that publishers set book prices. 2. No discounting is allowed. 3. Bookstores are struggling.

Could it be that many French readers can’t afford high prices? Or that, in the face of high-priced books, more and more French people are choosing alternative low-priced entertainment options?

PG says you can’t trust traditional publishers with a nation’s literary legacy. Only authors are worthy of that trust.

Breaking Free Part 2 – One Month Later

28 June 2014

From author Nick Stephenson:

I had a bunch of emails last time I posted on this subject, asking me to update how my adventures outside of KDP Select were going after a month – so, if you haven’t read the previous post, go check that out here.

For everyone else, here’s the skinny: From my very first book release in March 2013, there had always been a common trend. Book sales would spike massively around a promotion (usually Bookbub) and then fall right back down again within a few days. Not that I’m complaining, but my eventual goal was to try and keep sales consistently strong, rather than relying on a monthly spike in numbers and then thirty days of diddly-squat.

. . . .

So, I pulled my titles from KDP Select and uploaded them onto other vendors, then set my strongest-rated novel to permafree. I applied for a Bookbub free promotion, which went live on the 27th of June. The results have been better than I could have hoped. Sales have remained consistently higher for over a month, beating out my average daily revenue of $80 by a factor of four. This last month has easily been my strongest to date, and is set to overtake the $7,000 mark by the time July rolls round. And, best of all, sales on non-Amazon retailers make up a significant portion of that figure, and Amazon UK has opened up for the first time.

. . . .

I’ve also been extremely impressed with my first experiences with other retailers. iTunes has been easy to work with (despite it taking nearly a week to get a title approved), Nook was simple and fast (12 hours from submission to publication) and Kobo was a dream. Kobo were also kind enough to feature my permafree book as one of their “first free in series” titles, which gave my numbers there a little push. Kobo is now a nice little side earner – and the efforts these guys go to in order to accommodate indies is commendable – especially given the vacuum that opens up every time I try to email Apple or Barnes and Noble. Well done, Kobo!

Link to the rest, including sales charts at Nick Stephenson

Amazon Prime Music Just Set Streaming Music’s Price

28 June 2014

From The Street:

For much of the last year, companies have been scrambling to create their own Pandora and take a piece of the growing — but poorly monetized — music streaming market. Amazon may have just stumbled upon the solution.

In a message to Amazon Prime members in mid-June, Amazon unveiled Prime Music, a collection of more than a million songs and hundreds of playlists available to Prime members through the Amazon Music app. The service is accessible through Amazon’s Kindle Fire and Fire TV products, Android and Apple iOS devices, Samsung Smart TVs and speakers and just about any Mac or PC.

. . . .

So what separates Prime Music from Pandora One or Apple’s iTunes radio and its recently purchased Beats Music? Prime customers are already paying for it, bundled with a bunch of other services including two-day shipping of Amazon marketplace products and Prime video streaming of movies and television shows.

. . . .

Apple attempted to work around them with with iTunes Radio — and its failing attempt to use streaming to sell music downloads — but it discovered the streaming audience doesn’t care about buying music. Only about 2% of iTunes Radio listeners ever hit the “buy” button to download a song.

. . . .

All of the above are just an attempt to wring money from music that consumers are loathe to pay for anymore. The number of music download purchases dropped for the first time in 2013, according to Nielsen and has just continued to plummet in the first half of 2014. Interactive streaming like that offered by Spotify and Beats Music increased volume to 34.28 billion streams in the first quarter of the year from 25.44 billion streams during the same period in 2013. With music executives putting 1,500 streams at the equivalent of a full digital album, streaming equivalent albums have increased by 10.1 million units so far this year as download sales dropped by roughly 9 million units, according to Nielsen.

. . . .

When Amazon raised the price of Prime for new members from $79 a year to $99 earlier this year, it faced the same question that’s still puzzling Pandora: Where’s the value? Amazon responded by securing proprietary streaming content for its video service and tapping into its supply of cloud-based music content to cobble together a streaming service. It may not be quite as intricate as what Pandora offers or tailor its playlists to a user’s profile as the Music Genome Project does, but it’s a streaming service that existing Prime customers get as a freebie and that new customers see as added incentive to sign on for Prime service.

Prime Music does what the Fire Phone can’t and what Apple’s iTunes infrastructure won’t: It enhances the overall value of the service. Amazon’s Fire products have had a tough time keeping pace with Apple even at lower prices, but the integration and bundling of all of Amazon’s offerings — marketplace, video, audio, e-books, etc. — under one payment and on several different devices is making a strong pitch to consumers. Amazon isn’t pleading with them to ditch Netflix, Pandora or even iTunes on-demand services, but showing them how much Prime can offer under one roof.

. . . .

Amazon, however, took the extra step of setting up an all-inclusive pricing scheme and shoving everything else into it. Instead of streaming music and bringing in zero for it while hoping consumers find it in their hearts to download the occasional album, Amazon gave itself a base membership price to work with and built up. It’s not unlike what Costco did by making membership fees the foundation of its retail model, and much of that bulk shop’s growth and ancillary offerings including tire shops, auto sales and travel services are bolstered by that base consumer investment.

Link to the rest at The Street

PG says the music business started experiencing technology disruption with the introduction of the iPod and iTunes in 2001. No two disruptions are the same, but it’s instructive to study the development of different disrupted business.

