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Category: Amazon

Did IPG chuck Amazon's tea into the bay?

Bostonteaparty

Independent book distributor IPG is hardly of a size to rival Amazon.com, making its drastic action this week a little bold, or a little crazy. Could its refusal to accept Amazon's new e-book sales terms amount to the publishing industry version of the Boston Tea Party?

Let me back up. Since late last year, Amazon has been asking book suppliers to change some of the terms of their contracts, Publishers Weekly has reported. Although those exact terms have not been revealed, they are, in IPG's view, "unacceptable." That's what IPG's president, Mark Suchomel, wrote in a memo to clients this week.

Industry watcher Publishers Lunch, which was first with the story, notes that IPG is the second-largest independent distributor; it distributes books from more than 400 clients. On Monday, Amazon had removed more than 4,000 e-books from IPG-represented publishers from its site. Amazon was typically reticent to discuss business matters and did not respond to our request for comment.

According to Suchomel's memo, as IPG's contract with Amazon regarding e-book sales was coming to a close, the online retailer presented new, "unacceptable" terms to IPG. After consulting with clients, IPG rejected those terms. Amazon continues to sell IPG clients' print books, but not its e-books.

IPG noted, "This book is available in print or electronic edition at your local independent bookshop, www.BarnesandNoble.com, www.indiebound.org, iTunes, Kobo, and elsewhere. It is not currently available in a Kindle edition."

Like the 1773 Boston Tea Party, this may be the first act of open rebellion -- in this case, of the publishing industry against Amazon's policies.

Continue reading »

Amazon targets Apple's iPad in Kindle ad [video]

Amazon has a new advertisement that lauds the e-ink styling of its traditional Kindle e-reader and the low price of its new tablet, the Kindle Fire. What's the target? Apple's iPad, of course, carried along by a dorky dude. The smart Amazon buyer is a bright-eyed bikini-clad mother of two.

Amazon's point: She bought three Kindles for the price of an iPad.

Gizmodo isn't buying the argument. The technology blog says the Kindle Fire is "significantly less capable" than the iPad, adding, "you're basically making fun of a Lexus for not being a Kia."

Meanwhile, those low-cost Kindles actually cost more to manufacture than they do to buy. Both the $79 Kindle e-reader and the Kindle Fire tablet are loss leaders. It costs Amazon $84.25 to make the $79 Kindle, and the $199 Kindle Fire costs Amazon $201.70. The bikini mom's gain is, literally, Amazon's loss.

Exactly how many Kindles Amazon has sold at this losing rate is uncertain. While analysts regularly make predictions and estimates, Amazon has never released specific sales numbers for its line of e-readers.

Amazon ad-watchers may recognize the bikini mom. Just 18 months ago, she was the bikini girl who bragged that her Kindle cost less than her sunglasses, stirring a brief online controversy. Back then, she didn't have any kids; now they look to be about 10. They grow up so fast when you raise them in a surreal beach-side environment, don't they?

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

 

 

 

Amazon announces millions of Kindle sales. Wait, how many?

Newkindles2011
In what has become a post-Christmas tradition, Amazon released news Thursday that its Kindle e-readers sold big -- really big. In the millions, in fact.

That's more specific than the less-than-transparent online retailer usually gets; in November, a Techcrunch headline noted "Amazon: Kindles Are Flying Off The Shelves (But We’re Still Not Sharing Numbers)." Unlike Apple and other hardware companies, Amazon declines to say exactly how many units of its Kindle it has sold.

Now with the "millions" number, Amazon has gotten more specific, but its Kindle sales numbers are still something of a guessing game. Amazon's press release, while seeming to announce sales figures, leaves analysts chasing tea leaves. It says:

  • Throughout December, customers purchased well over 1 million Kindle devices per week.
  • The new Kindle family held the top three spots on the Amazon.com best seller charts – #1: Kindle Fire, #2: Kindle Touch, #3: Kindle.
  • Kindle Fire is the #1 best-selling, most gifted, and most wished for product across the millions of items available on Amazon.com since its introduction 13 weeks ago.

It's hard to say exactly how well the Kindle Fire tablet is selling. The more-than-a-million-per-week sales figure is not just the Kindle Fire; it includes all the Kindle e-readers, some of which sell for as low as $79.

On the heels of Kindle sales news earlier this month, Jared Newman wrote at PC World:

The company didn't break down sales by device, so we don't know how many Kindle Fires have been sold compared to Kindle e-readers. (Amazon's Kindle Vice President Dave Limp says the Fire is "the most successful product we've ever launched.")

And we still have no idea how many Kindles have been sold to date, or how many have been sold since the latest generation of devices went on sale. I don't think those are accidents or oversights. The company probably wants to avoid direct comparisons between the Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad, whose sales have been mighty compared to other tablets so far. To date, Apple has sold more than 40 million iPads, and the original iPad sold two million units in its first 60 days.

