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http://www.seattletimes.com/business/amazon/amazon-opens-first-bricks-and-mortar-bookstore-at-u-village/

It's finally happening and it is NOT a package pickup/return location. It really is for books (and some electronics). The hook appears to be: all books displayed cover out.

"“We realized that we felt sorry for the books that were spine out,” Cast said."

Cast is Jennifer Cast, who is a wonderful person and very, very smart. She was at Amazon while I was there, and I really liked her a lot. Cast is also the person who reached out to the Bezos for marriage equality support:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2012/07/the-touching-story-behind-jeff-and-mackenzie-bezos-25-million-gift-in-support-of-gay-marriage/260429/

Bezos has always said he loved physical bookstores, and in conversations I had with him and gleaning from his ongoing remarks to the press over the years, I know that we shared a particular favorite thing about physical bookstores: we loved the display tables in the front where books got extra attention. The review cards are nice, too, of course, but there is something about being at a table covered in books, with those amazingly designed covers laid out to best advantage.

All that said, I really never believed Amazon would open a physical bookstore. I am surprised and weirdly pleased to be wrong. I, personally, loathe the physicality of paper books, but I also recognize that part of that may well be attributable to some personal problems I have (turns out my kids got their hypotonia from me, and I have some wicked allergies). The kindle let me just hoover up the contents of a book, without any of the logistical problems of paper books (acquiring, storing, organizing, de-accessioning, holding upright while lying in bed or nursing a child, etc.). But not everyone has my issues and some fraction of the population is going to be buying and reading paper books for centuries to come. Evolving the bookstore AWAY from how-many-books-can-we-have-on-site (a service better provided through a warehouse and quick shipping, whether the order is placed at home or in a physical store) and towards taking best advantage of all the design work that went into the physical book makes a ton of sense.

Of course, I didn't think of that until -after- I read this article.
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Nate over at TDR included this in the post formerly known as Morning Coffee, but
now known as Daily Brief:

https://thebookishclothesehorse.wordpress.com/2015/10/07/acknowledging-the-artifact-how-we-privilege-physical-books-and-undermine-reading/

In which the blogger has this to say about themself:

"When you look in our apartment from the sidewalk, you see the bookshelves (and a John Coltrane poster.) There is no TV in the living room…there’s no TV in the apartment. I like what that says to passers-by. Those books, not just owned but possessed by me (and Zac…but the lion’s share of those shelves belongs to me) are as much about me as their owner as they are about their contents and literal use function. Our book collections—lined up, color-coordinated, and Instagrammed when the lighting is right—tell the viewer who we are as people."

Yup. Those books say a lot about you as people. Your summary in the blog really brings it home, in case we missed the point.

This, dear reader, is Someone Who Owns Books. As opposed to a person who actually enjoys reading and does a lot of it. And they are starting to get an inkling that maybe being pretentious might NOT be quite as much fun as actually _doing_ the thing they have fetishized as an identity.

Seriously. Real readers recognize they have a Problem. If you feel like you need to do this:

"I’m not advocating that we forgo this connection to our physical books or stop taking pictures of whatever we are reading laid out next to a latte on a blond wood table. I take that picture a lot. I love that picture."

You probably believe those surveys that position book-a-month people as "heavy readers". And that 50 book challenge thing? It never occurred to you _how fucking hard_ it would be to drive your reading that low.
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I don't really like to buy the book group selections, because I so rarely actually like them and thus am unlikely to ever reread them. In order of preference, I'd most like to get them at the previous month's book group discussion, or my home library in town, or super cheap on Amazon used books. I went over to my home library's webpage and was distressed to note that while there were a bunch of copies in the Minuteman Library system, there didn't seem to be one at my town library (never mind it currently being available), which implied a request and wait cycle. But wait! It is available as an ebook, so let's try pressing that button. It says I got it! Now what? Aha, "Get" as a kindle. That sent me to Amazon, where I am perpetually logged in, so it was one more click and then turn off airplane mode on my kindle and boom, satisfaction.

Wow.

Libraries are Awesome.
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Nate over at The Digital Reader/Ink, Bits & Pixels points out that Better World Books will sell you some of their used pbooks as individually scanned ebooks instead. Think of it as 1DollarScan tacked on top of BWB.

http://the-digital-reader.com/2015/03/20/better-world-books-will-sell-you-a-used-book-or-a-scanned-copy-for-2-more/

Japanese P-to-E book services pre-dated 1DollarScan, and they had less formally connected AmazonDirect to their service back in 2012.

http://publishingperspectives.com/2012/07/japanese-style-print-to-e-book-scanning-catching-on-in-the-us/

Nakano of 1DollarScan said: "One interesting option we offer in both countries is Amazon Direct. A customer might buy a book on Amazon that isn’t available in an electronic format, and have it delivered directly to us. We scan it and then the customer receives the e-book. This is a good service since many books are not available as e-books, especially older books. The usage for Amazon Direct is really high."

For those with copyright questions, Nakano said earlier in that piece: "We also have a copyright management system on our website for authors and publishers. If publishers do not want us to scan their content, they can register with us. We are open and cooperative, and so far nobody has registered."
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My husband bought me the original kindle. I still have it (even tho I sold or donated all my later kindles except the most recent, I've kept that one). I was over reading Passive Voice and ran across this in the comments thread.

http://www.thepassivevoice.com/03/2015/asking-whether-amazon-is-friend-or-foe-is-a-simple-question-that-is-complicated-to-answer/

Peter Winkler takes issue with Shatzkin saying this:

"They made an ereading device with built-in connectivity for direct downloading (which, in that pre-wifi time, required taking the real risk that connection charges would be a margin-killer)."

Jessy Ortiz, Ferran and Allen F, Tom Simon and Anonymous all weigh in, adding to the debate and mockery about whether or not wifi was as ubiquitous in 2007 as it is now.

None of which is relevant. The original kindle DID NOT HAVE WIFI. You could connect it with a cable to your computer or you could use the cell connection through Qualcomm. Those were the only options. I know this, because where I lived at the time had for shit cell service, so I was stuck with the corded option, unless I went somewhere with better cell coverage. If I could have made it work with wifi, I sure as fuck would have, and I used a cord ergo, it didn't have wifi as a choice.

Here, don't believe me? You go digging around in the User's Manual:

http://s3.amazonaws.com/kindle/Kindle_User_Guide.pdf

I used that device at least through 2008. So, what, 6 years, 7 at the absolute most? And we've forgotten already that the original kindle _did not have wifi_?

What the everliving fuck.

Ferran's contribution to the snark was: "No, he mean to say pre-fact-checking." Very, very funny, Ferran.

Honestly, I'm no longer shocked by that idiot who talked about people designing the earliest personal computers using ... laptops, in a Silicon Valley that was ... collectivist. I can definitely see where this shit comes from.

