Amazon, Apple to end audiobook exclusivity: EU

BRUSSELS–European Union antitrust regulators on Thursday said they welcomed a move by Inc. to end exclusivity obligations for the supply and distribution of audiobooks between the e-commerce giant and Apple Inc.

The European Commission, the EU’s antitrust watchdog, said the exclusivity obligations required Apple to source only from Amazon’s unit Audible and also required Audible not to supply other music digital platforms besides Apple’s iTunes store.

The agreement between the two companies, which was struck Jan. 5 2017, will improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe, the EU said.




Amazon and Netflix want to control the market for deep, edgy indie films, too

Amazon is upping the ante at the Sundance Film Festival this year.

The e-commerce company, which scored its first Golden Globe film award for Manchester by the Sea, a title it picked up at Sundance last year, plans bonuses of up to $100,000 for two-year streaming rights to this year’s official Sundance selections. That’s in addition to royalties, according to Deadline.

The incentives are an extension of Amazon Video Direct, a program that feeds entertainment content into Amazon’s streaming-video platform, Prime Video, by allowing creators to upload videos directly.

Streaming technology has made it easier than ever for independent filmmakers to reach audiences. But it’s also introduced new competition, making it harder for small films to get noticed. Getting a film on Amazon or Netflix, however, gives filmmakers a built-in audience, one that is both big and small.

“These new players came in and disrupted the market and it’s great,” said Joana Vicente, executive director of the Independent Film Project in New York, a non-profit that helps independent filmmakers to navigate production and distribution. “There’s hope for independent film.”

Vicente cautioned, however, that landing a major deal with Amazon or any other distributor at Sundance is still like winning lottery. Smaller filmmakers, she said, should be strategic about their options.

Prestigious, independent titles, meanwhile, have helped solidify Amazon and Netflix’s standings as serious players in the film industry. Movies like Manchester by the Sea and Netflix’s Beasts of No Nation have captured the type of awards buzz and critical recognition that put those same companies on the map in the TV genre. And all of that begets more talent and viewers.


Amazon and Netflix want to control the market for deep, edgy indie films, too

Amazon heads deeper into brick and mortar with books

For a company that long eschewed the brick-and-mortar world, Amazon is opening a lot of bookstores these days. It’s got three up and running, in Seattle, San Diego and Portland, and says five more are coming.

The profits from eight or even 80 bookstores are hardly a rounding error for the Seattle behemoth. So why is it busily building physical locations when for the last 22 years, it’s had a laser focus on online commerce?

The answer, say experts, is that these retail spaces are far more — and far less  — than just bookstores.

“I don’t think Amazon even realizes what they have at this point. This is just a test,” says R.J. Hottovy, an Amazon analyst with the investment company Morningstar.

Amazon declined to elaborate on its plans.

Many see them as experimental platforms by a company that has never been afraid to try out new ideas and just as importantly to ruthlessly prune away the ones that don’t work. It’s a strategy made possible because Amazon shareholders seem fine with allowing it to forgo profits at times in order to learn for the future.

On the one hand the stores are the proverbial clean, well-lighted space for books, but they also constitute “cheap learning” for the company, said Mike Shatzkin, founder and CEO of Idea Logical Company, a publishing industry consulting company.

“The PR value and the educational value are huge, and there is the possibility that they will arrive at retailing formulations that can scale and provide a big payoff,” he said.

A couple of themes seem to be emerging.

The stores are using books to bring in an educated, relatively affluent stream of customers who then are exposed to Amazon’s electronic offerings such as the Echo, Kindle, Fire tablet and Fire TV. They’re prominent in a display and play around with space in each that’s instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent time in an Apple store.

“These stores effectively are a showroom,” Morningstar’s Hottovy said.

To a certain extent the books are once again Amazon’s “entry drug,” just as they were in 1995 when the company first opened and sold only books, said John Mutter, who writes the bookstore industry newsletter Shelf Awareness.

They’re also a physical advertisement for Amazon’s profitable $99-a-year free delivery and extras Prime program. The bookstores feature a two-tier pricing system. Amazon Prime members pay Amazon’s online price for books while non-Prime customers pay the list price, typically 10% to 30% more.

In the future, the bookstores might also become an extension of Amazon’s existing logistics footprint, a convenient place for consumers to pick up items they’d previously ordered, or drop off items they are returning, suggests Hottovy.

It’s a model Amazon’s been successful with on college campuses, building popular pick-up and return outlets at at least 11 schools in the United States.

“That’s giving them the blueprint and maybe the chance to replicate that model,” he said.

Getting a read on the market

The first Amazon bookstore was opened in the company’s own backyard, in Seattle’shigh-end University Village. The outdoor mall is close to the University of Washingtonand features both an Apple and a Microsoft store. That store opened in November 2015 and was followed in September 2016 by a second in San Diego. This, too, is in an upscale mall next door to a Tesla dealership and featuring a nearby Apple store, and close to the University of San Diego.