Publishing Vs. Amazon: A Play in Five Acts

27 June 2014

From Insatiable Booksluts:

Act I:

Amazon: Hey Publishing, we just invented a new thing that we think you’ll like. You know how after you make a book you have to pay a buttload of money to get it all printed and shipped and stuff? We figured out a way that you could not have to pay all that money and still sell lots of books.

Publishing: OMG NO WHAT IS THIS WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO DESTROY PUBLISHING

Customers: Hey! These ebooks are pretty cool! I can carry a bunch with me all the time and it sucks less when I have to move!

Publishing: NO THEY ARE NOT COOL, PAPER BOOKS FOREVER, WE KNOW YOU JUST WANT TO STEAL OUR CONTENT OFF OF THE INTERNETS. CAN WE TRIPLE THE DRMs PLEASE

Customers: ……

. . . .

Act III:

Amazon: Hey Publishing, since it only costs you like a fraction of a percent actually to produce ebooks vs printing books, why do they cost so much?

Publishing: SHUT UP

Apple (aside to Publishing): Hey, I know how you guys can make more money off of ebooks.

Publishing: You have our attention.

Apple and Publishing whisper quietly between themselves.

Publishing: OK SO FROM NOW ON EVERYONE HAS TO SELL AT THE PRICE WE DECIDED AND YOU ONLY MAKE 30%

Amazon: What? But . . . I mean, we’re a retailer, not a consignment shop? And your prices are higher than paperbacks–isn’t that kind of silly for a medium that costs significantly less to produce? Why not price them less so you can sell at a higher volume, since you have no limit on the units you can sell?

Publishing: NO WE ALL DECIDED ALREADY

Apple blows a raspberry at Amazon, then sells them a bunch of iPads and iPhones.

Link to the rest at Insatiable Booksluts and thanks to Nick for the tip.

Apple settles e-book antitrust case with US states, others

17 June 2014

From Reuters:

Apple Inc reached an out-of-court settlement with U.S. states and other complainants in an e-book price-fixing class action lawsuit on Monday, effectively avoiding a trial in which the iPad maker faced more than $800 million in claims.

. . . .

The U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and five publishers in April 2012, accusing them of working together illegally to increase e-book prices.

Since then, 33 states and U.S. territories have separately sued Apple on behalf of their consumers, while individual consumers in other states and territories filed a class action lawsuit.

The complainants are seeking up to $840 million in damages for e-book customers. The exact amount of damages was to be litigated at a trial scheduled for July 14.

Link to the rest at Reuters and thanks to Chris for the tip.

As Alibaba arrives, Amazon.com takes aim at Apple

14 June 2014

From USA Today:

As China’s Internet giant Alibaba enters the U.S. consumer market — encroaching squarely on Amazon.com’s primary turf — Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is getting even more aggressive than usual.

The Seattle-based company has just entered the online music market and is expected soon to unveil a mobile platform that puts Amazon services at the center of a device user’s experience.

Amazon’s strategy for its new streaming music service looks familiar to the one the company used with great impact on the markets for books, DVDs and other online media: Offer the lowest price and broadest distribution.

Yet Bezos is going a step further than he has in the past by giving music away for free.

By merely adding it on for $99-a-year Amazon Prime subscribers, Bezos is essentially delivering almost-everything-but-the-hits digital music along with the milk and eggs at their door.

In doing so, he’s sent a shot across the bow of an industry that’s already grappling with stagnant sales.

. . . .

Amazon’s arrival might be bad news for rivals investing in the streaming music market, as Apple has just done by agreeing to acquire Beats Electronics for $3 billion.

It’s also a long-term threat to Spotify and Pandora Media, which ask their subscribers to listen to ads in exchange for music.

. . . .

Pandora, Spotify and Apple — via iTunes and, in the future, via Beats – all have broader music offerings than what Amazon will offer – at least at first.

Yet Bezos is offering the Baby Boom generation most of the same classic tunes they now listen to on Internet or satellite radio.

. . . .

How much profit can Apple make on something that Bezos is giving away for free, and when most of Pandora’s 77 million users don’t pay for its streaming service?

Link to the rest at USA Today

Price-Fixing Lawsuit Filed by Retailers Given Green Light by Judge Cote

10 June 2014

From The Digital Reader:

Judge Denise Cote breathed life into another antitrust lawsuit against Apple and five publishers today.

Dnaml was the first of several retailers to file a lawsuit against Apple and the 5 publishers, and it will also be the first to go to trial. In a 22-page ruling, Judge Cote ruled that the Australian ebook company had met the minimum requirements to have its day in court.

The case, which passed under everyone’s radar when it was filed in September 2013, argues that Dnaml was financially harmed “directly and as a proximate result” of the price-fixing collusion by Apple and the five publishers (Macmillan, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin).

Much of the Dnaml complaint directly cites and quotes the 2012 lawsuit filed by the DOJ and state’s attorneys general, and it asks for “all fair and equitable damages” as well as attorney fees.

. . . .

Judge Cote has scheduled a pretrial conference for 25 July, and she also included two other retailers who have filed similar lawsuits. BooksonBoard and Diesel eBooks, two US ebook retailers, each filed a lawsuit in early 2014 making many of the same allegations as Dnaml.

. . . .

“It is more than plausible that a discount retailer was harmed by a conspiracy to remove retailers’ ability to discount e-books,” the judge wrote in her order, adding that the retailers were “indisputably competitors in a market in which trade was restrained.”

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

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