Yearly Archives: 2016

In 2017, publishing really needs a blockbuster

30 December 2016

From The Los Angeles Times:

This year, publishing needs a hit.

Not that 2016 was bad; it was fine. Books sales basically held steady — down a little here, up some there — for the most recent period for which we have numbers, from January to July. Although the Assn. of American Publishers wants to crow about the fact that books for children and teens were up quite a bit, overall, trade books sales were down 0.4% in 2016 from the same period in 2015.

Which isn’t terrible. But it isn’t good, or at least, not good enough.

What publishing needs is one book, one big book, that comes out of nowhere and takes America by storm. You know what I mean: You hear people talking about it in line at the grocery store. Your grandmother asks if you’ve read it and the same day your college roommate does. It’s the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once.

. . . .

In 2015, that book was “The Girl on the Train.” In 2012, it was “Gone Girl.” Before that came “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” (2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively).

Girls, girls, girls!

. . . .

The piling on once a book gets mega-successful may be dismaying from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective it makes sense: The big hits are impossible to predict.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times

The Biggest Literary Stories of the Year

30 December 2016

From Literary Hub:

5. Poetry is Relevant, Again

By now, it is both common knowledge and a no-longer funny joke that 2016 was an exceptionally bad year. To cope with its continued indignities, its cruelty, people turned to poetry. After the election, saw its biggest surge of shares in four years, with “Still I Rise,” “Let America Be America Again,” and “September 1, 1939” remaining the most popular poems on the site. As the editor of Poetry Magazine Don Share explained, “When people are under pressure of any kind, they turn to poetry. That’s why poetry is with us at the most important occasions in our lives: weddings, funerals, anniversaries. When Kobe Bryant retired, the first thing he seems to have done was write a poem.”

. . . .

3. The Boy Who Lived . . . Forever

J.K. Rowling, as it turns out, is not done with Harry Potter. Between the Cursed Child play and the Fantastic Beasts series (which, even the actors were shocked to learn would continue for another five movies), it seems that there is much left to milk out of the franchise—at least two bestselling scripts, to start.

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

Amazon Is Considering Drone-Friendly Floating Warehouses

30 December 2016

From Fortune:

Amazon might soon take flight in more ways than one.

The e-commerce giant has been awarded a patent that describes a logistics technology it calls “airborne fulfillment center (AFC).” The AFC is essentially in airship that’s capable of flying at altitudes of 45,000 feet or more that would house items the company sells through its online marketplace. In the patent, Amazon describes a method by which drones would fly into the warehouse, pick up the items they need to deliver, and then deliver those items to the customer’s home.

. . . .

Currently, Amazon’s drone-delivery process requires the company to erect a warehouse to serve a particular area. Inside that warehouse is a selection of lightweight products the company sells through its e-marketplace. Once a customer places an order, those items are packaged in a box the drone can carry. The drone is then outfitted with the package and delivers it to a customer’s home within 30 minutes.

The potential pitfall with drones, however, is that they can only travel so far, so Amazon would technically need to erect a large number of warehouses around the world just to accommodate customers in disparate areas.

But rather than look to the ground for fulfillment centers, Amazon is apparently looking to the sky. Like their grounded alternatives, the AFCs would be home to an inventory of items Amazon sells through its online marketplace, according to the patent. New items would be added to the AFC with help from a logistics shuttle that would carry products to and from the device. When an order is placed, a drone would be outfitted with the desired products and descend from the airship. It would then deliver the items to the customer.

. . . .

“The use of an AFC and shuttles also provides another benefit in that the AFC can remain airborne for extended periods of time,” the company wrote in its patent description. “In addition, because the AFC is airborne, it is not limited to a fixed location like a traditional ground based materials handling facility. In contrast, it can navigate to different areas depending on a variety of factors, such as weather, expected demand, and/or actual demand.”

Link to the rest at Fortune and thanks to Rob and others for the tip.

Amazon announces Digital Day 24-hour sales event for digital content only

29 December 2016
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From Ars Technica:

The action starts Friday, December 30 at midnight.

. . . .

The holiday shopping season may be officially over, but Amazon created another way for people to spend money before 2017 begins. The online retailer announced Digital Day, a 24-hour sales event on its website where you can save on all kinds of digital downloads including video games, movies, music, and comics. The event starts at 12am PST on Friday, December 30.

According to Amazon’s Digital Day promotional page, savings will be as big as 80 percent off “hundreds” of video game titles, 75 percent off digital comics, and more. While details on specific deals have not yet been released, there are images of video game and movie titles including FIFA 17, Destiny, and The Lego Movie, as well as other items like Marvel comics and H&R Block tax software under an “Upcoming Deals” header. Those savings will go live when the event starts, and Amazon may structure Digital Day like Prime Day, which occurred in July, where different deals go live on at various times of the day.

Amazon is pushing Digital Day as a way to stock up on digital content for all your devices, including your smartphone, tablet, Kindle e-reader, and the like.

Link to the rest at Ars Technica

If a man insisted always on being serious

29 December 2016

If a man insisted always on being serious, and never allowed himself a bit of fun and relaxation, he would go mad or become unstable without knowing it.


Amazon, the Monopolist?

