Amazon

AAP Objects to Trump’s China Shift: Only Children’s Book Tariffs Delayed

14 August 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

In her statement issued today (August 13), the Association of American Publishers‘ president and CEO Maria A. Pallante has pointed out that the book publishing industry is in no way out of the woods, as Donald Trump’s administration continues its lurching sequence of threats and feints on a proposed US$300 billion in new tariffs on goods imported from China.

“We remain deeply concerned,” Pallante says in her statement, “that a wide range of other books remain on the list, including American fiction and nonfiction books; art books; textbooks; dictionaries and encyclopedias; and technical, scientific and professional books.”

Moving to delay the levy of tariffs on certain classifications of goods until December 15—ostensibly to avoid damaging the American holiday season revenue for many industries—the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) offices in Washington have included (as described on the agency’s listings):

  • 4903.00.40 Children’s picture, drawing, or coloring books
  • 4910.00.20  Calendars printed on paper or paperboard in whole or in part by a lithographic process, not over 0.51 mm in thickness

And Bibles—which perhaps with some irony are said to be printable almost exclusively by Chinese presses—are off the tariff lists.

But, as Jim Milliot at Publishers Weekly sums up the remainder, about which Pallante is expressing the association’s concern, “All other [than children’s] books printed in China, including trade, education, and professional titles, are still subject to 10-percent tariffs beginning September 1.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG did a quick and dirty online search to see if he could find the locations of Amazon’s print on demand presses. He found an item that said European POD Amazon books were printed in Europe, but found nothing about KDP hardcopy printing locations elsewhere.

Indiebound Needs a Makeover if It’s Going to Fight Amazon

10 August 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

As independent booksellers, it’s easy to get riled up about Amazon. It’s certainly disheartening to know that amid its web services, video streaming, and grocery offerings—to name just three of its major business areas—books aren’t even close to Amazon’s sole priority. So when we see authors—in many cases authors we respect or admire—linking to Amazon on social media or their websites, it’s not uncommon for independent booksellers to boil over. I know I have. But I ask: what choice are we giving them?

Yes, we have IndieBound, and I pepper authors with their IndieBound links on Twitter. But authors want to have a place where they can see what people think of their books. A select few authors are able to see what people think when their books land on a bestseller list, literary award long- or shortlist, or best-of list. But the overwhelming majority of authors only have two ways to find out what people think: Amazon and Goodreads, which has been owned by Amazon since 2013.

On Amazon and Goodreads, users can leave ratings and written reviews. Some of these end up as comedic fodder, but most are helpful to authors who want feedback, if only in the aggregate. Many authors encourage this behavior, believing that when users leave reviews and ratings, it helps their sales (and it probably does). Independent booksellers don’t have an independent platform that authors can encourage their readers to use to provide feedback.

Amazon goes one step further on its site with its bestseller rankings.

. . . .

Authors can be forgiven if they take screenshots of those [Amazon sales] rankings or badges and splash them on their social media. After all, everyone wants to be successful. As independent booksellers, we don’t have an independent platform that provides authors with this kind of public sales data.

We could, though. Our sales reports fuel the Indie Bestseller List. This data is waiting to be segmented, chopped up, and dropped onto IndieBound for all to see. Adding a section for ratings and reviews would make IndieBound more competitive with Amazon and Goodreads.

I have brought this up to the American Booksellers Association on two occasions. To date, it has not taken action on the idea—which, honestly, is understandable. Like most of us, the ABA is overwhelmed. In addition to its normal heavy workload, it’s trying to push ambitious projects—such as a health insurance plan for booksellers and a centralized billing system for all publishers, among other initiatives—across the finish line. This year is particularly challenging for the ABA: it’s simultaneously managing all of this work and navigating a leadership change, as the organization’s CEO and CFO get set to retire. But at some point, this will need to become a priority.

. . . .

The authors whose books populate our bookstores who actually love Amazon are few and far between; I certainly haven’t met any.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

PG doesn’t know the author of the OP, but believes he’s likely a nice guy.

However.

PG tried to count how many ways the OP was delusional/parochial/pathetic/wishful, etc., but didn’t have enough time.