Trying to put those numbers together, Kindle Fire tablet sales might just be competitive with Apple's iPad. But until Amazon releases actual sales numbers, we really can't say.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Amazon's Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Amazon, for the individual images, Collage, Carolyn Kellogg

Amazon updates Kindle Fire operating system

Amazonkindlefire
Just in time for the holidays, Amazon has released an update to the operating system that runs its new tablet, the Kindle Fire. It also updated the Kindle Fire apps for iPhone and iPad. The San Jose Mercury-News writes: "Some consumers and reviewers have complained about the Kindle Fire's performance, with slow Web loading, sluggish touch-screen performance and lack of customization options among the most frequent complaints."

Our Technology blog reports on the update:

[T]he update promises to improve the responsiveness of touch navigation and the speed of actions on the device, such as loading webpages in the Fire's Web browser.

However, the biggest new feature might be the ability for users to edit what shows up in their "carousel" of recent apps and content displayed on the Fire's home screen.

Before the update, a Fire user couldn't remove any items -- books they've read, games and music played, movies watched or websites visited -- in their carousel.

Other user complaints, such as having no buttons to control sound volume, lack of customization, privacy concerns, no camera and lack of 3G connectivity, were not addressed by this week's update.

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Photo: The Amazon Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Armand Emamdjomeh / Los Angeles Times

Michael Chabon, royalty rates and an e-book backlist

Michaelchabon_2010Michael Chabon's two first novels, "The Mysteries of Pittsburgh" and "Wonder Boys," were released as e-books Tuesday. They're being published by Open Road Media, which has offered generous royalty rates to authors and estates for rights to e-publish their backlist titles.

Chabon talked to Associated Press reporter Hillel Italie about how traditional royalty rights affect authors and publishers, and how that might change.

“When it’s comes to royalties on a paper book, that rate (25 percent) is completely fair when you think of the expenses a publisher takes on — the delivery trucks and the factory workers and the distribution chains. But it’s not fair for them to take a roughly identical royalty for an e-book that costs them nothing to produce," Chabon said.

That royalty rate, minus additional costs, applies to his novels "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay," which won the Pulitzer Prize, and "The Yiddish Policemen's Union." 

"I agreed to the traditional e-book royalty, which I think is criminally low, because I didn’t really have any legs to stand on. I didn’t want to get left behind in the e-book revolution," Chabon explained.

What Chabon doesn't say is that the pricing structure between print books and e-books has changed. The 25% royalty he got applies to books sold using a wholesale-retail model, so his percentage was out of the wholesale cost booksellers paid to publishers. With the agency model Apple promoted to sell books through its iBookstore and Amazon agreed to -- which has raised some oversight eyebrows -- the profits are split by percentage. And those percentages leave authors with a smaller nut than ever before.

For the e-book editions of "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" and "Wonder Boys," Chabon will receive a 50% royalty rate. Open Road is selling three other Chabon titles: the short-story collections "A Model World" and "Werewolves in Their Youth" and "Maps and Legends," a book of essays. Chabon was able to seek a new e-book publisher for these books because e-books had not been addressed in their original contracts.

Open Road Media is also the home of the e-book editions of Walker Percy's "The Moviegoer," Hubert Selby Jr.'s "Last Exit to Brooklyn," Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" and "The Confessions of Nat Turner" by William Styron, along with many more.

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-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Michael Chabon. Credit: Seth Wenig / Associated Press

Amazon announces KDP Select for Kindle e-book exclusives

Kindlelendinglibrary
Amazon has announced KDP Select, a program that will use a new funding scheme to compensate authors who make their e-books exclusive to Amazon Kindle for at least 90 days.

The company has announced that in the first year, it expects to put $6 million into a fund that will be paid out to authors when their exclusive e-books are checked out of Amazon’s Kindle Lending Library. The authors will receive a share of the fund calculated by the proportion their books were borrowed compared to the number of borrows overall.

While this pays authors a fee for borrowed e-books, something they haven’t previously been compensated for before, it is unusual to not offer compensation to authors directly for their work. How much an author earns will depend on how much the other authors in the program earn, and the more J. Carson Black earns, the less J.A. Konrath will get.

The participating authors are all part of the Kindle Direct Publishing program. Mystery writers Black, Konrath, Gemma Halliday, and J.R. Rain; thriller writers C.J. Lyons and Scott Nicholson; romance novelists Julie Ortolon, Teresa Ragan and Patricia Ryan; and science fiction author B.V. Larson have signed on.

Amazon’s press release included several statements by authors lauding the program.

“My choice to participate in KDP Select and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library was easy,” said best-selling thriller writer Blake Crouch. “The Kindle Store is simply the best, most effective store in the world for selling independent e-books, and there is no greater champion for independent writers than Amazon.”