The most recent addition came in October in Portland, Oregon, at the Washington Square Mall. It’s one of the largest in Oregon and contains Apple, Microsoft and Tesla stores.

The pace of openings is increasing. Amazon has so far announced five more stores coming, in Chicago, New York City, Dedham and Lynnfield, Mass. and Parmus, N.J.

While there have been suggestions that Amazon may be considering opening as many as 2,000 bookstores around the country, it’s a number Hottovy finds unlikely. But dozens and even hundreds are entirely possible once the model proves itself, he said.

No threat

To actual booksellers, the Amazon stores don’t pose much of a threat — yet.

The stores don’t offer the degree of personal bookselling and quirky stock aspects that make bookstores attractive to those who love getting lost in the aisles, said Idea Logical’s Shatzkin.

On the other hand, “they’re massive, well-resourced, and innovative. And because of their large self-publishing efforts, they actually have access to more unique book titles than anybody else on the planet,” he said.

But despite the potential numbers of titles available to them, they’re not actually that well-stocked, which to Mutter is the saving grace for independents.

“The Amazon Books stores continue to carry a relatively small number of books compared to traditional bookstores. For a serious reader who wants to browse, they’re not very satisfying,” he said.


Why Amazon Has Launched A New Credit Card For Prime Users

Recently, Amazon launched a new Prime Rewards Visa Cardwhich will give its Prime customers a 5% discount on all their purchases on Amazon. Additionally, customers will also get rewards at other places where they shop using this card including restaurants, gas stations and drugstores. With no annual fee and other benefits such as no foreign transaction fees and travel protection, this card is likely to delight Amazon’s existing Prime customers and attract more Prime members.


While Amazon Prime members can already earn a 5% discount through its store card issued by Synchrony, the new card is a Visa card which can be used anywhere. According to a note published by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, customers owning Amazon credit cards spend the highest on its platform. Their average annual expenditure exceeds that of Amazon Prime members by 16%. We believe this new card is Amazon’s attempt to entice its Prime members to spend more on its platform and, with the lucrative rewards it offers, it could prove effective in meeting this goal.

Given that Amazon credit card holders spend the highest on its platform, the company is looking at ways to expand its credit card consumer base. CIRP estimates that approximately 15% of Amazon’s U.S. customers have any one of Amazon’s credit cards, representing approximately 21 million customers. However, growth of its card base has not kept pace with its growing Prime membership. In June 2016, it was estimated that Amazon has around 63 million Prime members.


Assuming that only Prime members have an Amazon credit card, it would mean that only a third of its Prime customers have one of its credit cards. According to a survey by Morgan Stanley, Amazon Prime members spend about 4.6 times more money on its platform than non-prime members. Its credit card holders spend even greater amounts than what Prime members spend. By enticing its prime customers to own its credit cards, Amazon will be encouraging them to spend more on its platform. Its latest card is aimed at attracting Prime customers by offering deals not only on but on other shopping destinations as well. This can lead to higher spending by existing Prime customers and help convert the fence sitters into Prime memberships.


Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is suing Hawaiians because btw he owns land there

Mark Zuckerberg is suing hundreds of people in Hawaii in his effort to create a secluded island.

The billionaire spent $100 million purchasing 700 acres of land in the island of Kauai back in 2014 and is still dealing with the fact that he doesn’t actually have the exclusive rights to all of it.  

Sounds nasty, right?

The lawsuits, filed in Hawaii’s state Circuit Court on Dec. 30, are looking to identify local people’s claims to land within the area he owns — the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Wednesday — to force a sale of those properties. 

Zuckerberg is leveraging Hawaii’s “quiet title” law, which allows rightful ownership of land to be decided before a judge. If co-owners do not agree to terms, the land can be auctioned. 

News of the lawsuit came out shortly after reports indicated the CEO added about $5 billion to his fortune in the first two weeks of this year, so you can take a quick guess at who would win in an auction. 

Hawaiian law = not so breezy 

As Hawaii was once a kingdom, laws over land ownership are quite complicated. In 1850, the Hawaiian monarchy allowed private ownership of land, called kuleana land, where parcels could be bought and then would be passed along to future generations. 

Therefore, one acre of land can be part-owned by hundreds of Hawaiians. 

“It is common in Hawaii to have small parcels of land within the boundaries of a larger tract, and for the title to these smaller parcels to have become broken or clouded over time,” Keoni Shultz, partner at Cades Schutte LLP and a lawyer on behalf of Zuckerberg, wrote in a statement emailed to Mashable

“Quiet title actions are the standard and prescribed process to identify all potential co-owners, determine ownership, and ensure that, if there are other co-owners, each receives appropriate value for their ownership share,” the statement continued. 