PG did, however, wonder if any bookstore has promoted itself as “The place to find authors who don’t like Amazon.”

Presumably, this message might attract readers who don’t like Amazon.

Who knows? Perhaps it’s a niche market that everyone else has overlooked.

The Amazon Publishing Juggernaut

8 August 2019

From The Atlantic:

Have you read Victoria Helen Stone’s False Step? No? Surprising, given that it’s a best seller, and that you clicked on an article about books and publishing—I thought you were more widely read. Surely you’ve at least gotten through Loreth Anne White’s The Dark Bones? Julianne MacLean’s A Fire Sparkling? Claire McGowan’s What You Did?

No? Each of these books beat out Where the Crawdads Sing, then the No. 1 New York Times best-selling novel, on the Kindle Store best-seller chart in recent months. Each one is a bright star in the self-contained, lucrative universe of ebooks. And each one was published by Amazon Publishing, a subsidiary of the store we already buy everything else from.

Founded in 2009, Amazon Publishing is far from the tech giant’s best-known enterprise, but it is a quietly consequential piece of the company’s larger strategy to become a one-stop shop for all your consumer decisions. As Amazon Studios does with movies, Amazon Publishing feeds the content pipelines created by the tech giant’s online storefront and Amazon Prime membership program. At its most extreme, Amazon Publishing is a triumph of vertical engineering: If a reader buys one of its titles on a Kindle, Amazon receives a cut both as publisher and as bookseller—not to mention whatever markup it made on the device in the first place, as well as the amortized value of having created more content to draw people into its various book-subscription offerings. (One literary agent summed it up succinctly to The Wall Street Journal in January: “They aren’t gaming the system. They own the system.”)

. . . .

And Amazon Publishing is a culture-making juggernaut, even if the literati don’t much think about it. According to Peter Hildick-Smith, the CEO of the book-industry analysis firm the Codex Group, roughly 25.5 million U.S. households bought books in the past month, and fully a quarter of those households use Prime Reading, a feature of Amazon Prime that allows subscribers to borrow 10 items at a time from a catalog of 1,000 ebooks, magazines, and other media, including the tech giant’s originals.

Prime Reading is far from Amazon’s only reading subscription service. Kindle Unlimited, a similar program, costs an extra $9.99 and offers a wider selection of 1 million titles. The Prime Book Box for children includes a selection of age-appropriate books delivered regularly for $19.99. Amazon First Reads allows members to download a book a month earlier than the unsubscribed public for no extra cost. Often, First Reads are—you guessed it—Amazon Publishing titles, and they rocket up the Kindle best-seller charts as soon as they’re made available; A Fire Sparkling and What You Did both topped the charts in early July despite being due out August 1.

. . . .

Amazon Publishing is still a relatively small fry: According to Hildick-Smith, it puts out 1,100 titles a year, compared with the 1,500 to 2,000 a large publishing house such as Simon & Schuster might publish. Estimating sales for those 1,100 titles is difficult, according to experts, because the tech giant doesn’t disclose ebook sales numbers for its original books, and its proprietary methods of distribution obscure those figures from the third-party researchers who determine best-seller lists.Grace Doyle, the editor who oversees the Amazon Publishing mystery/thriller imprint, Thomas & Mercer, and the science fiction/fantasy label, 47North, says the subsidiary looks at three things when measuring the success of a title: the book’s sales, the number of people who actually read it (Amazon maintains a “most read” chart, measured by ebook pages turned), and whether the company can expect more books to come from its relationship with the author. She said again and again in our interview that her goal was to maintain partnerships with authors for as long as possible, which often results in publishing series, especially for the thrillers and mysteries that do so well with ebook readers.
Indeed, Amazon Publishing knows its readers and has pursued their appetites since its inception. Jeff Belle, the vice president of Amazon Publishing, acknowledged their tastes in a 2011 interview: “Our customers are voracious readers of genre fiction.”. . . .Many authors seem to love Amazon Publishing. Robert Dugoni, who has written 10 mystery and thriller novels for Amazon, inked a deal with the company in 2013, after becoming dissatisfied with the amount of advertising his previous publisher, Simon & Schuster, put behind his books. Amazon Publishing, he says, still promotes the opener of his ongoing mystery/thriller series, My Sister’s Grave, a six-year-old book, in Kindle Store promotions; Dugoni says he’s sold 1.5 million copies of that title and 5 million copies of all his books with Amazon Publishing since 2013. The “hunger” of Amazon Publishing’s employees, along with its reams of customer data and speedy editing process, impressed him, he says, to the point that he recently appeared in one of its marketing videos.