[ETA: That was a total lie. I actually _still_ am shocked by David Graeber. Here, want to be reminded of how shocking? Here ya go:

http://www.businessweek.com/finance/occupy-wall-street/archives/2011/11/david_graebers_odd_history_of_silicon_valley.html

Also, the delightful deLong on the topic:

http://delong.typepad.com/sdj/2012/04/no-silicon-valley-did-not-and-does-not-partake-of-the-anarchist-utopian-nature-why-did-you-imagine-it-did.html]
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I've seen a variety of comments on the Hachette/Amazon ongoing negotiation woes. Obvs, a bunch of people say intemperate things like, "Hachette should quit selling its product on Amazon" or "Amazon should refuse to carry Hachette's products"!

I never took these things very seriously, partly because of the Macmillan buy button thing being so short-lived, but mostly because I've heard of "Refusal to Deal".

Over on Jon Konrath's blog, Lee Child is quoted saying:

"I said I think Amazon overestimates the value of Hachette’s catalog to Amazon. My point was quite clear – Amazon won’t dump Hachette because Amazon’s own internal credo is built on being the everything store. Which dilutes its negotiating power. All negotiations are built on a willingness to walk away. Amazon isn’t willing."

http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2014/09/lee-child-responds.html

So this is really interesting. Hachette was part of the settlement. When they work in concert with other large publishers in setting prices, they are exploiting market power in a Not Legal Way. The publishers have been arguing all along that Amazon has market power. Well, here is what the FTC has to say about corporations which have market power and engage in "refusal to deal", which is what we call it when someone refuses to buy from or sell to.

http://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/competition-guidance/guide-antitrust-laws/single-firm-conduct/refusal-deal

"But courts have, in some circumstances, found antitrust liability when a firm with market power refused to do business with a competitor. For instance, if the monopolist refuses to sell a product or service to a competitor that it makes available to others, or if the monopolist has done business with the competitor and then stops, the monopolist needs a legitimate business reason for its policies. Courts will continue to develop the law in this area."

These are companies, this is a business relationship that has already run afoul of antitrust law. Jeff Bezos is not a stupid man (ha ha ha -- that's weaponized understatement. In any situation where you disagree with Bezos for business reasons, you're wrong. You might legitimately have a difference of values or politics, but on a business question? Ha ha ha ha ha.). Jeff Bezos does not want the expense or other problems associated with being the company which develops this undeveloped part of antitrust law.

If Hachette is smart, they won't be that company, either.

ETA: Also, Lee Childs is wrong about negotiations being built on a willingness to walk away. They are technically based on BATNA, which is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement. Which is exactly the relationship which Amazon and Hachette currently have, and it does not require refusal to deal.

ETAYA: If you think Hachette and Amazon are not competitors you have failed to pay attention.

ETA post comments: Someone has been anonymously posting in response to this post, mostly to argue about my assertion that Hachette and Amazon are not competitors. I've tried to be fair and unscreen comments to respond, but while they are nominally on topic, they are not of a very high quality. When I worked at Amazon, one of the proposed lines of business was for Amazon to start selling reprints of public domain titles (the same kind of publishing which Barnes & Noble engaged in at the time). At the time (and I left in the fall of 1998, so this would have been before that), the idea was nixed, IIRC, largely because it would put Amazon in the position of competing with its suppliers (that is, Amazon as publisher would be in competition with the publishers it bought published works from). The idea that Hachette and Amazon, now that Amazon has well and truly become a publisher, are not competitors simply because THEY ARE ALSO in business as supplier/retailer, does not need to be belabored further. Two companies can have any number of relationships with each other, and when commerce regulators get involved, they look at all of them. If you post comments on this, I'm not unscreening them if they just argue this point further.

ETA Still more: http://lawstreetmedia.com/news/headlines/hachette-win-lawsuit-amazon/

This presents an Amazon as monopsony + Amazon is refusing to deal already argument. The author recognizes that this is weak, because Amazon hasn't entirely cut off Hachette, and courts are picky (my word) about the definition of refusal to deal.

The idea that Amazon would be approaching dangerous territory by cutting off Hachette entirely, but can stay in the clear by maintaining the same terms for Hachette that it offers to all comers, and by encouraging their customers to purchase Hachette products from competitors -- a bunch of people thought that was weird. I just assumed it was ass covering in the event of legal trouble. It's hardly "anti-competitive" if you suggest your customers might enjoy shopping from Barnes & Noble amirite being the theory at play here.

Barnes & Noble _has_ reduced its purchases and presentation of publishers from time to time in the course of business negotiations (Hugh Howey has written about how this affected him), but just like Amazon, they didn't entirely terminate the relationship. Just reduced orders, no end caps, no promotion, etc.

ETA Final: Comments are about to be closed. There was only the one commenter and they became abusive.
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Recently, David Caolo over at Unclutterer invited comments on ebooks.

http://unclutterer.com/2014/09/02/where-do-you-stand-on-digital-books/

He got a few dozen, mostly people who were not early adopters, but eventually their aging eyes and/or the management issues of a large library convinced them to switch or at least go to a mix of ebooks and pbooks.

Two comments stood out.

Brian Ogilvie said this, in whole:

"I borrow ebooks but buy them rarely, and usually when I need something immediately or I am traveling. That’s partly because as a scholar, I like annotating my books, and ebooks generally don’t handle footnotes or endnotes well. But it’s largely because I find it annoying to read something more than 20 pages long online. Ebooks are great for searching (as long as you know what term to search), but not so good for sustained reading, at least for me. The two formats are complementary. My university library has access to many ebooks by subscription; I’ll often read one long enough to decide whether it’s worth my time, and then either order my own print copy or ask the library to get it, if I think my students should read it.

But on a more fundamental level, I don’t like the idea of licensing a book rather than buying it. And I don’t like the idea that I might be locked into a particular platform; even a PDF or epub file might have DRM locking it down.

It’s bad enough when I upgrade computers and have to jump through hoops to reinstall the dozen or so computer programs that I rely on. Imagine doing that with a library of thousands of books!"

The annotation issue is an interesting one. It would have been helpful to know if he had ever tried an e-ink reader. Many of us who cannot read longform on anything else _love_ reading on e-ink readers. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I suspect him of not trying. The second paragraph (license vs. buy) suggests there is a severe lack of understanding of the online ecosystem. Moving from one device to another, one computer to any, has been the dream to end all dreams of convenience both using iTunes Match and the kindle ecosystem. (And I say that even though I'm having download errors on a They Might Be Giants track AND the U2 album just flat isn't accessible to me At All. These things happen, but they tend to resolve themselves faster than I find books I have misfiled in my library.)

Harry says, in whole:

"Anti-ebook except for long travel.

Some problems are inherent:
Ebooks are hard to mark up, annotate, tab, skim quickly, or find a specific unmarked page. You can’t go into someone else’s house and peruse their ebook collection (perusing someone’s bookshelves is a fruitful source of conversation fodder and discovering new books). You can’t loan them out, resell them, buy them used, or donate them. You can’t pick up a random ebook in a store to look through. They’re highly suseptible to technological change or loss, yet we can read physical books from thousands of years ago. A physical book can be read in many environments, ebooks not so much. Either the pages are small or the readers are inconveniently large.

