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Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

10 Months In, A Tepid Response to the Sony Reader

The Sony Reader may have arrived with serious splash ten months ago, but as Business Week reports, reviews of the tiny handheld book-reading device have been tepid at best, and Sony has consistently declined to release sales figures, which just might tell you something. Many users say they are unhappy with the interface (too many buttons and not intuitive) and complain that books for the Reader can only be purchased at Sony’s online service, Connect. Less than a tenth of the titles on the shelves of your average Barnes & Noble or Borders are available at Connect. Lisa Phillips, a vice-president at Random House Direct who received her Sony Reader as a gift last December, is turned off by Sony’s closed system. “An open format where you could go to different places and not just use their system would be helpful,” she says.

So Sony has decided to roll out with a few bells and whistles, especially on the marketing front. The price has been cut by $50 and Sony is offering new buyers, who are also registered Connect users, credit for 100 free classic titles, such as GREAT EXPECTATIONS and MOBY DICK. “In terms of timing, with people going back to school, there is a lot of interest in classic literature,” said Jim Malcolm, director of marketing for Sony Electronics. “It gives people an incentive to buy.” They also plan a more targeted approach to travelers instead of the broad-based campaigns of old. But will it work? With Amazon fast approaching with its own reader, Kindle, Sony might be left behind – or the battle for e-book readers’ eyeballs may rage for quite some time…

God Losing to Skeptics in Battle for Book Sales

Since Richard Dawkins‘ THE GOD DELUSION and Christopher Hitchens‘ GOD IS NOT GREAT have been big sellers the past year (not to mention Sam Harris’s books) it’s no wonder the Guardian’s David Smith has picked up on Amazon‘s report that sales of books that explore religion or spirituality have grown by more than 50 per cent in the past three years. Amy Worth, books manager at Amazon, said: “THE GOD DELUSION has been one of the bestselling books of the past year. People are interested in the debate it has sparked. There are 524 readers’ comments on our site. The comments are both pro and against and it’s clear that religious people are buying it.”

Lest you think atheists and agnostics are winning completely, sales of THE GOD DELUSION also prompted a 120 per cent increase in sales of the Bible.

New Website Instantly Tracks Meaningless Amazon Rankings

Are you an author who checks your book’s Amazon ranking obsessively? Do you not care that such rankings account for maybe 5 percent, tops, of total book sales? Then Aaron Shepherd‘s Sales Rank Express, a website that lets authors check their Amazon rankings instantly, is for you. “People want to know where their book stands, just for the thrill of that score,” said Shepard to the NYT’s Lyndon Stambler. Shepard’s own top seller, THE BUSINESS OF WRITING FOR CHILDREN, clocked in at 1,834th during one random check of Amazon last week, and at 2,070th during another one. He says it sells 250 to 450 copies a month.

How nice. But then Amazon rankings only have limited meaning in terms of guaging a book’s popularity or after some new review, controversy or exposure. When Susan Patron won the Newbery Medal in January for THE HIGHER POWER OF LUCKY and a controversy erupted over her use of the word “scrotum,” sales also rose – something she’d never thought about till then. “s a writer, I can’t be too concerned about that,” she said. “If it’s not the number you want, how hard is it to return to the keyboard? I just need to be writing the next book.”

Big Gains for Amazon in Q2

Today Amazon announced its results for the 2nd quarter ending June 30, 2007. Net sales increased 35% to $2.89 billion in the second quarter, compared with $2.14 billion in second quarter 2006. Excluding the $46 million favorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales grew 33% compared with second quarter 2006. Operating income increased 149% to $116 million in the second quarter, compared with $47 million in second quarter 2006.

Net income increased 257% to $78 million in the second quarter, or $0.19 per diluted share, compared with net income of $22 million, or $0.05 per diluted share in second quarter 2006. “Our strong revenue growth this quarter was fueled by low prices and the added convenience of Amazon Prime,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “More and more customers are taking advantage of Amazon Prime and we’re pleased with the acceleration in subscriber growth this quarter.”

Are Book Clubs Ruining the Reading Experience?

It’s a controversial (albeit familiar) stance that any type of book club from Oprah to Richard & Judy encourages homogeneity, which is why the Sunday Herald’s doom and gloom article about whether book clubs are, in fact, “ruining” reading and publishing leaves me feeling more than a little skeptical, even if there are many good points made. “People were initially very sniffy when Richard and Judy announced plans for the book club. They thought it would be about promoting trash fiction,” said publishing commentator Danuta Kean. “But Amanda Ross recognised that people were interested in literary books as well as more commercial ones and the list is a great mix. That can only be a good thing.”

The problem is, Kean explains, “as soon as they saw its effect, publishers started looking for books that would be selected for the Richard and Judy list. They are also looking for a recommendation from Waterstone’s and to be the hot pick on Amazon.” And now that Tesco is teaming up with Random House for its own book club, the cries of commercialization are growing louder.

Even R&J-picked author James Robertson, author of THE TESTAMENT OF GIDEON MACK, has doubts. “The downside is that if someone goes into a book shop and buys the books that Richard and Judy have recommended, perhaps they won’t buy other titles,” he says. “There is no doubt that there are winners and losers in this. That’s something I feel slightly disturbed by. There is a sense that it is very much about corporate dealing.” Cathy Kinnear, manager of an independent bookshop in Glasgow’s west end, concurs. “The book clubs are not about giving people choice,” she says. “They are actually narrowing it. We can offer recommendations that are targeted at our customers, bearing in mind local preferences rather than picking out a few books for the whole nation.”