“They’re constantly reinventing marketing and promotion to keep my name and my books in front of readers,” Dugoni told me. “From an author’s perspective, that’s all I ever wanted: people to read my books.” Doyle called Amazon’s success with Dugoni—a reinvigoration of an established author who wasn’t selling well elsewhere—“emblematic of our goals.” In January, Mark Sullivan, an author who writes historical fiction and mysteries, relayed a similar story of a career revived by Amazon Publishing.

. . . .

Prime subscribers are so valuable to Amazon because they spend more in the long run: Jeff Bezos has said that people who stream videos on Amazon convert from free trials and renew their Prime subscriptions at higher rates than those who don’t. He put it bluntly in 2016: “When we win a Golden Globe, it helps us sell more shoes.”

Book readers are the same. Content is the hook; commerce is the goal. If users join Prime for early access to a new title by their favorite author, rather than buying a one-off copy of the book, they become much more likely to purchase other things on Amazon—couches, clothes, cutlery, etc.—to take advantage of the membership. Bezos said in 2015, “It’s how our whole model works. When someone joins Prime, the more they buy of everything we sell.” That is to say, when the Amazon Publishing original You Are (Not) Small won the 2015 Theodor Seuss Geisel Award, one of the most prestigious for children’s books, diaper sales presumably skyrocketed. (Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on sales spikes correlated with awards.)

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to DM for the tip.

Although to the best of PG’s knowledge, Amazon hasn’t released any sort of detailed demographic data about its Prime members, PG would bet most members of this group comprise the principal target market for a large number of retailers.

Money to spend, convenience-oriented, well-educated, big digital fans are likely among the principal descriptors of Amazon Prime subscribers. A great many retailers, service providers and others would love, love, love to reach this demographic efficiently.

Again, PG is not aware of any publicly-available customer satisfaction data for Prime members, but he would also bet that it’s sky-high. This group likes to buy a lot of different things from Amazon because Amazon makes it easy for them to discover, select and receive the goods (and, increasingly, he predicts, more of the services) these customers want.

Obviously, PG would love to see a lot of proprietary information Amazon has, but one of the items he most covets is what a typical Prime member and a typical non-Prime Amazon shopper spend on Amazon in the 3-5 years after their first Amazon purchase.

See Amazon Prime: 20 benefits every member gets and 31 Best Amazon Prime Benefits to Use in 2019 for more of the reasons why a lot of people love Amazon Prime.

Amazon Takes Aim at Patent Infringement in Its Marketplace

6 August 2019

From The National Law Review:

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos recently disclosed that gross merchandise sales in the Amazon Marketplace by independent third party sellers (as opposed to sales made directly by Amazon itself) had grown to 58% of total sales. According to data company Statista, 73% of those sellers were small businesses with between 1-5 employees. For many of them, sales on Amazon comprise their entire revenue.

Discussion of the opportunity Amazon Marketplace represents for small business, however, is joined by the voices of many retailers complaining about sales of counterfeit and stolen goods. To better police its online sales, Amazon has launched initiatives such as Project Zero which allows owners of brands to delete counterfeit products.

The online retail giant’s latest enforcement effort—designed to combat patent infringement—has been dubbed the Utility Patent Neutral Evaluation Procedure (UPNEP). Under this new trial program, a company that believes certain products for sale on the Amazon Marketplace infringe its patents can request an evaluation by depositing $4,000. If the seller does not dispute the accusation, Amazon removes the infringing products from the marketplace, and refunds the deposit to the patent owner. If the seller decides to fight the claim, it also deposits $4,000. Amazon then assigns a lawyer with patent expertise to resolve the dispute. The patent owner submits an opening brief, the merchant files a response, and then the patent owner may submit a reply. The lawyer reviews the submissions, and decides whether the listing should be removed or maintained. The winner gets its money back, and the loser’s $4,000 gets paid to the lawyer. There is no discovery, and no appeal or request for reconsideration. The whole process takes just a few months from start to finish.