29 December 2016

From Pacific Standard:

In the summer of 2014, a very loud dispute emerged between Amazon, the ubiquitous online retailer, and Hachette, the publisher of books by such well-known authors as Malcolm Gladwell and Paul Ryan.

The exact details of the feud were never publicly revealed, but reports say it centered on e-book pricing. At the same time the blow-up was taking place, Amazon engaged in a variety of negotiating tactics meant to disadvantage the publishing house: eliminating next-day or two-day shipping for Hachette (Hachette books took two to five weeks to ship), declining to make Hachette books available for pre-order, and allegedly fiddling with its algorithm to make it difficult for customers to find Hachette books on an Amazon search.

Hachette’s writers were outraged. One group of authors announced plans to request an inquiry by the Department of Justice into Amazon’s business practices. Others publicly lamented Amazon’s behavior.

. . . .

Two years later, the company’s growing clout and its swelling ambition continues to provoke anxiety. In the run-up to the 2016 election, antitrust policy, particularly with respect to big tech companies, emerged as an interesting new battleground in the progressive political movement. In a now-infamous speech on antitrust policy, Elizabeth Warren focused specific attention on Amazon, saying the company “uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers.”

. . . .

Amazon’s increasing market power is tough to deny.

According to a new report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a non-profit research shop that advocates for sustainable community development, Amazon will capture 46 percent of online retail sales in 2016, up from just 22 percent in 2011. The company’s market capitalization surpassed Walmart’sfor the first time in 2015 (Walmart’s revenues are still much higher than Amazon’s).

. . . .

“Today, half of all U.S. households are subscribed to the membership program Amazon Prime, half of all online shopping searches start directly on Amazon, and Amazon captures nearly one in every two dollars that Americans spend online,” ILSR researchers Olivia LaVecchia and Stacy Mitchell write. “Amazon sells more books, toys, and by next year, apparel and consumer electronics than any retailer online or off, and is investing heavily in its grocery business.”

. . . .

While few would disagree that Amazon’s ascendance has been bad for its competitors, it’s less clear whether the company is harming consumers. After all, it delivers excellent consumer service and has millions of satisfied customers. In fact, Amazon mostly uses its market power to demand lower prices for consumers, the opposite behavior of what one would expect from a traditional monopolist.

Still, its dominance concerns progressives.

Link to the rest at Pacific Standard and thanks to John for the tip.

PG checked on the author of the cited Amazon study, the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. It appears that major ILSR-supported initiatives include recycling, community gardens and opposition to Walmart. They are not in favor of global warming. Opposition to Amazon appears to be a recent addition to their catalog of activities.

PG didn’t see any indication that this small organization had any expertise regarding antitrust laws. He was unable to locate a list of donors.

As PG was reading the OP, a thought entered his mind.

Suppose Jeff Bezos wakes up one morning and says, “You know, those Hachette authors were right. Amazon really is a terrible company. Think of all the local bookstores Amazon has destroyed and all the worry we have caused for New York publishers.

“I need to feel good when I go to work. From this day forward, Amazon is out of the book business. Not another book leaves our warehouses. We’ll return our entire inventory to publishers so there won’t be any shortage of supply for real bookstores. Ebooks are not real books and everybody really wants printed books instead, so we’ll immediately erase all ebook files from our servers.

“When somebody searches for a book on Amazon, we’ll show them a screen that says, ‘Jeff wants a clear conscience. Go to your local bookstore to buy this book. We’re not going to put any more Moms and Pops out of business.'”


Watership Down author Richard Adams dies aged 96

29 December 2016

From BBC News:

The author of Watership Down, Richard Adams, has died aged 96, his daughter has said.

Juliet Johnson said her father had been “ailing for some time” but “died peacefully” on Christmas Eve.

Watership Down, a children’s classic about a group of rabbits in search of a new home after their warren was destroyed, was first published in 1972.

Adams was 52 when he wrote it, after first telling the story to his two daughters on a long car journey.

It went on to become a best-seller, with tens of millions of copies bought around the world.

. . . .

Mrs Johnson told BBC Radio 4 she had a “long talk” with her father on the night before he died.

“I assured him that he was much loved, that he had done great work, that many people loved his books,” she said.

She said an upcoming adaptation, which is due to air on the BBC next year, gave Adams “great composure and comfort”.

Describing Christmas Eve a “rather a magical night”, she said: “It’s the night that traditionally the animals and birds can talk.

“It was absolutely typical of Dad that he would choose such a night on which to leave this world.”

Link to the rest at BBC News and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Washington Post To Add 60 Newsroom Jobs

29 December 2016
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From National Public Radio:

The Washington Post expects to hire more than 60 journalists in the coming months — a sign of remarkable growth for a newspaper in the digital age.

After a year of record traffic and digital advertising revenue, the Post newsroom will grow by more than 8 percent, to more than 750 people. The extent of the newsroom expansion was first reported by Politico. The Post will add a “rapid-response” investigative team, expand its video journalism and breaking news staff, and make additional investments in podcasts and photography.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Post in October 2013 and reportedly invested $50 million in the company last year. That investment is paying off, according to a memo from publisher Fred Ryan that said the Post is now “a profitable and growing company.” Ryan said the Post‘s online traffic had increased by nearly 50 percent in the past year, and new subscriptions have grown by 75 percent, more than doubling digital subscription revenue.

Link to the rest at NPR

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