As you may've heard, Ama - er, um - SPECTRE recently put forth an offer to independent booksellers to become part of their 'team'. The gist of it is that we can sell their gizmos and their e-files and get a slice of their action for a period of two years. Here's their press release on the deal.
Amazon is offering a 6% discount on wholesale purchases of Kindle devices and up to a 30% discount on accessories. That means a KF HDX would cost a bookstore $216. Amazon will then give them a 10% commission on ebooks sold (and only ebooks sold, not apps, movies, music, audiobooks, or ebook rentals). Given that the upper limit selling price for a trade ebook is around $15, they’re looking at a maximum of $1.50, but with average prices in the 6 or 7 dollar range they’re looking at chump change in commissions.
Also, because of Amazon’s proprietary DRM, the bookstores can’t sell their own ebooks directly to try and get more of the pie.
The second option is to forgo the commissions in exchange for a 3% increase on the margin for the devices. Yeah… $7.50 isn’t going to convince anyone.
The thing is that people running independent bookstores aren’t stupid. For them to survive in the current state of the physical book selling market means that they’re actually probably very business savvy. So they are going to be able to see right through the smokescreen here. Business Insider summed it up perfectly: “Amazon has a plan to get indie bookstores to kill themselves”.
In every respect this is a terrible ripoff, especially when Kobo is offering a much better program through the ABA." [We here at SMB are part of the Kobo program.]
The New York Time's David Streitfeld asked JB for his thoughts on this and he's what he sent back:
I can't help but see this as a misleading attempt to counter the in-roads that Kobo has made with readers and fans of independent booksellers. Recently, we've read of Amazon shutting down part of its publishing due to a lack of success and profits (and stories about how Amazon itself is still not profitable). Something about this move has a feeling of retreat.
This release really doesn't provide much info. What's the discount that they're offering to booksellers on their gizmos? If independents can't make much money on the sale of the devices, they're at a disadvantage - selling the competitor's hardware, enriching the competitor, and not making much in return. There's also the issue of how an independent's customers get to the place to order they e-books. Are our customers just clicking on link on our website that then takes them to Amazon's? All that means is that they're selling independents the opportunity to become a new set of portals to funnel customers to Amazon. We help Amazon grow its business and, in return, we get a thin slice of the sale? That's not cooperation; that's being willingly complicit in your own execution.
“We are not enticed in the least by the latest ‘offer’ from Amazon. It’s a dagger disguised as an olive branch – the latest effort by Amazon to gain traction with indie customers and loyalists.”
—Lissa Muscatine, Politics and Prose, DC
“Hmmm, let’s see. We sell Kindles for essentially no profit, the new Kindle customer is in our store where they can browse and discover books, the new Kindle customer can then check the price on Amazon and order the ebook. We make a little on their ebook purchases, but then lose them as a customer completely after two years. Doesn’t sound like such a great partnership to me.”
— Carole Horne, Harvard Book Store, MA
“If past experience is any indication, Amazon is not doing this to be sweet to indies.”
— Dorothy Massey, Collected Works Bookstore, NM
and our personal favorite -
“They can go fuck themselves.”— Sarah McNally, McNally Jackson Books, NY
David Bolduc, owner of the Boulder Book Store, Boulder, Colo., called participation in the program "sleeping with the enemy. If anyone thinks Amazon is going to do you a favor, you better have someone walking behind you so you don't feel the stab. Their whole entire business model is predatory.... I don't see any possible way to live in the same ecosystem as Amazon. They don't want anybody else. They want to be the go-to source for everything in the world."
For me, it's a Main Street issue," said Anne Holman, co-owner of the King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, Utah. "If I sell their Kindles after everything they've already done to indie bookstores, where would I be? It's about more than just bookstores: it's about the bike shop across the street, it's about the restaurants.... And it's not just the booksellers they've put out of business, it's the electronics store down the street, it's the other small businesses. I like our small businesses ecosystem and want it to flourish."
Sheila O'Reilly, owner of Dulwich Books in London, told the Bookseller: "I think I would search my heart and find that morally I just couldn't stock the Kindle. I know Amazon employ lots of people in this country but they also have head offices in Luxembourg and Ireland for tax avoidance reasons and I couldn't ignore that. If it was more of a level playing field between Amazon and independents, then maybe I would think about it, but it isn't."
David Dawkins, manager at Pages of Hackney bookshop in East London, said Amazon "has made a point of aggressively diverting people's habit of using the high street. The company has made it clear that is what they want to do and I would be very surprised if this signals a change in policy towards independent retailers and the high street. I also wouldn't want our customers to think that we were doing trade with 'the bad guys.' I think we may lose quite a lot of respect if our customers thought we were sleeping with the enemy."
