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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Penguin Random House Announces New Library Marketing Initiatives

Source: http://goodereader.com/blog/digital-library-news/penguin-random-house-establish-unified-marketing-group-for-libraries

By Nicole Lamberson

Penguin Random House is working to strengthen its efforts with libraries in a series of moves this month aimed at increasing its already dominant presence.

Library Journal reported that Penguin Random House announced a new Adult Library Marketing Group, fusing Penguin and Random House’s operations. Though the two companies merged in July 2013, adult library marketing efforts have remained separate. President of Sales, Jaci Updike, wrote that by streamlining its marketing operations, Penguin Random House “will be ramping up our already extensive outreach efforts to libraries nationwide with our innovative marketing programs.” The new marketing group will ensure an integrated effort and that the process for libraries will be a smooth transition.

The article noted that libraries will likely see a “stepped-up energy,” and that both companies have had a history of commitment to libraries – Random House “has long been a model for trade publishers in library marketing,” and Penguin brings “far more [books] than its competitors” to the American Library Association’s annual conference.

News of its new marketing group is not the only library related news for Penguin Random House this month. The company announced a new partnership with BiblioCommons to expand its eBook offerings. BiblioCommons describes itself as “the only software vendor to focus exclusively on the online experience of public library patrons.” The agreement will make more than 38,000 titles available to BiblioCommons acquisitions platform. Vice President and Director of Library Marketing and Digital Sales, Sales Operations for Penguin Random House, Skip Dye, stated that working with BiblioCommons helps “public libraries play a new role in the discovery” of their titles and authors.

These steps show a concerted effort by Penguin Random House to continue strengthening its relationship with libraries. It also shows the importance libraries still play for publishers. It’s an essential market in increasing discovery and gaining new readers, and Penguin Random House is making sure to stay ahead of the pack.

“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

Print Continues to Rule the World of Higher Education

By Kate Leboff

Half of Americans own an e-reading device, up from the 30% that owned one in 2013; in 2012, President Obama wanted to get e-textbooks into every classroom by 2017; and Florida lawmakers have mandated that public schools convert textbooks to digital versions. Despite the surge of technology, e-books, and “digital natives,” in recent years, evidence published in 2015 shows that, at the very least, the vast majority of students at colleges and universities around the world still prefer print to digital.

A slew of news reports have announced that after extensive studies and surveys of college students are in favor of reading their assigned readings – textbooks, journals, novels etc. – for courses in print versus on screen.  One survey of 500 active college students, taken by Direct Textbook, a comprehensive textbook price comparison service, found that 72% of students prefer print textbooks to e-books.  A study at the University of Washington found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks, even when those books were offered free of charge. I can sympathize. When purchasing the textbooks for the first two courses of the GW Publishing Program, I decided to purchase  the print version of the title, The Book: A Futurist’s Manifesto, despite it being offered online for free.

In January of this year, Naomi S. Baron published Words Onscreen: The Fate of Reading in a Digital World, in which she discusses “how technology is reshaping our understanding of what it means to read. Digital reading is increasingly popular. Reading onscreen has many virtues… Yet, Baron argues, the virtues of eReading are matched with drawbacks.” – from the Oxford University Press.

In her book, Baron also completed a survey of more than 300 college students in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and Slovakia, finding a nearly university preference for the tangible textbook versus its digital version. A startling 92% of students said they concentrated and comprehended more when reading a hard copy versus on a cell phone, tablet, e-reader, or computer. However, it seems that the format and medium on which these college-age digital natives are reading for pleasure, “light reading,” does not matter as much. In children and adolescents, though, it seems that reading print versus digital books is on the rise as 65% of 6 to 17 year olds would prefer “real” books to e-books, an increase of almost 17% from 2012.

In 2014, 87% of textbook sales were print editions while only 9% of the market were comprised of e-book purchases. With the leftover 4% being made up of file sharing.

The biggest issues, as outlined by Baron in her book, are students getting distracted, finding themselves multitasking and taking breaks to surf the internet more often, and the eye strain, headaches, and physical discomfort that accompanies reading on screen for hours at a time. 90% found themselves multitasking when reading onscreen than those reading the hard copy versions.