Some problems are in current implementation, namely, DRM and invasion of privacy:
You don’t own your ebook, you “license” it. This severely restricts your ability to fully use your ebook – you can’t legally resell, lend, or donate it. The actual owner (Amazon, for example) can reach into your ereader and grab your book back (which Amazon did with an illegally sold version of “1984”); by the EULA they don’t need to tell you why. Ebooks are hard to give as gifts and even when you can, it’s physically unimpressive. You cannot transfer ebooks from one medium to another and it’s practically impossible to switch from one manufacturer to another. You cannot buy an ebook anonymously. The actual owners keep track of what you buy, what you read, when you read it, how long you spend on a page and which pages you mark, and notes you make in the ebook – even though it’s really none of their damn business."

Inherent! Okay, I don't have trouble finding specific pages (I search based on a low frequency word I remember being on that page or near it and then page towards what I wanted). I don't mark up or annotate books -- I keep notes on separate paper or device. I don't have trouble skimming. Many people over the years have complained to me about creepy people staring at their books and talking about them (made me cringe! I've done it often enough). More people have extolled ebooks for making their reading habits easier to privacy-control: they decide who knows what they are reading. Easiest damn thing in the work to "Look inside this book" or search on google books. As for technological change, there's been a lot of product refreshes since my first kindle; my first books still look great to me. I have paperbacks from a bit older that have more or less dissolved from rereading, so I declare that one a wash.

I don't need to transfer ebooks from one medium to another -- I can access my books on lots of devices. If I really needed to print something out, I could do that too. I could also easily download software to strip it and then I could manage the books however I liked (which I don't like, thank you very much -- someone else can do that for me).

If you haven't figured out how to buy an ebook anonymously, you haven't tried very hard. As for complaining about the platform monitoring how much you did or didn't read, well, funny hearing that from someone who would love to know things about other people's reading habits that they didn't like sharing with him.

Honestly, I haven't been able to enjoy mocking ebook coverage in a long time. I feel sort of bad doing it, because these days, it isn't punching up -- it's punching down. What a change 7 years makes.
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I previously blogged about the Hachette Amazon Thing.

http://walkitout.livejournal.com/1129808.html

I asserted: "The group of publishers did not have precisely the same time frame when they could begin to demand that retailers accept the agency model -- Hachette came up first and this is likely to be the cause of the current, ongoing dispute with Amazon."

Over at Publishers Lunch, this idea is debunked (h/t Nate, over at The Digital Reader):

http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2014/06/getting-things-straight-two-wonky-important-hachettesettlement-things-people-get-wrong/

The settlement to which I pointed in my earlier post, http://www.justice.gov/atr/cases/f286800/286808.pdf, does not mention anything about staggered anything, so I agree that was an error in what I wrote.

However, Michael Cader introduces a new error:

"To review, the court did not approve the settlements with the first three publishers until September 6, 2012 -- so those conditions apply at least until September, 2014. The exact expiration depends on contractual processes under the settlement that have not been confirmed publicly. Based on when each publisher moved to Agency Lite pricing in the marketplace, the working expectation is that Harper will be the first to come out of the restrictions, in early September, following by Hachette and then Simon & Schuster, both in early December. The separate settlements for Macmillan and Penguin Random House specifically indicate those two companies are free of the agency restrictions on December 18, 2014."

In the DOJ settlement to which I link above and in my original piece, the language is unambiguous. "For two years after the _filing_ of the Complaint, Settling Defendants shall not enter into any agreement with any E-book Retailer that restricts, limits, or impedes the E-book Retailer from setting, altering, or reducing the Retail Price of one or more E-books, or from offering price discounts or any other form of promotions to encourage consumers to Purchase one or more E-books."

My emphasis on _filing_ of the Complaint, NOT date of the settlement -- Cader made that mistake when he asserted the two years would run from the approval of the settlement plus two years. He is correct in noting that the exact expiration is subject to the contract between the publisher and the retailer -- we don't know what dates that covered; one would expect the publisher to be smart enough to have it run out right when they could earliest restrict the retailers from controlling the price, but, you know *shrug*.

On the one hand, I'm being picky about someone who noticed an error that I, along with many other people, made (I'm sure Cader has no mortal clue who I am -- he's responding to other coverage). On the other hand, this date error (two years after the settlement vs. two years from the filing of the complaint) does have an impact on his conclusion, which is the whole point of his piece:

"So any idea that HBG is trying to "force" Amazon back to full agency now, which also appears in various articles and blogs, must be wrong. They are not currently permitted to do that under the consent decree."

Ooops. All in all, I'm pretty sure this is a more serious error than thinking the publishers are staggered.

ETA: from the beginning of the Final Judgment As To Defendants Hachette, Harpercollins, and Simon & Schuster, the date the complaint was filed is given as April 11, 2012, so that plus two years yields April 11, 2014.

ETAYA: Oh, actually, there is a staggering on the page before what I quoted. The publishers get to each pick separately the start date on a separate 2 year period and they have a choice.

"For two years, Settling Defendants shall not restrict, limit, or impede an E-Book Retailer's ability to set, alter, or reduce the Retail Price of any E-book or to offer price discounts or any other form of promotions to encourage consumers to purchase one or more E-books, such two year period to run separately for each E-book Retailer, at the option of the Settling Defendant, from either: 1. the termination of an agreement between the Settling Defendant and the E-book Retailer that restricts, limits, or impedes the E-book Retailer's ability to set, alter, or reduce the Retail Price of any E-book or to offer price discounts or any other form of promotions to encourage consumers to Purchase one or more E-books; or 2. the date on which the Settling Defendant notifies the E-book Retailer in writing that the Settling Defendant will not enforce any term(s) in its agreement with the E-book Retailer that restrict, limit, or impede the E-book Retailer from setting, altering, or reducing the Retail Price of one or more E-books, or from offering price discounts or any other form of promotions to encourage consumers to Purchase one or more E-books."

I don't think we can know with certainty when Hachette (or any of the other publishers) sent such a letter, which is presumably what they decided to do. Earlier versions of the Final Judgment started to appear with the filing of the original complaint, and contained the same language (two years, starts from the agreement ending/the letter being sent); it is reasonable to believe that the publishers would have sent this letter not any later than this, because it was pretty clearly going to be Part of the Deal and doing it sooner started the clock sooner.

Again, we don't really _know_ because we don't know what the publishers actually did. Cader's attempt to use this agreement to prove that full agency cannot currently be on the table fails. But he _is_ right about the lack of explicit staggering in this agreement.
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Hat tip to the excellent Nate Hoffelder over at the Digital Reader:

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2014/05/09/is-amazon-pulling-dirty-tricks-with-hachettes-books-probably-not/

He is analyzing David Streitfeld's article in the New York Times (it's *feld, not *field, which is a minor point for me but probably important to the journalist; Hoffelder got it right in the piece from a year ago, which he links to in his article):

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/technology/hachette-says-amazon-is-delaying-delivery-of-some-books.html

Streitfeld has a helluva lede:

"Amazon has begun discouraging customers from buying books by Malcolm Gladwell, Stephen Colbert, J. D. Salinger and other popular writers"

Really? And the basis for this assertion is that:

"A Hachette spokeswoman said on Thursday that the publisher was striving to keep Amazon supplied but that the Internet giant was delaying shipments “for reasons of their own.”" The spokeswoman is not anonymous, but named later in the article: "Sophie Cottrell", also saying: "“Amazon is holding minimal stock” and restocking some of Hachette’s books “slowly, causing ‘available 2-4 weeks’ messages.”"

