The Amazon Books Experience

Amazon opened it’s first brick and mortar bookstore in Seattle on Nov. 3, 2015. Located in University Village, an outdoor shopping center across the street from the University of Washington, the location has been described by reviewers as both “unimpressive” and “bizarre.” Amazon has built it’s brand on being the “go to” location for anything and everything consumers could ever want— an unending, virtual megastore, but the first physical location of an Amazon store seems to be anything but. Rob Salkowitz of Forbes referred to the small bookstore as “more Waldenbooks than Barnes & Noble.” The first reviews are reporting that the store, which claims it has hired professional, qualified booksellers to “curate” it’s shelves, is lacking in selection and offers a strange variety of what appears to be excess stock.

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Even stranger still is the way customers are made to shop in the store. There are no prices listed for any of the books or merchandise; the customer must scan a bar code using the Amazon app on their smartphone (if they don’t have the Amazon app or a smartphone, a bookseller will scan it for you). All the shelf tags contain the star ratings and snippets of reviews that you would see when shopping online, but absolutely no pricing information. When asked why the process of browsing for books is made so difficult for the customer, Amazon explains that its prices may fluctuate and they want to ensure that they are offering the same price to every customer, the one that is listed on Amazon.com.

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In his review of the bookstore Salkowitz asks a question that I’m sure most Amazon Books shoppers were left asking themselves: If you’re going to open a physical location of an already massive online bookstore, why open such a crappy one? His answer hits the nail on the head… Amazon Books doesn’t care about selling books. Instead of titling this post “The Amazon Books Experience” perhaps “The Amazon Books Experiment” would have been more appropriate.

By requiring shoppers to price scan using their Amazon app anytime they’re interested in a book, the customer is unwittingly sending Amazon their shopping habit information, preferences, and history, along with all their personal information. All this data is being tracked by Amazon’s massive cloud data service. So maybe Salkowitz is right, maybe this tiny brick and mortar bookstore born from it’s megaparent, Amazon.com, isn’t really a bookstore after all, but the physical location of Amazon’s experiment in blending physical and digital commerce. Very sneaky, Amazon, very sneaky. Let’s hope this isn’t the future of all of our retail shopping experiences— where our movements, histories, and data are tracked at every turn. Let’s hope that Amazon retires back to the web where it belongs soon, and that another monopoly on the way we shop hasn’t just been born.

Check out Salkowitz’s article here:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/robsalkowitz/2015/11/04/amazons-retail-store-has-nothing-to-do-with-selling-books/

***Heather Hickox earned a Bachelor’s in English at Middle Tennessee State University and is currently pursuing a Master’s of Professional Studies in Publishing at the George Washington University. Her writing has been published in several editions of Collage: A Journal of Creative Expression and VSA TN’s 40 Days Around the World. Heather is a Writing Facilitator for The Carnegie Writers, Inc. in Nashville, TN.

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“Hooked” on a New App for Short Fiction

By Rebecca Winterburn

Telepathic Inc., a narrative technology company founded by Perna Gupta and her husband, Parag Chordia, released a new app this week called Hooked. Hooked features young adult short fiction meant to be read on an iPhone or Apple Watch.

Each book is approximately 1,000 words and is designed to be read in a few minutes. They are told through dialogue that appears on the screen like texts; new messages appear as readers click through.

Gupta describes her app as “Twitter for fiction” and likens it to Bram Stoker’s Dracula,  told entirely through letters.

Writers for the app were recruited through MFA programs and received what Gupta describes as “competitive” pay. For now all of the content is from screened contributors, but the goal is that users will eventually be able to submit their own content. The app is rated 9+ for infrequent suggestive themes, mild horror, and occasional crude humor.

At the moment there are over 200 stories available with more being added daily. They are grouped according to “Channels” (categories) like “Love As Deep,” “Dark & Stormy,” “Primal Terror,” and “Android Dreams,” among others.

Hooked is free to download and users receive one free story per day. They also offer a subscription service that enables readers to access more stories. The price for one week is $2.99, one month is $7.99, and a year of unlimited stories is $39.99.

While writing 100,000 pages of a sci fi fantasy trilogy, Gupta was inspired by the “technology of reading” to stop writing and create the app. It was the possibilities of new innovations in reading that drove her to begin working on new tools for modern readers.


Sources

http://money.cnn.com/2015/09/19/technology/hooked-reading-app-prerna-gupta/

https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/hooked-0-0/id1024818709?mt=8

Geolocating: A new book sales technique?

chelsea-state-bank-2It’s coming down to the generation of the iPad; the generation that is constantly “plugged in” on multiple screens. The question plaguing publishers, and the industry in general, is how to keep the focus of these screen-generation kids, and even their parents long enough to get them to read. Or better yet, to sell them the book, even if it’s the digital version.

According to Book Business geolocating beacons may be an answer. Utilizing a technique that uses a low frequency Bluetooth signal, you can alert smartphones within a certain distance about products, events, etc. Business Insider estimates that in 2014, about eight percent of retailers were using these beacons, but that at least 85 percent will have them by the end of 2016.

This offers a huge opportunity for book publishers. They can market to users who are passing by a book that may be relevant to their needs, a travel guide perhaps? Or alerting them to a new release, an old classic, or even just reminding them that the store is having a sale or an event. The downside, is that the receivers of this alert will have to download the app. FourSquare for book purchasing!

Information needs to be voluntarily received, which means the downside is that if people aren’t downloading the app – it won’t be useful. But for the users of the app in 2014, after a three month study, 60 percent of the users interacted with the alerts and opened them while 30 percent of them redeemed the alert.

This could be a new marketing technique for publishers in the near future.

 

Source: Book Business Magazine