Many stakeholders in the Amazon ecosystem have applauded the UPNEP as providing both patent owners and Amazon merchants with a quick and cost-effective mechanism for resolving infringement disputes arising from third-party listings. While participation in the program does not prevent a patent owner from commencing a lawsuit, many sellers do not reside in the United States, and thus may not be subject to service of process in a U.S. federal court. Without UPNEP, patent owners would have little to no recourse in such cases.

. . . .

Expert Peter Kent, who has served as an expert in several Amazon-related cases, is monitoring developments closely. “A critical question in my mind about the UPNEP program,” explains Kent, “is whether it will be exploited by larger companies trying to knock out competitors using spurious patent claims. For instance, if a small merchant who can’t afford the $4,000 doesn’t respond, their product listings are automatically removed, regardless of the merits of the petitioning company’s patent claims.”

Link to the rest at The National Law Review

Citing Embargo, Libraries Plan Boycott of Blackstone Digital Audio

31 July 2019

From Publishers Weekly:

The Washington Digital Library Consortium (WDLC), a statewide coalition of some 44 public libraries across Washington state, is organizing a potential six-month boycott of Blackstone Publishing’s digital audiobooks. The move follows Blackstone’s decision, announced last month, that as of July 1 it would embargo selected new release audiobook titles in libraries for 90 days. The WDLC is urging libraries across the nation to join them in their protest, which is set to begin on August 1.

“As advocates for equitable access for our residents, we protest your decision and, as a result, will boycott Blackstone’s e-audiobooks for six months (August 1, 2019, to January 31, 2020). We ask you to reverse the embargo and to refrain from creating future barriers for libraries,” reads a draft letter making the rounds in the library community. “We take these steps because we truly believe that services without special barriers to libraries are best for both for our patrons and your business.”

In urging other library systems to join the boycott, the WDLC offers a range of resources, including an FAQ for patrons, talking points for stakeholders, and even sample press releases. “We will communicate this boycott,” the letter reads, “and the reasons behind it, to library patrons and community stakeholders through press releases, reports via social media and other digital platforms, and in one-on-one conversations with patrons, community leaders, and elected officials.”

. . . .

Blackstone quietly announced its 90-day window on new audiobook releases last month in a message to library customers delivered through its vendors. But that message did not mention that the 90-day window appears to be tied to an exclusive deal with Amazon’s Audible subscription service. In a subsequent message explaining the change to librarians (seen by PW), a rep for Blackstone explained that the publisher “was recently given the opportunity to enter into an exclusive deal” with an unnamed “important strategic partner,” and that under terms of the deal, “audio editions of selected Blackstone Publishing titles will be available exclusively in digital format on our strategic partner’s platform for 90 days upon initial release.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

A Measure of Progress

28 July 2019

From The Bookseller:

Will we see this week as the moment when everything changed, a peek through the looking glass into a new era? I speak not of the sometime author and Conservative MP Boris Johnson becoming the UK’s Prime Minister, but the release of Amazon’s new weekly charts showing, for the first time, the impact of the huge but opaque digital sector on book sales.

There are plenty of known knowns from the first week’s release. Rachel Abbott, the author behind the biggest-selling fiction title of the week, And So it Begins, has long been a digital hit-maker. Her début thriller, Only the Innocent, was self-published in 2011, with Amazon revealing in 2015 that she was its bestselling “indie” author in the five years since Kindle launched. Like many of these authors, however, she has been largely absent from Nielsen BookScan’s bestseller universe, her top-seller having shifted just 6,955 copies in print. The chart also highlights the success of new digitally-led publishers such as Joffe Books and the more familiar Bookouture, which feature along with Amazon imprints Lake Union Publishing and Thomas & Mercer.