As Nate notes, the listed titles could be low stock for other reasons (available for a penny used, available with Prime shipping, used from marketplace sellers for $4.99, in the case of Robin Roberts' memoir, extremely popular and maybe just plain selling out too fast, etc.).

While I absolutely believe that Amazon could be running stock low strategically (to pressure Hachette to accept lower margins, so Amazon can make more money/the same amount of money while selling it for a lower list price/prevent anyone from making any money by selling absolutely every copy that sells because they are insanely cheaper than everywhere else and not even breaking even), I would like to add another possible explanation to the mix: maybe Amazon would rather you buy the kindle edition.

I will further add that while Hachette thinks it is getting product to Amazon quickly enough, the spokeswoman does say they are "striving", which sort of makes me wonder. I have some teacher friends who assign projects that are due between whenever and some date near the end of the term. They'll grade and return the projects that are turned in early, but a lot of the kids will turn them all in right at the last minute and then whine because there is a delay in getting the grade back. I do sort of have to wonder which kind of project-turning-in-kid Hachette is, especially when it comes to NYPD Red 1 (reissue) & 2, and the Roberts' memoir. I would not normally "parse" a word like "striving" so meticulously, but this is a _spokeswoman_ for a _publisher_ so you sort of want to believe that when they say strive, they mean that they are working really hard under difficult circumstances and are trying to gain sympathy for the fact that they're slipping a bit in the struggle.
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For what seemed forever, but was probably less than two years, there was a strain of commentary in newsmedia about how wonderful printed books are to hold in the hand and to smell. After spending a lot of time openly mocking this kind of blog post/article in this blog, I took to calling that particular refrain "book huffing", and the perpetrators "book huffers". I need a new term, however, because I new refrain is popping, at least in my perception. The idea of books as physical decoration, things to look at with desire, affection, etc.

Here is today's instantiation, courtesy Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader

http://johnguillen.wordpress.com/2014/02/13/print-vs-e-book-which-side-are-you-on/

"Because a printed book is a physical object that I can forever admire on my shelf. I can’t admire a file on a smartphone or tablet. I personally have more than 160 printed books and less than 20 on my Kindle." (Actually, I sort of feel like I'm being trolled right at the moment.) Then a picture of some art on the writer's arm is displayed as further evidence of the author's need to commit to the p-form.

Also, I _wish_ I could say with a straight face that I have more than 160 printed books. I mean, I _do_, but it would be a deceptive statement.

R. wants to call this a book fetish, but I don't think that's quite right. Something about the loving gaze directed at the object of one's affection is more appropriate. Fetish sounds too, er, hands on.

ETA: I cannot believe I forgot this. I distracted myself by wondering if I was being trolled with this piece. "The print vs. e-book question had never once been asked prior to the 2000s." I had an hours long argument with a very nice young Seventh Day Adventist man (well, we were young then; it was the early 1990s. We're middle aged now.) who firmly believed that within a very short period of time, everyone would be reading exclusively e-books. I argued that I was basically the only person I knew who had read more than one book all the way through on a computer and it was a miserable experience. If I couldn't tolerate it yet, there was no way The Masses were going to switch (remember how expensive PCs were then? And people think iPads cost so much now!) any time soon. In any event, the question was definitely asked long before the 2000s. Also, people reading books in mobi format on various PDA devices.
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AKA The Shit Volcano

Nate over at The Digital Reader points to some other blogs talking about OMG THERE ARE A LOT OF CRAPPY SELF PUBBED BOOKS!!! What should we do about it. Lists ensue. Nate goes meh. (<-- Probably the Correct Response.)

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2014/02/06/debunking-self-pub-shit-volcano-shit-problem-going-away/

I thought about it. I even _read_ those blog posts, despite their very powerful tl;dr vibe.

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2014/02/03/slushy-glut-slog-why-the-self-publishing-shit-volcano-is-a-problem/

Chuck Wendig sez, in part, my summary:

Self published books will suffer individually (even the good ones) because they collectively suck. He argues that it’s pretty easy to tell self-pubbed from regular old pubbed, people will do so and self-pub will suffer. So in group self-interest, self-pubbers should get their shit together or remove themselves from Amazon and similar.

(here endeth summary of part of Wendig's post)

This is an interesting assertion. When I started working at Amazon, the single most requested search feature was “Search by publisher”. For the most part, I was pretty much the only person who heard that and went, well, duh! Everyone else went, we were surprised and still can’t figure out why anyone cares about the publisher. (Right there, you can tell that publishers and branding just don't work the way they do everywhere else.) For a variety of reasons (mostly because there were a lot of way more pressing issues _for customers_ than _any_ search issues), we didn’t prioritize adding this feature for a while and someone (you probably know him, because he’s had an nth career as a writer) cobbled together a perl script search by publisher and that caused enough mayhem that we did in fact implement the feature. Or something. I forget — it was a while ago. In any event, this suggests that mocking Wendig for believing people will notice who the publisher of a book is, well, that would be stupid. But thinking that people _will_ notice who the publisher of a book is, well, probably not tremendously bright either.

Most readers don’t have any trouble finding books to read, even books that they enjoy, because most readers read 12 or fewer books a year. They are all going to read (exclusively) books getting talked up by friends, family and/or a huge media push. Or the latest book by the one/few author(s) they love love love. If you are talking about discovery, you are talking about a tiny, tiny fraction of the reading population. We’re damn near all “pro” readers, in some important sense.

Will “pro” readers as a group — people who read at least one book a week, and usually closer to a book a day — turn their collective nose up at the continuing prospect of reading the Universal Slush Pile which is Amazon?

No.

Some will, sure. Burnout is a real issue. But there will always be people willing to dive in, and Mr. Wendig makes an interesting point when he notes that you can detect sloppily produced books just by using the Sample feature on Amazon. You can. Which means you can limit your time in the Universal Slush Pile by being prepared to be utterly vicious in dumping drek. And please believe me: people reading self-pubs do NOT feel compelled to finish books they start. (Not for long, anyway.)

Over at http://chocolateandvodka.com/2014/02/05/why-the-self-publishing-shit-volcano-isnt-going-to-stop-erupting-any-time-soon/, SUW sez:

"With writing, however, there is no such clarity [as consistently losing at tennis]. The factors influencing the quality of a book can be broken down into three categories”

The three categories are objective, less objective and subjective. Let’s take a look at that middle one and try not to be an asshole about any of them.

"Subjective factors: Poorly drawn characters, unconvincing plots, poor dialogue, cliche-ridden prose. Problems that many people will find problematic, but that some people will be able to successfully gloss over when reading.”

