Amazon’s Dispute with Hachette drags on

Amazon again, huh? Even though I’m tired of hearing about their shenanigans, I must report what they are up to and how they are affecting the book world.  I believe the struggle of Amazon versus local bookstores will go on for a long time.

Chris Kubica, editor of Letters to J.D. Salinger, met with the biggest minds in publishing to try to brainstorm what the perfect eBook store would look like. Here’s what he said, “…in light of recent events, I am of the opinion that it is time for the world to rise up and form a Rebel Book-Lover’s Alliance, to storm the Amazon Death Star, to use collective force to take back the e-book galaxy.”

Kensington Publishing Corp. revealed that it took 18 months to reach a deal with Amazon. If this is any indication of how long it takes one publisher to settle on a deal, I can only imagine that Amazon’s current dispute with Hachette will drag on and on.

Amazon recently released their last statement in their dispute with Hachette, they pointed out that the $9.99 eBooks sold more copies than the $14.99 eBooks. In fact, the lower-priced books generated nearly 5 times as much revenue as the higher-priced books.

Losses at Amazon and Library Services Swell; Best Bookstores Announced

For current news on the literary world, I bring you a variety of news stories around the country. Even though Amazon is still in the news, I don’t want to focus entirely on them. I want to give attention to other news in the book world. We’ll focus on Amazon, library services and best bookstores today to give you a broad view of what’s going on.

Since Amazon is always in the book publishing world news, let’s take a few minutes to talk about them. Since the Amazon versus Hachette standoff, customers have taken notice of Amazon’s attempt to squeeze profits from book publishers. So now not only are writers irritated at Amazon, so are investors. Amazon announced second-quarter losses nearly double what Wall Street predicted. The article said, “Skepticism is increasing,” said Colin Gillis of BGC Partners. “It’s hard to have $20 billion in revenue and not make any money. It’s a real feat.”

The Digital Inclusion Survey, taken from a sample of public libraries between September 3 and November 30, 2013 is out. Here are some of the results (Results summarized by Shelf Awareness):

  • 98% of libraries provide free public access to wi-fi, up from 89% in 2012.
  • 98% provide technology training, ranging from internet safety and privacy to coding to using social media.
  • 98% provide assistance completing online government forms.
  • 97% provide online homework help.
  • 95% offer workforce development training programs.
  • 56% offer health and wellness programs regarding developing healthy lifestyles.
  • 50% offer entrepreneurship and small business development programs.
  • Average number of computers provided by libraries is now 20, up from 16 in 2012

USA Today came out with a list of 10 bookstores that are thriving despite the threat of Amazon. Independent bookstores continue to live on, even when people predicted their death. Some on the list: Skylight Books in Los Angeles, Calif, Powell’s Books in Portland, Ore. and Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis, Minn.





Social Media Helps Literary Community

I’m tired of talking about Amazon. With this blog, I seem to go on and on about Amazon because it seems to be the biggest thing the book world is talking about. Even though it is still very much in the news, let’s take a break from Amazon and talk about more exciting things that are happening around the country in the literary world. Social media is all around us and it helps authors, publishers, and the literary community communicate with one another. Let’s discuss what is happening on social media for us book nerds.

Salon took out some time to talk about the best literary hashtags on Twitter. Since a lot of authors and publishers are on Twitter, this is important for people in the literary community to understand. #amwriting, #readwomen2014 and #askagent are just some of the hashtags being used. Don’t forget to check out the article to find out the other popular ones.

According to Facebook, customers may soon be able to buy books and eBooks directly from authors on the authors’ pages and newsfeeds. They got this idea when Amazon and Twitter came together a couple of months ago to form an ecommerce solution called Amazon Cart where indie authors could post links to their Kindle Books and readers could use a special hashtag to automatically add the title to their shopping basket. The new Facebook Buy It Now button will allow people to click on ads and page posts to buy a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook. This will allow authors to sell books more directly. Facebook will announce more details when it has completed more beta tests.

Self-published authors, who use Twitter and Facebook to sell eBooks, are seeing real progress in sales. A new report says that self-published authors have surged to 31% of eBook sales on Amazon, and are earning more eBook royalties than writers published by the “Big Five” traditional publishers. But since Amazon does not share their sales data with the public, the report is difficult to substantiate.