The process is fair, by Hawaiian law, but it isn’t easy for native owners. If a judge decides on an auction, it’s clear who will win out. 


The Indie Authors Guide to Amazon Book Reviews

Many indie authors are obsessed with Amazon reviews, and rightly so. Love it or hate it, Amazon is a massive book buying hub and a place where self-published books can get reviewed alongside traditional titles. Reviews on the site can give your book legitimacy, make you look popular (or not), and tip the scales for buyers browsing your page. If you’re on the fence about prioritizing Amazon reviews, my advice is to do so.

That said, there is some lingering confusion about how reviews on Amazon are handled. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Amazon started cracking down on nepotistic reviewsin 2012, which may seem unfair to some authors. Additionally, it can be hard to understand what triggers the removal of a perceived nepotistic review. My advice is to tell would-be reviewers to be transparent. If they know you or have a relationship with you, they can say so in the review. This transparency seems to work, and Amazon largely lets those reviews stand.



  • If you do get a negative review, refrain from responding to the reviewer in the comments section. Do not defend yourself or your book. Engaging only shows that you can be baited. The best thing to do in these cases is to click the “no” button next to the question following the review that reads, “Was this review helpful to you?”


  • Amazon legitimizes “verified buyers” when they write a review. And while some authors think that readers must have a verified purchased to review a book on Amazon, this isn’t true. Your readers can buy your book anywhere, and need only be transparent in the review about where they purchased the book — even if they admit to having received the book for free, which is often the case with NetGalley reviewers, who regularly post their reviews on Amazon.*


  • Don’t be afraid to ask people for reviews. If someone sends you a nice note about your book, write back and ask them to place their compliment on Amazon. One blog post I read suggested straight-up emailing top reviewers with a review request. This requires guts beyond what I personally have, but I admire those authors courageous enough to approach perfect strangers and ask them to review their work.


  • Use Amazon reviews in your marketing materials. Once you hit a number worthy of sharing, you can write things like, “My book has 75 Amazon reviews,” and quote people’s praise for your website and marketing materials.


For the time being, Amazon is king. It’s where authors go to monitor their book’s success, and it’s where readers to go browse and buy. Authors should use Amazon to their advantage, but also keep in mind that Amazon is not the only game in town. So yes, rack up those reviews, but make the most of other aspects of promotion, too. And remember to include multiple buying options for your readers when you promote your book.

*Reviews from Publishers Weekly are licensed by Amazon and automatically appear on a book’s page under professional reviews.


Despite What You Heard, the E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

Over the last year, we’ve been talking to writers like A.G. Riddle who have been making a more than comfortable living selling e-books directly to readers on Amazon. That’s why it’s always seemed a bit strange to see media accounts reporting on the shrinking market for e-books.

News outlets like The New York Times report that e-book sales continue to slip, which is true if the data only covers part of the market. Reports from the Association of American Publishers has data from 1,200 publishers. They are the largest publishers, but they are also losing market share.

E-book sales never declined, according to a presentation yesterday at Digital Book World in New York City. In fact, if anything, we don’t yet have an adequate way to estimate how much the market segment has grown.

In back-to-back presentations from from the data site Author Earnings and publishing tech firm Overdrive, it became clear that “unit sales” may not be the best way to measure the size of the book market. In more and more ways it’s becoming clear that there are additional ways for writers to earn money than by readers buying whole books or even buying books at all.

Author Earnings estimates that 485,538,000 e-book units were sold in 2016. 

Author Earnings makes estimates of all the sales on Amazon. “There are 20,000 unique publishers who show up in that dataset,” Author Earnings’ anonymous Data Guy said during his presentation at the conference. Amazon guards its information carefully, but Author Earnings has been able to crawl the online retail giant’s author rankings and estimate both relative and total sales of books, both print and digital. It corroborates its estimates using real sales data privately shared with the site by large authors.


Despite What You Heard, The E-Book Market Never Stopped Growing

How to make a lucrative living as a self-published author: Everything you need to know

RACHEL ABBOTT gives us her top tips on how to self-publish your novel. Retiring early to start writing, she was rejected by publishers, so did it herself. She is now a best-selling author making a lucrative living on her own terms.

As a successful businesswoman running her own interactive media company for twenty years, Rachel Abbott was always on the go. When she took early retirement, she adored the idea of waking up in the morning with the words ‘relax in the sun’ the only item on her To Do list. But she soon decided to put her spare time to good use and finally turn the idea at the back of her mind into the novel she always hoped to write.

When she had finished the book, Only the Innocent, Rachel sent it out to a number of literary agents. Most replied politely saying they liked it but couldn’t see a market for it, and some didn’t respond at all.

“At that point, I put the book on the back shelf. Then one rainy day in September 2011, I discovered that it was possible to publish independently through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP),” Rachel tells Express Online.