I realize this may be a shock to educated folk like SUW, but it turns out that poorly drawn characters and so forth are actually _more_ appealing to many people than the alternative. And this actually is an enormous issue. There’s even less objectivity in writing than SUW and Wendig think there is. (Cue Rant about that ridiculously overrated novel and how people couldn't even _tell_ that there were publisher introduced errors in it, because of the weird language.) I know, it’s _such_ a disappointment to find out that all our English and Literature teachers lied to us. Relentlessly.

If it isn’t sufficiently obvious by this point, there’s a wide stream of elitism here, masquerading as a call for professionalism. Just so we’re all clear here. We’re talking about predominantly genre fiction, right? Right? Because that’s what self pub is.

"I’m talking about people who are selling their books and, through asking for money for their work, presenting themselves as professional writers.”

I feel right now the way I felt when my triple-threat (sings, dances and acts) cousin-by-marriage went on a rant about children’s shows in which the vocals (generally children) are off key or otherwise poorly performed. She is by every other conceivable metric a fantastic human being, but wow, that was not pretty what was coming out of her mouth. The kiddies like shows with “poorly performed music”. Those shows are not made for her. Criticizing them for being what the kiddies like just exposes your own foolishness. (More relevant example: complaining about the mandatory HEA in romance-land.)

Mike Cane went on to argue that Amazon had a business case for yanking all self-published books that didn’t sell and then banning everyone from posting future self-published books if they had previously published something that didn’t sell. In a way, I’d love to see some version of this future, because it would be _exactly_ the self-published universe version of I-papered-my-house-with-rejection-notices-and-now-I’m-a-monster-bestseller-who-wins-awards. Because you _know_ that that would eventually happen. He notes several excellent refutations of this argument. I will add one more. There _is going to be_ a Universal Slush Pile somewhere on the web/in the cloud. It is in Amazon’s Best Interests to make sure _they_ and _only they_ are the ones who are collecting data on what moves and doesn’t move in the Universal Slush Pile.

And now, anecdata!

My husband bought me a kindle for Christmas of 2007. It didn’t hold a charge, so it had to go back and the replacement came after Christmas. I was very uncertain about whether I wanted it. It was expensive. There wasn’t a ton of selection. But I figured out pretty quick that I read faster on the kindle than on paper, and when the selection problems were squared away, I basically quit buying paper books (rare exceptions: used scholarly non-fiction). Whenever I read a paper book now, I want to hurt someone, because paper books are so fantastically not ergonomically friendly (you have to hold them open! Your arms get tired holding them up in bed. You need a light. Damn it! Also, the ketchup doesn’t come off paper nearly so well as it comes off a kindle. And if you leave the book at home, you can’t download it to your phone and keep reading. Unreasonable!).

Over the years, I’ve been a real pusher for kindles, including the kindle fires and similar. In an effort to hook two female relatives, I let them share my amazon account and sent them e-ink kindles that I paid for. I told them as long as they kept the monthly charges under $200, I didn’t give a fuck what they bought. One of them (one generation older than me) bought very few books, mostly for her book group, and eventually confessed that it bothered her so much that I was paying for her books that she switched to her own account. (She might be a little neurotic. Just a tad.) She never bought or read self-pub. The other (my generation) buys a ton of books, mostly freebies and cheapies, with some genre trad pub thrown in. I actually read a few of the ones she buys — that never happened with the other relative. I’ve asked her how she picks self-pubs, and it’s mostly off of customers who liked this also like etc., and reading samples. She starts with the free one by a particular author, and then if she likes it, she’ll buy a lot more by that author. So even if the book recommended by the algorithm is not free, she might try the author as a result of the recommendation (thus supporting EVERYTHING Konrath ever wrote about how to promote self pub books), and the freebie will lead to Real sales if she likes the author’s work.

She’s also working on writing her own genre fiction, and through FB, connected with someone I’ve known since college who reads probably more than anyone else I know (and honest, that is saying something). So when my relative was soliciting the friend network for beta readers/feedback, my friend spoke up, and is now editing my relative’s book. (I know my friend’s work — she’s doing a good job, and one that will contribute to making my relative’s work commercially viable, vs. “objectively” better, but less readable, which is a real risk with editors.)

Skill is not something that is innate. It is something that develops over time. You get to be a better reader by reading. You get to be a writer by reading, and wanting to try your hand at it. You get to be a better writer by writing, and hearing from your readers. Preventing “bad writers” from exposure to readers who are interested in their work is just ridiculous. The Universal Slush Pile may need some sorting based on plagiarism (which can often be detected mechanically), gaming (writing an awesome sample, and then the rest of the book is blah blah blah with a bunch of typos and bad grammar; also attempts to confuse customers by creating titles/authors similar to currently popular work) and risk to retailer brand (Amazon’s decision to remove incest themed erotica, for example). Amazon knows better than we do which of these are important (and how important) because they are on the receiving end of the complaints and have to pay the customer service reps who respond to them.

But typos, bad grammar and cartoonishly 1 dimensional characters who speak in cliches are _not_ factors in selecting candidates for removal from the slush pile. And I really have to wonder about the kind of person who thinks they might be.

I haven't used the mocking e-book coverage tag in forever (mostly because the whole but books smell so good! thing finally died down). I'll use it today.
walkitout: (Default)
www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2013/02/future-bookstore

I liked this bit the best:

"Digital and hybrid readers should have the option of buying e-books in-store, and budding authors should have access to self-printing book machines. The latter have been slower to take off in Britain, but in America bookstores are finding them to be an important source of revenue."

I'm sure there are at least two bookstores in the USA that find Espresso Book Machines to be an important source of revenue, so the statement is not _strictly speaking_ fictional. Sort of flirting, making eyes at fictional, without being willing to commit. A little playing with the hair, etc.

I had completely forgotten how hilarious articles like this could be.
walkitout: (Really?)
See the previous post if you want my numbers and some detail for the year.

The most striking thing about my e-purchases vs p-purchases is the number of items, and the number of p-purchases which were used items (and thus no money to the publisher/author, except indirectly if the original purchaser, by getting back some of their money through the sale of a book, goes out and buys a new book.

This pattern of p-purchases is the result of a conscious strategy I adopted almost immediately after getting my first e-reader: I decided to try to buy everything I wanted in e-form, and if that failed, to at least buy it used if at all possible. I delayed many purchases for months, when I believed that the item would eventually become available in e-form, as in the first year of the kindle, a lot of newly published books weren't available in e-form and not as a result of windowing.

When windowing was (briefly) attempted by publishers, I delayed purchase until the e-form was available. In many of those cases, I never bought the e-form, because by that point, the cluster of reviews available suggested it wasn't worth it. In a couple cases, I got the book from the library -- and wasn't very impressed. It turns out that it is hard for a book to overcome a pissed off reader's negativity -- at least this pissed off reader's negativity.

I was more than a little surprised to notice just how few children's books I bought in 2012 [I have since remembered 3 more bought while we were at the Cape]. I had, in the past, bought many, many, many children's books. I do buy the kids book-apps in the apple and kindle ecosystems, and they went to the library with me a few times in 2012. They went to the library a lot more often through their schools, and get a lot of book exposure that way. Plus, huge backlog of books around here for them, and books other people gave them as gifts.