“I'm thrilled to be offering my e-books to Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library through KDP Select,” said Lyons, No. 1 best-selling Kindle author of “Borrowed Time.” “I look forward to reaching new readers who enjoy my style of ‘Thrillers with Heart.’”

“I chose to participate in KDP Select because it’s an innovative way to get my e-books in the hands of readers who are new to my work,” said best-selling historical mystery and romance writer Ryan. “If they like what they read, they’ll most likely put me on their to-buy list, and maybe even recommend me to their friends.”

“KDP Select and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library are a boon to readers and authors,” said Konrath, author of the best-selling Jack Daniels mystery series.  “Reading e-books for free?  Sign me up!”

“As a KDP author, I’m delighted to participate in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library through KDP Select,” said Larson, best-selling science fiction and fantasy author.  “Amazon has again expanded the value of their Amazon Prime membership by including access to free e-books, and they have not forgotten their homegrown authors.”

“KDP Select is the best way I know to bring my Jake Lassiter series to a new generation of readers through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library,” said Paul Levine, best-selling mystery and thriller writer. “Once again, Amazon leads the way!”

These authors will be guinea pigs in Amazon’s new e-book experiment. While their e-books are being made available to readers for free in this lending program, they remain for sale at Amazon. Will their sales decline? Will the share of a pool of money make up for the difference? Why offer a pool of money instead of paying authors a set rate?

Perhaps some of that will be known soon. The program has begun, with a planned $500,000 available in the pool for December.

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Image: Screen shot of Amazon's Kindle Lending Library.

Amazon quadruples Black Friday Kindle sales; doesn't share numbers

Newkindles2011

Once again, Amazon has made a big to-do about the volume of Kindles sold, without making public any actual sales numbers. "Best Black Friday Ever for Kindle Family: Kindle Sales Increase 4X Over Last Year," its press release proclaims. "Holiday shoppers made Kindle Fire the bestselling product across all of Amazon.com on Black Friday; Kindle Fire now the bestselling product across Amazon for 8 weeks running -- ever since its introduction on September 28."

So, the new Amazon Kindle is selling well, compared to previous Amazon Kindles. How many Kindles have actually been sold? No one knows for sure, but in the release, Dave Limp, vice president of Amazon Kindle, says: "millions." Our Technology blog writes:

Since the first Kindle eReader was launched in 2007, Amazon has yet to release any specific sales numbers, only ever saying that the Kindle has sold millions.

Likewise, Barnes & Noble has made it a practice of never sharing its specific sale numbers for its eReader or tablet sales thus far. However, the company does say its Nook Color tablet is currently the top-selling Android tablet on the market.

Apple, whose iPad is the top seller in the tablet market, does release its sales figures for top-selling items. Last quarter, Apple said it sold 11.1 million iPads, up 166% from a year earlier. Since the iPad first launched in 2010, Apple has said it has sold more than 39 million tablets.

More Kindles may have been sold because of Black Friday deals being offered on the e-readers and Fire tablet. PC World notes that the Kindle DX was marked down from $379 to $259, a price cut that continues through today, Cyber Monday. Wider availability may also have helped Amazon's devices reach new buyers; in addition to being sold on Amazon, the Kindle can now be found in major retail outlets, including Best Buy and Target.

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Photo: Amazon's new Kindle, Kindle Touch and Kindle Fire tablet. Credit: Amazon, for the individual images; collage, Carolyn Kellogg / Los Angeles Times

New Kindle million-sellers: Baldacci, Hocking & Stephenie Meyer

Davidbaldacci_2010

This week, David Baldacci, Amanda Hocking and Stephenie Meyer joined the Amazon.com Kindle e-book million-seller club. Hocking is the second self-published author to do so. Meyer — who was one of the first five authors to reach half a million — has caught up to the other four. 

Stieg Larsson, author of "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and its sequels was the first author to sell a million e-books. He was followed by James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Charlaine Harris, Lee Child, Suzanne Collins and Michael Connelly. Then self-published author John Locke became the first to sell a million Kindle e-books without the backing of a major publisher. Kathryn Stockett has published only one book, "The Help," and is the only author to sell 1 million Kindle copies of a single title. Janet Evanovich and George R.R. Martin are also Kindle million-sellers.

Counting the new trio of authors announced this week, 14 writers have sold at least 1 million Kindle e-books each. Judging by the New York Times' e-book bestseller list — which includes other vendors in in addition to Amazon — perennial bestsellers John Grisham and Nicholas Sparks might be expected to join the Kindle bestseller ranks soon.

