Upcoming Event: Z: The Beginning of Everything

Amazon Studios has invited members of WNBA-NYC to the premiere of Z: The Beginning of Everything on Wednesday, January 25th at 7:30 pm at the SVA Theatre in New York.

Christina Ricci stars as Zelda Sayre Fitzgerald in this period drama series for Amazon, and depicts Zelda’s ascent from southern belle to her status as an icon of the 1920s and wife of famed author, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Take a look at the trailer for the series.

The pilot for the series is available to view for Amazon Prime subscribers.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to: ZRSVP@swisherproductions.com. Please note space is limited, and your RSVP must be confirmed for a seat.

Join the Women’s National Book Association-NYC for a $20 annual fee for students; $50 for regular membership.

Link of the Week: Amazon Rapids


Amazon has officially launched Rapids, a new app that combines children’s books with the format of texting.

In an effort to get children more in interested in reading and parents less upset over the amount of time kids spend on phones and tablets, Amazon’s Rapids will provide elementary-level stories, for kids ages 7-12, in the form of instant messaging. The pace of the ‘conversation’ is controlled by the reader, and kids can click any word and get a definition and pronunciation from the app, as well as a glossary of words to reference later. The app also has audiobook features to ‘read along’ with children.

This isn’t the first time that reading content has been portrayed through text conversations, but it is the first time it’s been done in such an immediate, engaging way with aim at such a young target audience. Playing with the mediums in such a way may offer more room for growth in the future of digital publishing.

Paul Krugman Weighs in on Amazon-Hachette Feud

The feud between online retail giant Amazon and the Hachette Book Group does not seem to be making its way towards a resolution any time soon.  New York Times columnist and Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman recently weighed in with his opinion.  The following article in Publishers Weekly gives a brief overview of the situation:

publishers-weekly“Amazon’s ongoing dispute with the Hachette Book group over e-book sales terms seems to have turned into a litmus test on publishing in the digital era. It has also shone a brighter-than-usual light on Amazon itself, prompting a number of stories questioning the company’s size, and approach to doing business. Now New York Times columnist and Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has waded into the battle, declaring without reservation that Amazon ‘has too much power’ and that the company ‘uses that power in ways that hurt America.’

amazon“While Krurgman acknowledges that Amazon is not a monopoly, ‘a dominant seller with the power to raise prices,’ he says that it is actually a ‘monopsony,’ or a dominant buyer in a marketplace with enough power to push prices downward. Krugman dismisses Amazon supporters who contend that the e-tailer is just doing the business of capitalism and giving consumers what they want. To Krugman the issue revolves around the question of marketplace power and how that power is wielded.

HACHETTE“Krugman is more concerned with the market share and economic power Amazon has accumulated, even if it did so by being smarter than its competitors. He compares Amazon to a textbook example of the monopolistic abuse of power, J.D Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, noting Amazon has ‘immense’ market power, even beyond its market share, and says that, like Standard Oil, some of Amazon’s business practices are out of line.

“He declares, ‘So can we trust Amazon not to abuse that power? The Hachette dispute has settled that question: no, we can’t.'”

To read Paul Krugman’s original post in the Opinion Pages for The New York Times, click here.

To read our previous blog posts chronicling this dispute, click here and click here.

Link of the Week: Crowdsourced Publishing

lownerdfighterOriginally reported in The Digital Reader (TDR), Amazon has begun a new publishing program that “is so new that it doesn’t yet have a launch day, URL, or even a name” (TDR).

Crowdsourcing isn’t a new idea. According to Daily Crowdsource, “The principle of crowdsourcing is that more heads are better than one. By canvassing a large crowd of people for ideas, skills, or participation, the quality of content and idea generation will be superior.” In theory, Amazon’s new venture would engage readers and reviewers to make the decision on what would be published from a pool of submissions.

27385-v1-197x.PNGDifferent from Kindle Direct and Amazon Publishing, this program is tapping into something altogether new. Do you think this program will be successful? By drawing readers into the decision of publishing, will Amazon bring itself more support? Is there enough reader interest to fuel this venture? Let us know what you think in the comments!

You can sign up to receive updates and launch announcements for this new program.

Over 900 Authors Unite Against Amazon with Open Letter

The dispute between Hachette and Amazon is nothing new. The fact that it continues today is not surprising either. However, as of late, Amazon has directly targeted Hachette’s authors with the hope that Hachette will agree to its terms. Authors have not sat idly and let this dispute quietly slip by. Authors United, a group of over 900 authors who have come together to formally ask Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette, have signed an open letter, requesting that Amazon does just that. Douglas Preston, bestselling author, and also published by Hachette, is the founder of Authors United.

The full text of the letter is below. The entire letter and the signatures are available to read on the Authors United website.

“Authors United
P.O. Box 4790
Santa Fe, NM 87502
For information, email Douglas Preston
at doug@authorsunited.net

A Letter to Our Readers:

Amazon is involved in a commercial dispute with the book publisher Hachette , which owns Little, Brown, Grand Central Publishing, and other familiar imprints. These sorts of disputes happen all the time between companies and they are usually resolved in a corporate back room.

But in this case, Amazon has done something unusual. It has directly targeted Hachette’s authors in an effort to force their publisher to agree to its terms.

For the past several months, Amazon has been:

— Boycotting Hachette authors, by refusing to accept pre-orders on Hachette authors’ books and eBooks, claiming they are “unavailable.”