Some other reasons that have been cited as to why students prefer print textbooks to e-books included: Print textbooks are easier to read, they like the physical effort of annotating what they are reading, some print textbooks are cheaper – buying used, e-books are difficult to navigate and bookmark, they do not require internet access, professors do not allow laptops or tablets in class, the availability of e-books can be limited, and students seem to often print out the pages of online and e-book readings anyways.

The students who like to read digitally versus having the tactile, physical experience referenced the fact that e-books are often cheaper, are lighter and searchable, are environmentally friendly, e-readers allow adjustable print size and brightness, text can be converted to audio, and these can often be used with apps.

In the end, it seems that, at least for now, print textbooks rule the world of higher education.

One student, Cooper Nordquist, a student studying political science at American University, commented that, “[he] couldn’t imagine reading Tocqueville, [the 900 plus-page, “Democracy in America”], or understanding him electronically. That would be just awful.”

Another commented that “You just get distracted. It’s like if I finish a paragraph, i’ll go on Tumblr, and then three hours later you’re still not done with reading.”

Sources: 

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/direct-textbook-72-of-college-students-prefer-print-over-ebooks-300135561.html

http://campustechnology.com/articles/2015/09/01/survey-most-students-prefer-traditional-texts-over-ebooks.aspx

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/why-digital-natives-prefer-reading-in-print-yes-you-read-that-right/2015/02/22/8596ca86-b871-11e4-9423-f3d0a1ec335c_story.html

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120765/naomi-barons-words-onscreen-fate-reading-digital-world

http://www.zmescience.com/research/technology/people-prefer-books-over-ebook-042432/

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

Academics are being hoodwinked into writing books nobody can buy

How to books get into academic libraries? Photograph: Bob Handelman/Alamy
How to books get into academic libraries? Photograph: Bob Handelman/Alamy

By Stacy Masucci

A scary piece in The Guardian speaks to the value of publisher mission statements.

This article describes the experiment of an anonymous professor who had repeatedly been contacted by a publisher to write a book for them. After seeing bad experiences for his colleagues, he finally decided to play along and see what the company had to offer.

What he experienced was tarnishing to academic publishing. This particular publishing house specializes in high volume (75 titles per AE yearly), high price ($100-$200 per title), low sales (~300 units to libraries only) and the books published generally disappear to a storeroom in the library after having been buried and unseen on the library shelves for a year or so.

Even worse was the acquisition editor conversation that is described in detail in the article. It shows a lack of interest in 1) the author and his research; 2) the field; and 3) the success of the title. Three very important factors of academic publishing.

I can only wonder what the mission statement of this company is, if they even have one, and if so, was it was ever shared with the editor?

Paper vs eBook: What the Statistics are Saying

Paper Versus eBook: What the Statistics are Saying

     Book of the Future

       Ever since Kindles and iPads hit their high in 2010, talk of the death of paper books has increased exponentially. But is paper really on such a dramatic decline? The numbers for 2014 book sales indicate the opposite, and trends in 2015 largely say the same. Nielsen BookScan, a technology that tracks what readers buy, concluded that the amount of paper books sold in 2014 increased by 2.4% from the year before.

Supposedly paper books were done for in 2012, when sales “hit rock bottom,” but the recent spike in sales tells a story of a resilient and long-lasting format for readers. Several studies have been conducted on the productivity of eReaders, and most indicate that comprehension increases when one reads from a paper book. It is much easier to quickly scan over a page of an eBook, causing comprehension to “[take] longer and [require] more effort to reach the same level of understanding.”

True to their first love, bibliophiles everywhere advocate for paper books, adamantly proclaiming that nothing compares to the feel, heft, or smell of a book. In fact, for many people, “the physical act of opening a thick cover and listening to the whispered crackle of spine and page is part of the enjoyment.” It isn’t just the feel or the smell that entice paper-book-fans worldwide, though; actually owning a book, a physical, tangible copy, holds a kind of magic that a list on one’s Kindle inventory cannot. Recently, the Ryerson study found that more readers believed eBooks as more temporary than physical books, perhaps due to the fact that an author or publisher can remove an eBook from the web without warning.

However, eBooks and digital readers are not going extinct either. Rather, they seem to be forming a peaceful coexistence with paper books, one where readers can choose the method by which they receive content. Because of this, both readers that prefer paper books and readers that prefer digitized content have access to published works. It seems as though publishing is heading toward a “paper-and-pixel” future.