While in the past, a lot of my used purchases have been general non-fiction from previous years not yet converted (or never expected to convert) to e-form. This time, there was a great deal more focus in these purchases (exceptions included the moral panics book, _Escape from Hunger_, 7-11 in Japan, and the two books about aging/long term care) -- almost all of the non-fiction was driven by genealogical research or questions about history which arose in that context.

While the e-book sales continue to grow, the percentage growth rate is less now than it has been in the past. Anyone who takes comfort in this reveals their innumeracy, as it the absolute increase in items sold may well be larger now than ever before (34% of a bigger number may be greater than 110% of a smaller number).

Finally, taking comfort in the idea that there are plenty of people out there who haven't read an e-book in the past year vs. virtually no one who reads e-books so exclusively that they don't also buy an read p-books may fail to capture the used vs. new distinction. While a retailer who sells new and used books may not care whether the volume they sell is used or new (they might prefer used, if it's something like Hiebert's book about CGCM!), a publisher presumably does.

A publisher's best bet for getting me to spend money on p-books at this point is to convince me to buy p-books as gifts for young children. Failing that, producing picture books of interest to me. A publisher who only saw my new-pbook purchases, btw, would still consider me a comparatively heavy book buyer, and might argue that I am evidence that print is not yet dead.
walkitout: (Really?)
ETA: I _thought_ I had spotted a big gap in what I had ordered; in the event, it appears to have been exactly one missed children's book. Further edits throughout the post to correct numbers

The subject line is a true statement, however, I wonder what, if any, solace it could provide for a publisher of new books?

In 2012, I bought 36 pbooks. Of that number, 7 were gifts (all bought new), and two were books for my children (this is an embarrassingly low number). One book was bought used for book group and immediately donated to a library thereafter, which intended to include it in the book group bag. I bought 1 audio book, which I am counting as a p for physical, rather than p for paper book. It was a gift. 20 were bought used; 16 were new.

Here is the list of 9 books I bought new for myself and my family over the course of the year (about 5 of them are exclusively for me, 2 are children's books and the history of atlases and the book about gays in Canada were bought as part of an ongoing effort to puzzle out some genealogy questions that my husband and I have):

An annotated bibliography of the sociology of Canadian Mennonites and related groups
Drummer Hoff (children's book)
Urville (book of drawings by an autistic person)
If you give a Mouse a Cookie (collected kids books)
a history of atlases (genealogy and just plain cool)
_Long Term Care for the Elderly_, which was fantastic and
_The Cultural Context of Aging_, which I haven't read yet
Bartlett's quotations
_Persecuting Homosexuals_ (haven't read -- dual interest LGBT and genealogy for the area)

I knew I had cut back on buying books for the kids; I'm a little stunned that I cut back to two. I may need to work on that.

In 2012, I bought 98 ebooks. I was careful not to count games, free books or kindle guides and so forth in this list. Of those, about 13 were bought for someone else who reads books on my kindle. About 5 of them were shorts (short stories or a novella or whatever). Obviously, none of them were bought used.

For reference purposes, over the course of the year, I bought 2 e-ink readers and 1 of the larger kindle fires (I kept one of the e-ink readers for myself; the other two were for other people).

If it gives you solace that I bought one new pbook for every 6ish ebooks I bought, or, 5ish new pbooks for every reading device I bought over the course of the year, then you are a person who is very good at seeing the silver lining.

ETA: In August, I went to a bookstore on Cape Cod. At this bookstore, I bought my children three books. I also bought my nieces a whole bunch of books -- probably a couple dozen, maybe more. None of those books are included in this count. If they had been included in this count, the analysis would have to be modified as follows: MORE new p-books than used p-books overall. 12 new books purchased for me/my family. While the total count of p-books vs. e-books would continue to favor e-books, it would be approximately a 2 pbooks for 3 e-books ratio. While it is possible there were additional book purchases during the course of the year which I have forgotten, it seems unlikely, as I don't even go into bookstores any more, except in unusual cases such as the August purchase of birthday gifts for my nieces while we vacationed together. We also went to a Toys R Us on that trip where I bought them a ton of Calico Critters stuff and assorted other plastic crap. I'm fairly certain I spent more at Toys R Us than at the bookstore and other charges associated with the trip completely swamped those shopping expeditions.

You may consider this a response to this:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323874204578219563353697002.html

Or not, as pleases you.

Appendix for the excessively curious: so what were those 20 used books?

In December, I paid over $250 for a copy of Hiebert's volume about CGCM (Holdeman), and $24 for the thin and largely useless Penner history of the CGCM.

In November, I bought a copy of _Houseworks_ used. While it was only $6, it was probably still a waste of money, as the website is better.

In October, I bought a book written by the wife of a former coworker of my husband (I think former -- a little unclear on that) about advice given to poor families in the Victorian and Edwardian years. The (distant) personal connection in conjunction with this being an area of interest for me (swear!) overcame my ongoing reluctance to buy things published by Palgrave Macmillan. While I feel guilty that the author did not receive money from this, I don't feel bad about stiffing Macmillan -- and I enjoy giving Midtown Scholar money. I also bought GTD used for $8, which was absolutely not a waste of money, even tho I don't actually do GTD and could have got it from the library.

In September, I was in the throes of my divorce project (collecting the decrees and whatever else I could find for my maternal grandmother and my father's maternal grandfather -- she had three and he had two divorces so it seemed interesting). I bought Riley's Divorce in America (which I had owned in the past but either loaned and lost or sold), _Living in Sin_ and _Putting Asunder_. I had attempted to avoid paying almost $70 for _Putting Asunder_, but had to return it to the library because of a request so I broke down and bought my own copy. I also bought some scholarly thing about moral panics (your guess is as good as mine) and _Escape from Hunger_, which took a major turn for the worse halfway through.

In August, I bought the Zippy memoir, read it for book group and donated it at the end of the discussion.

In July, I bought no physical books.

In June, I bought the 3rd edition, second printing of Kanner's Child Psychiatry, and a copy of Kenneth Davis' problematic but worth reading _Two Bit Culture_.

In May, I bought no physical books.

In April, all the books I bought were new and for other people.

In March, I bought a book about 7-11 in Japan, _Frisians to America_, _Drowned Landscape_, _Atlas Maior_ and a book about Frisian linguistics. You can sort of see a trend there, with the exception of the 7-11 books, which was really worthwhile altho a bit dated.

In February, I bought a genealogy of Delps in America for over $50 that proved not particularly relevant to the Delps I was researching.

In January, I bought a copy of _Apart and Together_, which is about Mennonites.