Hachette vs. Amazon dispute not likely to end soon

Wow, the book world cannot stop talking about Amazon! They seem to be all over the news in the dispute with Hachette. The book retailer makes things convenient for consumers who can easily get books shipped to them at a low price, but publishers believe that Amazon is only money hungry to fund their new ventures.

The New York Times recently published an article titled Amazon, A Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed. Vincent Zandri, who only publishes through Amazon, was quoted in the article saying “Everything Amazon has promised me, it has fulfilled — and more,” he said. “They ask: ‘Are you happy, Vince? We just want to see you writing books.” But Michael Pietsch, chief executive of the Hachette Book Group, said “This controversy shouldn’t be misinterpreted. It’s all about Amazon trying to make more money.”

Digital Book World also covered the story, getting information from Mark Coker, the CEO of self-publishing distribution business Smashwords. He is an indie author and is rooting for Hachette in its current business dispute with Amazon because he believes that Hachette’s loss now would make it harder for big publishers to switch from the old agency model of selling ebooks.

Digital Book World said that Amazon is offering French customers one centime ($0.014) shipping on purchased books. The “anti-Amazon” law, which disallows much discounting books as well as free shipping on books went into effect this week. While it’s not technically violating the law, Amazon is offering super-cheap options, which will probably force France to amend their laws.

Authors Fight Back Against Amazon; Amazon Responds

You guessed it: the top news in the publishing world is still the dispute between Hachette and Amazon. And since it has gained so much press, Amazon has been forced to respond before any more damage is done to their reputation. Keep in mind that they still have one-third of the market share of the book world, but at least they are now acknowledging that authors, publishers and independent bookstores can have a lot of power if they band together.

Publishers Weekly confirmed that over 300 authors have signed a letter penned to Amazon calling for Amazon to “resolve its dispute with Hachette without hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers.” Author Douglas Preston quickly gained support from David Baldacci, James Patterson and Joseph Finder and was hoping to find just 12 authors willing to sign the petition. Instead the letter went viral and collected over 300 signatures from authors.

Last month, Stephen Colbert challenged viewers to make Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California, a New York Times bestseller by shopping online at Powell’s Books, an independent bookstore. This step by Colbert has put the book in the center of a retail battle as chains and independent bookstores attempt to turn the book into bestseller. Amazon is even getting in on the excitement by placing the book in the Best Book of the Month selection, even though it is not available for pre-order on their site because of the Hachette dispute.

Amazon has added a Senior Manager of Bookstore Programs to their database of open jobs. The job posting says “Amazon is looking for a candidate to develop programs aimed at serving brick-and-mortar bookstores and the customers we have in common.”

Amazon Sentiment Differs Around the World

Last week, I brought you details of the Hachette standoff with Amazon. Over this past week, I’ve been keeping up on news coming out of Amazon and have found that other countries have been embracing or fighting against Amazon’s attempt to take over the world of books. Here’s what I found:

On June 26th, French parliament passed a law outlawing a combined 5% discount and free shipping on books. It is being called the Anti-Amazon law and was created to prevent ecommerce sites like Amazon from putting the independent French bookshops out of business. Just like in the U.S., bookshops have been struggling to compete against sites that offer free shipping and huge discounts.

McGraw-Hill Education has expanded its Boston office to open a new technology hub in Seattle to advance its digital R&D efforts. About 140 new employees will be needed and experts are saying that Amazon employees in Seattle who are burned out might be persuaded to change loyalties and work for a book publisher instead of an ecommerce business.

Amazon has teamed up with Transport for London to offer shoppers a chance to pick up orders from the online retailer at two Tub station car parks. Customers select a locker location when they get to the site’s checkout and are then given a unique pick-up code so they can retrieve their items from the Amazon Locker. Clearly, London is still supporting Amazon and making it easier for customers to get items delivered.



Hachette’s Battle with Amazon Heats Up

Those of you know pay attention to news in the book world are well aware that Amazon has been seen as a bully to book publishers and booksellers in the U.S. Now the bully is becoming a tyrant. Amazon’s much publicized standoff in negotiations involving e-book prices with Hachette continues to gain steam.
The New York Times broke the news about a month and a half ago saying that Amazon has been discouraging customers from buying books published by Hachette. The Internet retailer is marking many books published by Hachette as not available for two to five weeks. Sophie Cottrell, a Hachette spokeswoman, said “Amazon is holding minimal stock” and restocking some of Hachette’s books “slowly, causing ‘available 2-4 weeks’ messages.”