Only the Innocent hit No. 1 in the UK Kindle Best Seller charts in February 2012, outselling titles from many established authors. It was one of the best-selling products across the whole of during the first three months of that year.

“Every day was a thrill seeing the sales grow and it changed my life by giving me the most unexpected sense of community. It has opened up a whole new world for me really; I get lots of emails and tweets from people who have read the book and from other KDP authors who are all really supportive, giving me a new group of friends,” Rachel adds with a smile.

“I’m loving every minute of it.”

Only the Innocent is now available in print through Amazon’s print on demand service, CreateSpace, which Rachel describes as ‘a doddle to use.’  Rachel also published her second book, The Back Road, on KDP and CreateSpace in the UK in March. It has been firmly entrenched in the top 100 ever since then.

Now Rachel tells us how she did it and give her top tips for what and what NOT to do.

From how to actually get published to what to do when people post vicious reviews (tip: NEVER respond) she tells us all we need to know to become a self-published author.

How long have you been self-publishing and how many books have you published?

I published my first book in November 2011 and my fourth book just two months ago in February 2015.

Did you intend it to be a substantial income when you started?

Not at all. I had an ambition to sell a thousand copies when I started, and then – when I could see the potential – I decided that I had to focus more on the marketing. But I never really expected to make money from it. That’s a real bonus.

Did you show your writing to friends and family first? Was that nerve-wracking?

It’s always an incredibly difficult the first time you ask somebody to read your work because you do want people to be honest with you, but at the same time you are really exposing yourself, your thoughts and possibly your inadequacies to those closest to you. I loved the fact that so many of my family really enjoyed my first book – which gave me hope that it might be a reasonable read – while at the same time getting some more critical feedback about the writing from the more discerning readers (such as my mother!) which proved really helpful.

What was the hardest part in writing and doing it all yourself? 

The first book is hard to write whether you end up being traditionally or independently published, but after that I think the biggest issue for independents is the fear that they can’t write another book that people will like as much as the first one.

I now have editors, a publicist, a jacket designer, much the same as a traditionally published writer, and I’m fortunate to get the support and encouragement I need from my agent. But for people who are just starting and perhaps can’t yet afford all the help, it can be a lonely job.

What tips would you give for things people should and should not do when self-publishing?

I don’t think I would ever tell somebody not to do anything. Different strategies work for different people, and although some people are keen to suggest that there are ‘rules’ we should all follow, I think we each have to find our own way. What they should do, however, is decide at the outset what success looks like to them, because it isn’t the same for everybody. Some people just want their book to be out there – they don’t care about sales. Others want great reviews, or perhaps a high chart position is more important to them then a high level of profitability. Until each individual has decided what he or she would consider to be a success, it’s impossible to define a strategy to achieve it. So, first define what success looks like, and create a strategy that you believe will help you to get there.

Have you ever had to deal with unkind or unpleasant criticism in readers’ comments? And do you have any advice on what to do if that happens?

I think every writer gets the odd bad review – even the best books in the world have some one stars. My advice would be to read all bad reviews. Decide whether it’s a ‘real’ review (some people just like to attack anybody who is successful, and it’s usually fairly obvious because they actually don’t appear to know anything about the book) and if it is real, decide whether the things they don’t like are justified or not. If they are, take it as a hint for your next book. But never, ever respond to criticism.


McKinsey: Automation could save $16 trillion in wages

  • Realizing automation’s full potential will require people and technology to work together, according to a new McKinsey Global Institute report.
  • The report, which was based on scenario modeling, predicts physical tasks “in highly structured and predictable environments, as well as data collection and processing” will be the first to be automated. But those jobs make up a little over half of activities in the economy, accounting for almost $2.7 trillion in wages, so the effects could be dramatic.
  • The firm also acknowledges almost all occupations — both blue collar and white collar — have potential for some automation, which could result in a savings of about $16 trillion in wages.

Dive Insight:

Its clear automation will affect the enterprise in coming years, but putting numbers to those changes is challenging. Meanwhile, McKinsey estimates automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4% annually. But when it comes to replacing workers altogether, McKinsey estimates that could only work in less than 5% of occupations.

Ultimately, however, all types of jobs will see some automation. Earlier this month, Fukoku Mutual Life Insurance said it is replacing some human insurance claim workers with an artificial intelligence-based system from IBM.

Ultimately, McKinsey predicts, workers will have to adapt for automation and perhaps learn new, more complex skills that they then perform alongside machines. It will therefore be more a matter of better assisting machines rather than being replaced by them.

In an interview with Bloomberg during the DLD conference in Munich, Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella agreed that AI and automation should help people use their time better.

“The fundamental need of every person is to be able to use their time more effectively, not to say, ”let us replace you’,” Nadella said.

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