There is also the impact of audio, particularly in the most read/listens chart, where Audible’s release of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection, read by Stephen Fry, sits in 10th, below the seven Harry Potter titles, their popularity also augmented by the Fry-narrated audio editions. That so many readers are listening to backlist audio shows the potential of the market, but also that it may need a different approach.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Amazon UK book charts top 10 most read non-fiction books this week (across digital, audio and subscription service books)

1. Becoming – by Michelle Obama

2. This is Going to Hurt – by Adam Kay

3. Sapiens – by Yuval Noah Harari

4. 12 Rules for Life – by Jordan B. Peterson

5. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*** – by Mark Manson

6. Can’t Hurt Me – David Goggins

7. The Secret Barrister – by the Secret Barrister

8. The Chimp Paradox – by Professor Steven Peters

9. The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read – by Philippa Perry

10. Educated – by Tara Westover

Amazon UK book charts most sold fiction books this week (across physical, digital, audio and subscription service books)

1. And So It Begins – by Rachel Abbott

2. Darkness on the Fens – by Joy Ellis

3. The Winner – by David Badalcci

4. The World’s Worst Teachers – David Walliams

5. The Things I know – Amanda Drowse

6. The Lemon Tree Hotel – Rosanna Ley

7. I Looked Away – Jane Corey

8. Child’s Play – Angela Marsons

9. What You Did – Claire McGowan

10. The Perfect Child – Lucinda Berry

Animated Ebook Cover

27 July 2019

Amazon Publishing has created an animated cover for its listing of Patricia Cornwell’s Quantum.

The book description includes the following:

Kindle in Motion

This book can be read on any device, including Kindle E-readers. It may include art, animation, or video features that can be viewed on certain Fire tablets and the free Kindle app for iOS and Android. You can switch features on or off at any time.

Here’s a link to the book page for Quantum and here’s a link to other examples of Kindle in Motion.

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Amazon Publishing on Wooing Dean Koontz

27 July 2019

From Publishing Perspectives:

Keen observers of the trade publishing scene this week may have noticed in the news Publishing Perspectivesreported on Monday about longtime bestseller Dean Koontz taking a new five-book series and short story collection to Amazon Publishing.

For decades, the prolific Koontz made his publishing home primarily at Penguin Random House’s Bantam, racking up more than 45 titles with the Big Five imprint, only to be discovered now talking of being “creatively rejuvenated” to have found a publisher “where change is understood and embraced” and “a marketing and publicity plan smarter and more ambitious than anything I’d ever seen before.”

And yet, years ago, many in publishing, including veteran observer Mike Shatzkin, were watching for “defections” from major houses—not to Amazon Publishing but to the self-publishing platform Kindle Direct Publishing. The idea was that an established and well-heeled author could easily hire the “author services,” as they’re called, to do the grunt work of preparing a manuscript for self-publishing and managing its life in the online sales maelstrom, while using print-on-demand to produce brick-and-mortar store copies for physical book fans.

Instead, Koontz may be the canary in the trade industry mines who hops off that darkening perch and buzzes out into the sunlight of Internet sales leadership—where the Association of American Publishers’ annual StatShot tells us, more book sales now are happening than on physical retail channels.

On Tuesday, Shatzkin wrote in a well-timed addendum to a column on publishing’s past decade, “If this is a sign of things to come, and it is hard to see why it wouldn’t be, some profound changes might be just around the corner.”

As Shatzkin tells it, “Between the time this post was started and when it was finished and published, another sign of disruption took place. Amazon Publishing signed the bestselling author Dean Koontz to a multi-book contract. At the beginning of this decade, Amazon Publishing had ideas about signing up big authors. But they were stymied then by the pretty stubborn refusal of the rest of the supply chain to stock books published by their biggest retail competitor.”

. . . .

“Whether they will successfully sell Koontz … remains to be seen,” Shatzkin writes. “But,” he goes on—italics ours—”their no-middle-person structure enables them to pay far more of each retail dollar in royalties.

“Half the sales or more can generate more income to the author than a publisher without its own retailing capability can deliver selling a larger number of units.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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