Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Is Intelligent Debate Breaking Out in the Amazon Hachette Media Circus?

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 03:29 PM PDT

5643512352_c616288897[1]As an inveterate media watcher, I have long become accustomed to the fact that – in the book industry echo chamber – the most strident voices talking about this story are generally lined up against Amazon.

Happily, the same cannot be said for the rest of the media. Will O’Neil, author and guest blogger here on The Digital Reader, has been tracking the fallout of a piece which was published in The New Republic late last week. He’s found three columns which call into question the arguments which Franklin Foer made in his piece in TNR, and I’d like to share them with you (along with Barry Eisler, making 4 pieces).

Now, I had read Foer’s piece last week but ignored it (I prefer jokes which are actually funny). This, for example, sets the tone:

Shopping on Amazon has so ingrained itself in modern American life that it has become something close to our unthinking habit, and the company has achieved a level of dominance that merits the application of a very old label: monopoly. 

That term doesn’t get tossed around much these days, but it should. Amazon is the shining representative of a new golden age of monopoly that also includes Google and Walmart.

Barry Eisler, on the other hand, responded with a thorough fisking of that premise:

Holy shit, "Amazon is a monopoly" doesn’t get tossed around much these days?! Did Foer even read the George Packer piece he cites in his own article, in which Packer repeatedly plays the "Amazon is a monopoly!" fear card? Has he ever heard of the "Authors Guild" or "Authors United," each of which has repeatedly, explicitly, accused Amazon of being a monopoly? Has he read David Streitfeld in the New York Times, or Laura Miller in Salon? I’ve seen countless posts with titles like, Amazon: Malignant Monopoly or Just Plain Evil? I've seen op-eds in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, all peddling the same tired, tendentious fear-mongering line about Amazon being a monopoly. Seriously, just Google "Amazon Hachette Monopoly" and see what you come up with.

He goes on from there to vivisect Foer’s piece and leave the carcass twitching on the ground. It’s a fun read, but Eisler’s not the only one to turn his attention on Foer’s arguments.

You might want to sit down for this next bit.

Joe Nocera penned a response for the NY Times yesterday. Yes, that paper.

While he freely admits that he wants Hachette to win (gotta admire him for his honesty) Nocera still takes time to demolish Foer’s arguments. What’s more, he ends his column with the single most succinct statement why Amazon is so hated in certain circles:

Let's be honest here: The intelligentsia is focused on Amazon not because it sells pinto beans or toilets, but because it sells books. That's their business. Amazon is changing the book industry in ways that threaten to diminish the role of publishers and traditional ways of publishing. Its battle with Hachette is a battle over control. It's not terribly different from the forces that ultimately disintermediated the music business.

I’m not sure if that explains Streitfeld, but it does explain why a lot of the book world hates Amazon. That retailer is a threat to the status quo, and that scares many.

That fear has led to overstatements Amazon’s influence and market share, leading some to call Amazon a monopoly. Alas, as Vox explained on Friday, Amazon has far too much competition for that claim to pass muster:

In the sale of physical objects it faces fierce competition from the likes of Walmart (whose market capitalization is still worth about $100 billion more than Amazon’s), Target, Home Depot, Ikea, the Gap, and other major retail chains. In the sale of digital goods it faces fierce competition from Apple and Google. It is true that in some of these markets Amazon has a rather dominant market share. But having a lot of the market is not the same as having a monopoly. A monopoly needs to involve a lack of choice and some kind of barrier to entry. Everyone gets their e-books from Amazon because they’re just as cheap as Apple’s e-books, but they work on a much broader range of devices. But if Amazon started offering an inferior e-book product to Apple’s, then customers could and would switch.

Gee, I wonder where I have heard that before?

Well, I have pointed out related facts in the past, but also NY Magazine made a similar argument in their rebuttal to Foer’s piece. Yes, not one but two MSM publications are using facts to refute an ant-Amazon screed:

Moreover, Amazon faces fierce competition from traditional retailers, taking but a tiny slice of the $4.5 trillion overall retail pie. Amazon is about the same size as Target, sales-wise, and a little smaller than Kroger. All three get dwarfed by Walmart, which generated about half a trillion in revenue last year. And in strategic areas where Amazon has set its sights on growth — like same-day delivery and cloud computing — the company also faces fierce competition from well-funded rivals, as my colleague Kevin Roose has noted.

I don’t know about you, but I find the responses to the piece in The New Republic reassuring.

That was a particularly egregious offense against reason, making it the equivalent of low hanging fruit, so it was an easy target for rebuttal. But the fact that 3 different publications bothered to respond tells me that the anti-Amazon alliance is not nearly as strong outside of the book world as it is inside.

As I (and many others) have said before, most of the anti-Amazon coverage is merely preaching to the choir. The rest of the congregation is listening to someone else, and until Hachette and its media allies start getting the attention of said congregation the media campaign is not going to have nearly the impact that they think it does.

image  by misko13

The post Is Intelligent Debate Breaking Out in the Amazon Hachette Media Circus? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

$65 Window Tablets Discovered at a Hong Kong Trade Show

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 04:36 PM PDT

ployerMike Cane has found new Windows 8 tablets that may force me to reevaluate what is too cheap of a price to pay for a tablet.While digging through Chinese gadget sites, he uncovered a couple new tablets which are just now being shown off at the HKTDC.

With prices starting at $65, these tablets are probably too good to be true, but they also represent a new milestone and a new threat to budget Android tablets.