~ Last month, towards the end of October, Ama - er, um - SPECTRE announced that it was raising it's minimum amount an order needed to achieve to get free shipping from $25 to $35. Whether this was to recoup some revenue due to the policy, or to drive people toward their Prime service whereby the customer pays upfront for a membership and then is enrolled to get services whether they use them or not, is anyone's guess. (Free shipping on all orders is one of the services.) Either way, they're moving to do less for free and to use their pervasive computer systems to make suggestions to people so that they'll buy just a little more to get up to the now higher free shipping total.
~ SPECTRE announced a joint plan with the United States Postal Service to provide Sunday delivery.The Postal Service plans to use flexible scheduling to do this and says it will hire no new employees, though we've seen nothing about what this will cost in payroll. Is SPECTRE going to eat these charges or are they to be passed along to their ordinary consumers (Prime members will pay no shipping charges for Sunday delivery)?
~Then there is the inexplicable phenomenom of SPECTRE being a massive, worldwide outfit that still makes little to no profit for its stockholders, an anomoly on Wall Street.
Derek Thompson wrote in The Atlantic in October"Defenders say Amazon is trading the present for the future, spending all its revenue on a global scatter plot of warehouses that will make the company indomitable. Eventually, the theory goes, investors expect Amazon to complete its construction project and, having swayed enough customers and destroyed enough rivals, to “flip the switch,” raising prices and profits greatly. In the meantime, they’re happy to keep buying stock, offering an unqualified thumbs-up for heavy spending.
But this theory assumes a practically infinite life span for Amazon. The modern history of retail innovation suggests that even the behemoths can be overtaken suddenly. Sears was still America’s largest retailer in 1982, but just nine years later, its annual revenues were barely half those of Walmart. “The economic countryside is littered with the carcasses of companies that thought they had a [durable] competitive advantage,” says Alex Field, an economic historian at Santa Clara University. “Just look at BlackBerry or AOL.”
Amazon is not as insulated from its rivals as some think it is. Walmart, eBay, and a bounty of upstarts are all in the race to dominate online retail. Amazon’s furious spending on new buildings and equipment isn’t an elective measure; it’s a survival plan. The truth is that the company benefits from a beautiful but delicate tautology: Amazon has won investors’ trust with a reputation for spending everybody to death, and it can spend everybody to death because it has won investors’ trust. For now."
Benedict Evans wrote this past August, "Equally, the problem with saying 'we can't tell from outside how Amazon is really doing, but it will become profitable, just wait and see' is that you could be waiting for ever without ever knowing if you're wrong."
Eugene Wei is one who thinks SPECTRE's business model is genius, that in this model short-term profits are not the point and are unimportant. Which business model is it that he approves of? The original one where there were to be no warehouses at all, that everything would be done in the great flowing river of the internet, where it would have no physical presense, no stock, no stockers - just office workers sitting at computers and sending customers' orders to manufacturers. Is that the genius business model, the one that was ditched long ago?
Oh - in case you were wondering if we were going to become part of SPECTRE's continuing efforts at Global Domination...
Who hasn’t had an animal they identified with, or described
someone else by the traits of one? So I thought it would be fun to show four
characters from MALICIOUS MISCHIEF as the animals I believe they would most
identify with. I hope you’ll agree. ~Marianne Harden
RYLIE KEYES: The
heroine of MALICIOUS MISCHIEF, 1st in the Rylie Keyes romantic
mystery series, is a budding PI. Rylie is also rather unlucky in love and
somewhat flaky in the job department. But heart, she has lots. She laughs. She
shares hilarious adventures with her sidekick Solo, and she’s playful. So much
cuteness in one redheaded package, you’ll see. So I perceive Rylie as a kitten.
No one controls a kitten. By their sweetness, they push their love on us. We
take it, gladly. We can’t help it. They’re just that cute.
NAMULAU’ULU: Awed and anxious over a troubled world, Solo is a Samoan circus-bike
riding wannabe. Sadly, the downpour of not living up to his mother’s career
expectations swamps him, but you won’t know it. He’s so funny. He’s so kind. Of
course, his great size amazes people. They can’t fathom why he rejected the
NFL. “It’s professional football, man!
What’s wrong with you?” Nevertheless, their irritation doesn’t faze Solo.
He still feels the sharp claws of guilt after hurting a quarterback during a
high school game. No, this gentle giant never wants to harm again. So to my
mind, Solo is a placid humpback whale.
TALON: You won’t be able to doubt the depth of his feelings for Rylie, but
you’ll know he’s hiding something. Everyone has secrets and his are big ones.