[An earlier version of this post miscounted how many I had described and left out GTD.]
walkitout: (Default)
I continue to avidly read about ebooks, however, I don't post about them very often because the rhetoric and so forth is kind of repetitive. Here is one new (to me anyway) development. (It was going to be two, but I'm moving the other one to a separate post.)

http://www.futurebook.net/content/bring-good-books

One of the standard arguments for physical books and physical bookstores involves "book discovery" and supporting new authors and so forth. In the past, when genre readers were limited to mass market paperbacks shelved separately and refreshed erratically towards the middle of the store, genre readers were accustomed to being ill-treated by employees of the bookstore. Our tastes were mocked openly and we were frequently told things that we knew to be completely untrue and generally not helped. There was a brief period in the 1990s and thereafter when publishers "suddenly" discovered that genre authors could move hardcover product, so we could then find some of our choices in the front of the store -- but book store employees were still overwhelmingly focused on serving readers of "literary fiction", which they all insisted was NOT genre fiction. Also, somehow better, despite its frequent, conspicuous lack of an identifiable, enjoyable, much less driving plot.

Hey, I'm just here for the story.

Not all bookstores were like this. University Books in Seattle long had a fantastic genre buyer for science fiction/fantasy/horror/etc. (but they screwed romance readers like every other new bookstore) and organized genre author events -- sometimes off site at the university if the author was expected to draw a really big crowd like Neal Stephenson or Terry Pratchett. And that's why Seattle didn't have a specialty bookstore for sf. In other towns, the same niche is occupied by a specialty independent, and romance readers, well, they broke out into hardcover at around the same time as sf and sold even more handily -- but get even less respect by bookstore employees.

I know. I read both genres. I've seen what happens to me when I'm shopping for one, or the other, or shopping the "front" tables for "respectable" non-fiction, which gets a small section of the space mostly dominated by the kinds of fiction my mother-in-law reads (also my book group).

Philip Jones, in this piece, notes that literary fiction has stayed print dominated longer than other fiction. Heretofore, that's been a good thing -- but not any more, now that the volume of sales has shifted from hardcover to ebook. He describes how difficult it is to identify literary fiction in an online bookstore, now that it doesn't have that coveted table space at the front of the shop. Mr. Jones has a pretty strong opinion about the relative value of genre fiction vs. literary fiction (hint: he doesn't prefer genre fiction). And he's not all that positive on readers who prefer to read ebooks ("If one assumes that even digital readers want to read the more serious stuff, then there is an opportunity here to bring up the better books." -- that "even" has a strong whiff of contempt to it, now, doesn't it?).

I'm wobbling on this one. On the one hand, oh, woe, literary fiction readers: the club you didn't want anything to do with turns out to not really give a shit about you, either. On the other hand, seriously, literary doesn't move product, so if you want this handled better in the competitive world of ebookselling, you're probably going to have to pony up if you want better treatment.

If I hadn't found the article so fascinating for its novelty (WOW! Literary fiction _wants_ to be sold online! I wondered when that would happen.), I would have dismissed it with a go-fuck-yourself. I may post about the next few instances of this phenomena -- but then I'll ignore it like I ignored book-huffing for months until it became so rare as to, once again, be notable.
walkitout: (Default)
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/katy-guest-ive-read-the-future-and-it-doesnt-work-or-smell-nice-7813385.html

h/t Nate at the Digital Reader, who has a nice spoof of the post.

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/06/02/ive-read-the-past-and-it-hurts/

I would like to make a couples of observations.

(1) Of course you have to charge the electronic device when it arrives in the mail, altho the last several I received from two separate companies, names starting with 'A' were mostly charged on arrival, I always plug them in as part of the unpackaging process.

(2) Anyone who has been on a plane in the last many years knows you have to turn off electronic devices during take-off and landing (and I feel a little bad about this, having been a rabid comp.risks reader back in the day and thus contributing to this rule) -- and if you read on moving vehicles (Which I Do Not, because no one likes vomiting or being around someone who is), you have to bring non-powered material for this period.

(3) What's perverted about reading erotica?

I hadn't seen an instance of Book Huffery in a while, and I sort of missed making fun of it. However, I feel sort of bad making fun of Ms. Guest's opinion piece, because it's obvious the Book Huffers are feeling very defensive and being coerced into trying the transition. On the other hand, she gratuitously picked on morris dancing, so not _that_ sorry.
walkitout: (Default)
Most of this h/t The Digital Reader.

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/02/07/who-loves-ereaders-infographic/

Essentially, marketers marketing marketing. The argument is a little silly, because it uses the early adopter base in e-readers and extends it to the growth in e-readers (which will presumably come to resemble the general population). The idea (advertising in e-books) is an extrapolation of something which has been tried repeatedly, with marginal success. Anyone who has ever read a serialized novel. The last one I read in situ was probably a Lois McMaster Bujold novel serialized in Analog and the whole experience of trying to buy copies of Analog at bookstores as they came out made me so angry at a series of bookstores that it groomed me to become an _very_ early customer of Amazon, and the windowing effect -- making the novel available in serial form in a magazine before it was available to buy as a book -- was so poisonous that it really slowed me down on the Vorkosigan series. You should understand: whenever a new Vorkosigan novel came out, I was so freaking committed I went back and reread the whole series from the beginning. Then I bought it in hardcover. Then I read it the day I bought it. It took a lot to turn me off these books.

I read the following with incredulity:

http://www.the-digital-reader.com/2012/02/09/the-seven-words-that-will-kill-books/

It's not Adin this time; it's Mike Cane. The style is very different and I would never describe Cane as pedantic.

Cane's reasoning is straightforward. Once ads are in books, authors/publishers will be forced to do whatever the advertisers want them to do (or not do things the advertisers don't want them to do). There are some problems with this as a thesis, but first, I just want to point out that what Harlequin did that so freaked Cane and the blogger he pointed to out was remove some misogynistic violence. Harleqin did this for the reason that _everyone_ bowdlerizes: to make a cultural artifact acceptable to a population which would otherwise reject it. There are people who would prefer the cultural artifact be left unchanged but also unavailable (that would be me, at least in this case) and there are people who would prefer the cultural artifact be left unchanged and the population of consumers adjust to accept it (I fall on this side in some circumstances as well, and to use a hardboiled example, I _don't_ prefer "motherraping" as a replacement for "motherfucking", thank you very much, in Chester Himes novels).

Ahem.

To return to the point. Advertiser induced changes in magazines, television and movies are the result of a fare-box recovery issue that is obviously not present in books, at least not in the examples given.

"When it comes to non-fiction, say, who’s going to advertise in a book revealing war atrocities our troops committed in foreign lands? Nobody."

Really? I find that a little hard to believe. There are plenty of organizations that are anti-war and would presumably be all over supporting this project -- and I'm betting there are people on the victims' side who might want in, too.

"When it comes to fiction, who’s going to advertise in a James Patterson book in which a character has a live snake inserted up their anus? You think PETA? You think anybody?"

With Patterson's sales, I'm relatively certain that just about anyone in marketing could overcome their own personal objections. The issue would then devolve to whether an organized boycott brought the matter to the attention of someone more squeamish in corporate. In that situation, it'd be handled like all boycotts are: badly. Would Patterson be convinced to remove, the, er, offending, er, passage (sorry)? Could Little, Brown be convinced to stop, er, servicing him long enough to apply pressure to induce a change? No. The ad would be pulled, a clause in the contract would be pointed out and the money would _not_ be refunded. Ha ha ha. The next person on standby for ad space in a Patterson novel would be contacted. Patterson is the world's worst example for this; that man gets to do any damn thing he wants until his books quit moving which will not likely happen soon. The only reason a boycott wouldn't _increase_ his sales is because there aren't that many people left who aren't already buying him. (Even I read one or two before I figured out that I didn't like them and stopped.)