July Relaunch for Borders Site

Direct Marketing’s News Blog reports on Borders‘ plans to relaunch its website and take direct responsibility for its e-commerce activities instead of outsourcing it to Amazon. In doing so, the struggling book retailer will come a lot closer to building a multichannel platform from scratch than most merchants with well-established brands will ever get the chance to do so. “A big part of [it] is cross-channel – starting to bring the power and benefits of the different channels together,” something Borders couldn’t do before, said Kevin Ertell, vice president of e-business at Borders, Ann Arbor, MI to DMNews.

Borders being in the position to launch a proprietary site for the first time in years “is a big deal because their customers are beginning to change and demand more consistency across channels,” said Tamara Mendelsohn, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, MA. Once the e-commerce element comes online starting in July, Borders hopes to be able to integrate its customer loyalty program, customer service, fulfillment and analytics across channels. The only exception will be its in-store point-of-sale system. “We see the Web site as much more than just a store,” Ertell said. “It’s a brand vehicle, a merchandise vehicle, a marketing vehicle, a customer relationship tool and a customer research tool, all brought together to provide a better experience for our customers and a better relationship with our customers.”

Amazon Buys Brilliance Audio

First reported as a “credibly sourced rumor” by Shelf Awareness earlier this morning, Amazon announced that it has acquired Brilliance Audio, the largest independent audiobook publisher in the US, from owners Michael Snodgrass, Eileen Hutton and a private equity group, for undisclosed terms. Publishers Marketplace further reports that as part of the audio expansion, Amazon’s subsidiary CustomFlix will now support both standard CD and mp3-CD audiobook formats in its “disc on demand” service–the equivalent of print-on-demand manufacturing for audio titles. Greg Greeley, Amazon’s vice president of books, notes the audiobooks field “continues to see good growth in the indsutry and great growth at Amazon,” even thought “there isn’t a full breadth of selection.”

The purchase is particularly notable because it’s the first time Amazon has acquired a traditional media company that licenses intellectual property. Brilliance Audio will continue to operate independently under the Snodgrass’s leadership and its operations will remain in Grand Haven, Michigan.

Harry Potter and the Continuing Price Wars

The news is surprising, even a slap in the face to hear, but wholly unexpected. The Times reports that HMV boss Simon Fox has warned investors that the seeming cash cow known as HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS is really far, far from that. Even though Waterstone’s had already sold nearly as many by preorder as were sold in total of the sixth Harry Potter book, because Fox said it was vitally important for the bookstore chain to offer the book at a competitive price – and so Harry 7 will be on sale for 8.99 pounds, roughly half the cover price – it would be “hard to make money”. Fox added that “if we try to be anything other than half price we are setting the Waterstone’s brand off as high price and that’s something we are trying to change.”

Fox’s comments reflect the fears of Kate Swann, the chief executive of WH Smith, and Philip Downer, the retail director of Borders. “Harry Potter will help sales but looking at the current offers we are not expecting it to help profits,” said Swann, while Downer added that “[July 21] will be a terrific evening of parties and events but we don’t expect to make any money from Harry Potter. The book will be available more cheaply from the supermarkets who treat it as a loss leader.” As the high street prepares for a Harry Potter price war with the supermarkets and online stores such as Amazon, which is already offering the book for 8.99 pounds. Asda and Tesco will deliver the Bloomsbury publication for 12p less, plus postage and packing. The retailers admit that the preorder price may fall to a 55 per cent discount closer to the publication date.

Amazon Reverses Downward Spiral

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that Amazon has turned around a two-year slump, saying that first-quarter profits more than doubled from a year ago to $111 million, or 26 cents per share, thanks to healthy electronics and apparel sales. Analysts had forecast a profit of 15 cents per share. The Seattle-based company also predicted rosy sales growth of up to 31 percent to $14 billion for the year, even though many brick-and-mortar retailers have predicted an upcoming sales slowdown because of rising gas prices and a sagging housing market.

By significantly besting profits of $51 million, or 12 cents per share, from the same period last year, Amazon ended a string of eight consecutive quarters in which the company’s profits had declined from the previous year.Amazon’s earnings news, which came after the markets closed, sent its shares soaring more than 12 percent in after-hours trading to touch $50.30, a new 52-week high on the Nasdaq Stock Market. “It was a great quarter. Things have been on the uptick,” said Dan Geiman, a retail analyst with Seattle-based McAdams Wright Ragen. “After being in the doldrums for a while, they are making a comeback.”

Amazon Kills Plogs, Embraces Blogs

So you know how if you want to look up when a book’s coming out on Amazon, several of those pages are now accompanied by the authors providing their own personal blog entries (which are often copied from their own sites or Myspace pages)? Well, as of this week, that feature – known by the even more awkward name of “plog” – is no more. Instead, as Amazon’s editors write, the feature has been replaced by Amazon Daily, which unlike the Plog, is available to all Amazon visitors, whether you’re signed in as a recognized customer or not. And instead of Amazon doing the personalizing, now it’s up to the user to decide. On the surface, it seems a good move that might get Amazon’s users to interact with the site even more, but it’s very much a work-in-progress – just what the company’s parroting at the moment…

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