He walks a road of mystery because he must. But he’ll take steps, anyway, to
win your trust, and even use the quiet melody of his charming Scottish accent to
rope you in. It is, of course, important for some people to lie wait and
watch—and hunt. So I see Talon as an eagle, even his name supports this belief.
OFFICER ZACH O’NEIL:
I wish I could tell you how much Zach grieves killing a man in the line of
duty. And now, a hush of his own life has fallen upon him. Still his eyes of
friendship never leave Rylie’s face, yet there is something besides buddy-love
in that gaze. Rylie knows it. Rylie shares it; the safety of someone
trustworthy demands no less. Thus, these two will face Zach’s troubles
together, just as they tackled together the complexities of their childhoods. And
somewhere along the way, they’ll confront their true feelings for each
other—one way or other. So for the big brother he was to Rylie in their youth,
and for the tortured guardian his is to her now, Zach is a German shepherd.
Marianne loves making people laugh. True, she should probably
spend time on an analyst's couch, but she’d rather spill loads of fun into her
books. She’s rarely at a loss for words, which is wicked cool for a writer. And
it would be poppycock to say she didn't laze away her wonder years dreaming of
Over the years, she’s traversed the insanely fun back roads of
Australia and New Zealand, trekked the wildly exotic landscapes of Asia and
Africa, soaked up the blistering Caribbean sun, survived bitter Arctic cold to
witness the Northern Lights, and lost a wee bit of her heart to the awesomeness
Her goals in life are simple: do more good than harm and someday
master the do-not-mess-with-me look. She roosts in Washington State with her husband
and two children.
This is the novel that I've been aiming for my whole life. I didn't really understand that until early last year when I wrote my memoir.
I've been preparing for this book, researching it physically, since I was a child, when the family would holiday in Filey and Hunmanby and Scarborough.
In my teens I'd take day trips to Robin Hood's Bay. In my early twenties, I was living in Hull, a depressed (and depressing) industrialised city on the river Humber (the southern boundry line of Deira, which became part of Northumbrian). For a holiday, my partner and I went north up the coast, to Whitby.
The first thing I saw at Whitby was the ruined abbey on the north cliff. I didn't wait to unpack but climbed the hundred and ninety-nine steps with my gear on my back. It's difficult to describe how I felt when I first stepped across the threshold of the ruined abbey. It was a though the history of the place punched up through the turf and flooded me. It was like swallowing the world. I knew my life had changed, I just didn't know how.
After that, every year, sometimes twice a year, I visited Whitby. I walked the coastline. I roamed the moors. I spent hours at the abbey. I started picking up brochures and leaflets and imagining how it might have been long, long ago. Even after I moved to the US, I would come back once a year.
On one visit to England, I picked up a battered 1959 Pelican paperback edition of Trevelyan's A Shortened History of England. I started reading it on the plane on the way back to Atlanta (where I lived until 1995). I read about the Synod of Whitby and, frankly, don't remember the rest of the flight. This, I thought, this Synod, was a pivot point in English history.
Two or three years later, I stumbled across Frank Stenton's Anglo-Saxon England. And I was off. For the last ten years I've been groping my way through ever more modern scholarship. I've been reading bilingual versions of Old English and Old Welsh poetry, absorbing the latest translations of Isidore's Etymologies, thumbing through translations of Bede, thinking, thinking, thinking. Dreaming in the rich rolling rhythms of another time and place. This is the most exciting project I've ever embarked upon. It's changing my world.
Thank-you Nicola for letting SMB republish your blog post! To read more of Nicola's blog, click here or for a blog dedicated to Hild, click here.
Do you ever have the insane urge to match your drink to your book? Like drinking Ginger Ale & Bourbon when reading Phillip Marlowe? Or pouring yourself a scotch when Sam Spade does? Sipping Pappy Van Winkle (bourbon) while watching Longmire and Lucian Connelly play chess?
Well we have found an interesting beer to match up with the hardboiled detective genre....
P.S. We are not selling beer in the shop.....this was just too cool no to share!
We at SMB strive to keep you fully informed about books we love, and one of us...well, fell on her sword to see how the A to Z, the Penguin Drop Caps series collection of 26 unique hardcovers—featuring cover art by type superstar Jessica Hische (who evidentially is a pretty cool chick in the art & design community) -- really looks. And the answer is: FANTASTIC!
The pictures on the website and in catalogues didn't seem to do these edition justice, so the shop's unnamed Jane Austen fan purchased a copy (well another, or specifically her 8th version) of Pride And Prejudice.
pictures don't do the edition justice (but are a bit better than the
website's versions), the colors are more vivid and the paper is good
quality and weight, the binding is cloth and there is no dust jacket.