A better example would be someone who had one bestseller and has a second one coming out which people have high hopes for so the advertisers have lined up but there's this one paragraph ... But that's a rare bird; they're on their own.

"The endgame will be: What can’t get ads won’t get published."

And this is the point at which I blink and go, um, I'll just go read some of Konrath's blog for a while. But before I do that:

For fluffy coverage:

http://www.econtentmag.com/Articles/Column/Flexing-Your-Content/Advertising-in-Ebooks-Heresy-or-Genius-77412.htm

(That article is what Spam E-Books Are Coming articles _should_ have been.)

For better coverage (hold your nose, I know it is WSJ):

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703727804576012041836406736.html (headline: Marketers Test Ads in E-Books, date is 13 Dec 2010, author Emily Steel).

Steel makes some good points. Most books move few copies and they do so over a fairly wide time period, making it not particularly profitable and also hard to target ads (altho it might be possible to work around this with technology, as she notes). "many author contracts say the writer has to approve any ads." If authors, as a rule, were easy to negotiate with and inclined to make the most economically profitable decision for themselves, they probably wouldn't be authors (James Patterson excepted, of course).
walkitout: (Default)
I've blogged before about how startled I am that people are willing to admit that they go into physical bookstores, browse for books, then buy them online. On the one hand, hard to imagine a better justification for the Barnes & Noble business model.

Here is a Tacoma newspaper covering the Borders liquidation:

http://www.thenewstribune.com/2011/07/21/1752819/borders-end-to-have-ripple-effect.html

I have no particular complaints about the author or even the coverage, beyond the stunning comment from Simba (and I think Anderson made a plausible decision to include the quote). Forrester's McQuivey says B&N might get 10-15% of Borders former revenue once Borders is gone and the liquidation is over (in the meantime, big sales at all the closing stores is a problem). Then:

"Simba Information senior trade analyst Michael Norris disagrees, saying that a world without Borders might actually decrease sales of e-books since there are fewer places for people who buy e-books to browse and research new titles physically before they buy electronically."

It's just hard to know what to do with such an assertion. On the one hand, I've found a lot of evidence that people _do_ browse physical bookstores but then buy online.

On the other hand, I don't hardly ever set foot in a bookstore anymore -- and I buy more books than ever before.

More relevantly, Amazon's original business model was really simple. Hey, look! People! On the Internet! In growing hordes! Let's sell them something they don't need to feel up to feel okay with buying.

I'll probably add to this if I find a longer piece by Norris explaining the rationale. Anything that looks like that in summary is likely to get even better in detail.
walkitout: (Default)
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-501465_162-20072068-501465.html

Headlined: There's spam on your Kindle! <-- I did not add that exclamation mark. Blame Ysolt Usigan.

The piece has a big screenshot graphic showing a two star The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo wiki content spam (two stars) right below what the person was presumably looking for. The search produced 29 results. The same search in the kindle store now produces 28 results and does not include what is in the screen shot. I'm going to assume that this means Amazon is one the ball (article time stamped June 17, 2011 3:46 PM) NOT that the author created this screenshot in PhotoShop.

Again, while the article is purportedly pointing out a problem to help buyers beware, and to goad Amazon towards some sort of fix, by providing detailed information on a product to help people perpetrate more of this crap (and by explaining the business model which makes it at least marginally rewarding for someone, if only the person selling the product to help people do this), the effect is ambiguous at best.

Apparently, this is what happens when a style editor covers ebooks.

http://www.ysolt-usigan.com/

Welcome to summertime! The journalism just goes downhill from here.
walkitout: (Default)
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/16/us-amazon-kindle-spam-idUSTRE75F68620110616

This Reuters piece by Alistair Barr (who, unless there's more than one of them, seems to write for MarketWatch fairly often) has gotten heavy secondary coverage. I've poked fun at the Amazon (Will) Suffer(s) From Spam!!!! meme before; this is probably the most legitimate attention the meme has thus far collected.

Here is the subhead:

"Spam has hit the Kindle, clogging the online bookstore of the top-selling eReader with material that is far from being book worthy and threatening to undermine Amazon.com Inc's publishing foray."

Does the kindle store feel "clogged" to you? With spam? How about the bookstore in general? Does _anyone_ seriously think that the spam issue poses a "threat" to Amazon? Amazon's publishing arm? The kindle platform?

The next few short paragraphs describe how to engage in spammage on the kindle platform, helpfully supplying a product suggestion: "Aspiring spammers can even buy a DVD box set called Autopilot Kindle Cash that claims to teach people how to publish 10 to 20 new Kindle books a day without writing a word." Not unlike writing an article about vandalism and then telling you the brand of the best spray paint; you sort of have to wonder who this article is really aimed at.

[ETA: Ooooh. Apparently an error ridden description of where to buy spray paint.

http://bozonessinc.ca/2011/06/dear-reuters-re-autopilot-kindle-cash/

So if you were thinking this was a really clever case of guerrilla marketing, it's not.]

There is a brief foray into intellectual property theft (specifically, someone republished a novel under a different name, it was detected and a stop was put to it), which strikes me as largely unrelated to the spam issue -- _and_ a much more serious issue, altho trivially addressable in more or less the same ways we put a stop to people taking manhole covers and selling them for scrap when commodity prices are high.

""It's getting to be a more widespread problem," said Susan Daffron, president of Logical Expressions, a book and software publishing company. "Once a few spammers find a new outlet like this, hoards of them follow.""

http://www.logicalexpressions.com/lebooks.htm

Yes, that seems to be a picture of her up in the corner. There's probably a line between the business Susan Daffron engages in and the spamming that the article (and Ms. Daffron) deplore(s). Probably.

More how-to-do-it follows, this time credited to Paul Wolfe, an "internet marketing specialist".

I'm pretty sure this is Paul Wolfe:

http://www.onespoonatatime.com/an-open-letter-to-jeff-bezos-please-stop-the-kindle-spam

Are you noticing a trend here? I'm feeling like these quotes about spam are coming from people with a really solid interest in protecting their Spam Space from New Spam.

Perhaps the most fascinating (hey, it's a looooowwww bar in this article) bits are about Nook and Smashwords not experiencing spam on the same scale as Amazon. Wonder why that is? "but it might just be that the Kindle's huge audience is more attractive to spammers, Forrester's McQuivey said."

Daffron wants Amazon to charge to upload onto DTP. Otherwise, spammers win and Amazon loses. I can't speak to the spammers, altho it seems real clear that Daffron is losing as long as it's that cheap to publish via Amazon.

It's hard to imagine that Barr is silly enough to not realize that his sourcing on this article has such a profoundly self-serving slant. Hard to imagine, but not impossible. Perhaps he's already on vacation.

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