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Photo: David Baldacci in 2010. Credit: Grand Central Publishing

Amazon's new Kindle lending program causes publishing stir

Kindleownerslendinglibrary
Amazon has made it possible for some readers to share ebooks on the Kindle, the company announced with some fanfare Thursday. The new Kindle Owners' Lending Library is available to Amazon Prime members (an annual $79 fee), turning Kindles into a member-supported private library. Amazon announced in its press release:

With an Amazon Prime membership, Kindle owners can now choose from thousands of books to borrow for free -- including over 100 current and former New York Times Bestsellers -- as frequently as a book a month, with no due dates. No other e-reader or ebookstore offers such a service.  With an annual Prime membership, the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library is included at no additional cost.  Millions of Prime members enjoy free two-day shipping,  unlimited streaming of nearly 13,000 movies and TV shows, and now thousands of books to borrow for free with a Kindle.

Amazon's move is causing consternation behind the scenes in publishing. The online retailer had approached publishers about participating in the program for a flat fee -- and many turned them down. Much to their surprise, their books appeared as part of the program anyway. The industry newsletter Publishers Marketplace wrote Thursday:

As publishers and agents have started to realize with exasperation today, a number of titles in the Kindle Lending Library program -- including some of the bestselling, prominently-promoted titles on the program's home page -- are part of this new initiative without the consent or affirmative participation of the publishers and rightsholders. Not only that, but at least some come from companies that directly turned down Amazon's initial offer over the past few months to license a broad selection of backlist for a flat fee. Multiple participants were only told by Amazon yesterday (or found out themselves this morning) that this was happening. How could such a thing be possible, many people are wondering?

Publishers Marketplace went on to explain that the books included in the program are those that were bought by Amazon under publishing's traditional wholesale-retail model. Once Amazon or any other retailer buys a book at wholesale, they can sell it for whatever price they want. The idea, of course, is that the book will be sold for the recommended retail price that comes printed on the book jacket. Most retailers sell books to readers at that marked-up retail price -- that's how bookstores make a profit -- or with some discount. But legally, it can sell a book for 1 cent, if it doesn't mind taking a loss. It can even give the book away for free.

While the terms of agreements with publishers vary -- and are undisclosed -- some of the books have been included for a flat fee. Others are wholesale titles that Amazon buys once and adds to the library. In some cases, it may compensate a publisher each time a book is borrowed from the library as if it were a sale.

"[I]t's awful for publishers and authors," writes Joe Wikert  plainly at O'Reilly Media. Why? Because a flat fee to a publisher isn't compensating authors for their individual work. He'd prefer to see a pay-for-performance model -- which some publishers, or some specific books, are apparently getting.

Amazon has not yet responded to our request for a list of publishers actively participating in the program. We also asked whether any publishers had requested that their books be removed from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, but we have yet to receive a response.

As the story evolves, it underscores just how much Amazon can set the agenda for publishers, particularly when it comes to readers' expectations around e-books. Amazon is a retailer and has its customers' ear -- and eyes, credit card numbers, and shopping and reading habits. All publishers have are books.

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Image: Screenshot of the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.

Amazon offers trade-in program for old Kindles

Kindle_1014

Tired of looking at your old Kindle? Thinking you'd prefer to hold Amazon's new tablet, the Kindle Fire, in your hands instead? Well Amazon is making it easy for early Kindle adopters to trade up by offering trade-in deals for used Kindles.

That's the good news. The bad news is that the trade-in value for the first-generation Kindle, which cost $399, is just $28 bucks. Up to $28 bucks, that is — you might get less if you left coffee stains on the seat, or lost the floor mats, or whatever the equivalent of a slightly damaged used car is for an e-reader.

The trade-ins offered for used Kindles range from $28 to $135; many hover around $40 to $50. That's partly because the price of the new Kindle Fire, which is scheduled to begin shipping Nov. 15, is half that of the original Kindle — just $199. So offering bigger trade-in values would make the newest, most snazzy Kindle practically free.

Which it will be if you decide to trade in your iPad 2 in perfect condition. Amazon is offering up to $330 to those who trade in the latest generation Apple tablet. That's right, Amazon is tempting people who've already bought tablets to trade for one of theirs: the online retailer is offering trade-ins for HP Touchpads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Toshiba, Motorola, PanDigital, ViewSonic, Acer and Blackberry tablets too.

Amazon debuted its electronics trade-in feature in March but only began accepting Kindle trade-ins this week. "No doubt the addition of Kindles to Amazon's Trade-In store is aimed at encouraging customers to buy the $199, 7-inch Amazon Kindle Fire tablet," writes PC Magazine.

Since people who use the trade-in feature get store credit with Amazon, those who want to trade in an old Kindle don't have to buy a Kindle Fire. They could spend their $28 on anything: gourmet cat food, beach chairs or even old-fashioned print books.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A Kindle in April 2008. Credit: Robert Nelson via Flickr

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