— Refusing to discount the prices of many of Hachette authors’ books.

— Slowing the delivery of thousands of Hachette authors’ books to Amazon customers, indicating that delivery will take as long as several weeks on most titles.

— Suggesting on some Hachette authors’ pages that readers might prefer a book from a non-Hachette author instead.

As writers-most of us not published by Hachette-we feel strongly that no bookseller should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation. Moreover, by inconveniencing and misleading its own customers with unfair pricing and delayed delivery, Amazon is contradicting its own written promise to be “Earth’s most customer-centric company.

Many of us have supported Amazon since it was a struggling start-up. Our books launched Amazon on the road to selling everything and becoming one of the world’s largest corporations. We have made Amazon many millions of dollars and over the years have contributed so much, free of charge, to the company by way of cooperation, joint promotions, reviews and blogs. This is no way to treat a business partner. Nor is it the right way to treat your friends. Without taking sides on the contractual dispute between Hachette and Amazon, we encourage Amazon in the strongest possible terms to stop harming the livelihood of the authors on whom it has built its business. None of us, neither readers nor authors, benefit when books are taken hostage. (We’re not alone in our plea: the opinion pages of both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, which rarely agree on anything, have roundly condemned Amazon’s corporate behavior.)

We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.

We respectfully ask you, our loyal readers, to email Jeff Bezos, CEO and founder of Amazon, at jeff@amazon.com, and tell him what you think. He says he genuinely welcomes hearing from his customers and claims to read all emails at that account. We hope that, writers and readers together, we will be able to change his mind.”

News Roundup: Obama at Amazon

The publishing world is abuzz with news and opinions on President Obama’s trip to Amazon’s facilities in Tennessee last week. The President spoke on economic recovery, highlighting Amazon as a shining example of progress. He presented a new governmental plan that would lower taxes for large corporations like Amazon, which he thinks would spur job growth and result in the generation of more tax revenue. Read more about the particulars of the economics involved at the New York Times.

This speech comes at a particularly interesting time for Amazon. Recently, they have cut prices drastically on hardcover books, as low as $11.65 for best-selling author Dan Brown. His hardcover books could command a price three times that sum just a few years ago. Publishers believe this price cutting devalues their products, and fixes the market unfairly against independent sellers. Salon.com quotes Strand Bookstore employee Carson Moss as saying: “Our discount cannot compare to what Amazon was setting their prices at, even before they started selling their books at 60 percent off… There’s frustration that a company that hasn’t turned a profit continues to be rewarded with higher stock prices and they can make seismic shifts in this industry.”

Amazon has been gaining many advantages from the government that the average business does not have. Recently the state of Texas forgave the company $269 million in back taxes in an agreement to create new centers and jobs. Amazon will be hosting CIA data in their cloud storage system for the ripe sum of $600 million. Last but not least- The Governor of Tennessee, Bill Haslam, made a deal with Amazon in 2012 that EXEMPTS them from corporate sales tax until 2014 in return for creating 3,500 jobs. This means, naturally, other stores are forced to charge more for products due to the taxes they have to pay.

The American Book Sellers Association criticized the President in an open letter:

 “As you’ve noted so often, small businesses are the engines of the economy. When a small business fails and closes its doors, this has a ripple effect at both a local and a national level. Jobs are lost, workers lose healthcare and seek unemployment insurance, and purchasing decreases. And while Amazon may now be boasting about the creation of jobs, any gains are elusive, and not a long-term solution. The simple fact is that Amazon’s practices are detrimental to the nation’s economy.”

Not all response has been negative. Some argue that Amazon’s practices are natural and that the ability to lower prices is what makes American capitalism competitive. To them, the pursuit of unending profit is not villainous, despite the uneven playing field on which the game is played. Regardless of what you think is fair or unfair, the relationship between Amazon and the government is unique and strong. The government is condoning their practices with the hope that jobs will be created, but there seems to be a blind eye towards the jobs and independent businesses that have been destroyed by Amazon and other online retailers. I’d be willing to bet if they had their back taxes forgiven and no corporate tax collection for roughly two years they’d still be around too. As Ann Prachett says in the Wall Street Journal, “I wish President Obama would have visited Parnassus Books on his way to the Amazon warehouse.”


Link of the Week: Camel Camel Camel

As publishers we should always be concerned with the bottom line. We are business people at heart, and must keep an eye on pricing trends as the rise and fall. With so many retail and internet outlets out in the world it is difficult to get accurate measurements of costs and competitions between brands. Unless you’re checking Barnes and Noble every day to see how pricing is changing (or staying the same) you won’t know how the market is evolving. A great tool for evaluating pricing changes and ranks is called Camel Camel Camel. This search tool is great for consumers and business people alike. You can evaluate how pricing might affect sales, and see how outside market forces like movie-tie ins can alter sales.

  • For both Amazon and Best Buy products, the website collects the pricing of products over time and shows you how numbers have changed, going back to 2008. Take a look at how The Great Gatsby has increased and decreased in price in the past few years: 

  • They track the ranking of products over time too, as in the popularity of a book one year vs another. Here is additional information about The Great Gatsby and its popularity on Amazon: 

  • They show results for both official Amazon products and also 3rd party new and used books sold through the Amazon Marketplace as well.
  • They provide price drop alerts as well for discerning shoppers. For example, you can set an alert to notify you when a digital camera drops below a certain price.