The New York Times later revealed that Amazon has been demanding payment for a pre-order button, personalized recommendations and a committed employee at Amazon for Hachette books. Some books by Hachette authors are being sold at list price instead of the typical discounted price that most other publishers enjoy.

Hachette’s authors, whose sales have gone down, reacted negatively to the delays. Comedian Stephen Colbert went after Amazon by literally giving them the finger. Twice. The comedian is now selling stickers customers can download from his site which say “I didn’t buy it on Amazon.”

The American Booksellers Association have started a campaign to put up signs in independent bookstores saying “Thanks Amazon! The indies will take it from here. Independent bookstores sell books from all publishers. Always.”

I’m curious to see where this fight will end up and who will eventually cave. Let’s support independent booksellers instead of big retailers.


Best Books to Buy for (Belated) Father’s Day

For those of you who completely forgot to get a gift for Father’s Day, there’s still time to show how special your dad is to you.

Esquire writers and editors compiled a list of best books for Father’s Day. The best thing about this particular list is that it features quality literature reaching back to 1960 that teaches men how to be great fathers and what children need from their fathers. Some books are The Road by Cormac McCarthy, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Something Happened by Joseph Heller.

The Telegraph recommends books not just about fatherhood, but about being a man in the 20th and 21st Century in the genre of history, biography, and fiction. Why wouldn’t you want to shower the man who raised you with the written word? Some books mentioned are Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpont, Roy Jenkins: A Well-Rounded Life by John Campbell and Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart.

Last but not least, check out the following books for and by fathers. USA Today recommends the following three books: Unicorn Executions and Other Crazy Stuff My Kids Make Me Draw by Steve Breen, Big Russ & Me: Father and Son: Lessons of Life by Tim Russert, Papadaddy’s Book for New Fathers: Advice to Dads of All Ages by Clyde Edgerton.

Enjoy reading, fathers!

Experts Reveal Summer Reading Lists

If you’re in Fort Collins or elsewhere and a fan of reading, you might want to know what books are gaining attention from critics this summer. You don’t have to wonder too long because experts have sat down and done the hard work for you.

Publishers Weekly is famous for their weekly book picks. This summer they chose Cataract City by Craig Davidson, The Antiquarian by Gustavo Faveron Patriau, Bellweather Rapsody by Kate Racculia, In the Wolf’s Mouth by Adam Foulds, Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch, and The Stories of Jane Gardam by Jane Gardam among others. These books are the perfect companion for a long summer and go well with a glass of lemonade and a hot lazy afternoon in the hammock.

The Journal Sentinel provided a list of 96 books we can add to our reading list this summer. They break it into categories such as Books We’ve Already Liked, Recent Graduates, By Wisconsin Writers, Editors’ Picks, Visiting Writers, Mysteries and Thrillers, Pop Culture, Visually Appealing, Children and Teens, and For Baseball Fans. So follow the Milwaukee Public Library’s advice: “Put a book in your face!”

The L.A. Times outdid other experts and listed 143 books for your reading pleasure. Here are a few books they’ve highlighted: Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian, Brutal Youth by Anthony Breznican, The Lotus and the Storm by Lan Cao, and O, Africa! by  Andrew Lewis Conn. Enjoy reading this summer!


Reactions to the Death of Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou, author of “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings”, died Wednesday May 28 at the age of 86.  Leaders all around the world had something to say about Angelou. President Obama said:

“Over the course of her remarkable life, Maya was many things — an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer. But above all, she was a storyteller — and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking — but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their rainbow amidst the clouds, and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.”

As well as being a writer, Angelou also was well known as a poet, actor, singer, and civil-rights activist. She changed politics and American culture. Celebrities around the U.S. also reacted to her passing on Twitter. Rihanna changed her Twitter avatar to Angelou’s face and Beyonce quoted Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” on Instagram.

Others reacted emotionally on Twitter and told of how Angelou had changed their lives for the better. Ryan Seacrest quoted Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands; you need to be able to throw something back.”

Rest in peace, Maya Angelou. Your words brought much wisdom and change to the world.