The Emdoor EM-I8170, for example, sports a 7″ display with a screen resolution of 1024 x 600. It runs Windows 8.1 on an Intel Bay Trail Z3735G quad-core chip with 1 GB RAM and 16GB internal storage. There’s no info on the cameras or other specs, but PadNews does say that this tablet costs 399 yuan, or about $65.


If that cost $35 more it would make for decent price and specs for an Android tablet, but at $65 I would mainly buy one out of curiosity – just to see whether it was any good.

The same goes for the 8″ tablet which Ployer is showing off at the fair. This tablet also runs Windows 8.1, only this time on an Intel Bay Trail Z3735F chip. Details are still scarce on this tablet, but one source is saying that it will cost $65.

There’s no word on when or even if these tablets will show up in the US, but there is a snowball’s chance in hades that we might see them early next year. As I look back over my archive I see that a $99 Windows tablet first showed up in China in July, followed by the first $99 Windows tablet being announced in late September (from HP, to be exact).

If that trend holds true then we could see a $70 Windows tablet launch in the new year – possibly even at CES 2015.


The post $65 Window Tablets Discovered at a Hong Kong Trade Show appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Adobe Responds to ALA on Spying Scandal With Fictitious and Misleading Statements

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 11:04 AM PDT

15210482706_9293f1e1a3[1]The American Library Association reported yesterday that Adobe has responded to the ALA’s concerns about the recent revaluations of Adobe spying on users.

You can find the AlA’s press release here, but the short version is that Adobe is still claiming that sending a user’s reading logs in the clear met the standards of Adobe’s privacy policy. Adobe also continues to pretend that they weren’t also scanning user’s libraries and uploading that info as well.

That last bit has been independently confirmed, a fact which renders Adobe’s continued use of misleading statements as out and out deceptive. Their claim that they only tracked a user’s current reading info has been proven to be false, and yet they stick to it.

While some might argue that tracking a user’s current reading info is a reasonable activity, there is simply no justification for Adobe to scan a user’s hard disk, as I initially misreported the story.

As it turns out, Adobe didn’t actually scan my HD. Instead they scanned the ereader which I had not realized had happened to be plugged in at the time that I was running Adobe DE. I did not authorize that scan, nor did I activate that ereader to use Adobe DRM, and yet Adobe still scanned it and part of my ebook library and uploaded that data to Adobe’s servers.

There is no justification to scan an attached ereader without permission. While Adobe might claim that the data was “collected for purposes such as license validation and to facilitate the implementation of different licensing models”, that simply does not make sense for a device which had not been authorized with Adobe’s DRM.

But on the plus side, at least Adobe is now promising to encrypt their spying. They’re not promising to stop it but at least now no one will be able to listen in.

That mans that we won’t have to worry – not until the next time that Adobe is hacked and user data is leaked to the web. 38 million users were affected the last time this happened, including ebook users.

I feel real safe with Adobe’s plan to use encryption, don’t you?

image by osseous

The post Adobe Responds to ALA on Spying Scandal With Fictitious and Misleading Statements appeared first on The Digital Reader.

French eBook Trade Group Finds Pirated eBooks on Scribd, Outrage Ensues

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 03:15 PM PDT

scribd[1]A relatively new digital publishing trade group in France is making a name for itself this week. Le Groupement pour le développement de la Lecture Numérique, or GLN for short, has released the results of a two month long study of Scribd.

Much to no one’s surprise, GLN discovered that the cloud storage service was hosting pirated ebooks. They report, via Actualitte, that they found 400 titles from French authors which had not been uploaded or licensed by the author or publisher.

Pardon me for being underwhelmed by this story, but all cloud storage services have this issue, and Scribd in particular has a bad name in the publishing industry. They have a history of hosting pirated ebooks, and even though Scribd has taken steps to limit the piracy this is a problem which I don’t see going away any time soon – not without shutting down the service entirely.

scribd-piratage-ebooks-idboox[1]And since we can’t make the problem go away, GLN is advising that authors search for their work on Scribd and pursue the usual steps to get it taken down. In the US that would involve sending a formal DMCA complaint, which should probably also be a workable option for French authors (Scribd is a US company after all).

For some reason GLN doesn’t advise that authors send a DMCA; instead they have detailed a series of steps an author should take. In short, they involve complaining to Scribd, and should that not work expanding the  email blast to include Google, Apple, and Scribd (this threatens the Scribd apps for Android and iOS).

Google has removed ebook apps in response to similar DMCA notices before, so this move will definitely get Scribd’s attention,  but if it does not then GLN advises that an author pursue legal action.

Is anyone else puzzled why this group is not advising authors on how to send a DMCA notice?

I would think that would be a basic skill they would want to promote. Given how many sites are hosted in or do business in the US, I was under the impression that most are prepared to accept a DMCA notice; that is for example how you get links removed from the Google search results (even the European branches of Google).

I do wonder about a group that advises using Apple to threaten Scribd rather than first suggesting a simpler alternative like a DMCA notice.


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Amazon Launches Kindle Scout, Asks Readers to Help Pick eBooks to Publish

Posted: 14 Oct 2014 02:00 PM PDT

kindle scoutAfter weeks of referring to their as-yet unlaunched crowd-sourcing program as “that thing”, Amazon officially launched the program today with a name, webpage, and an invitation to authors to participate.

Pitched to authors as a way to “get your book in front of readers looking for the next great story” Kindle Scout is a hybrid publishing program which combines aspects of KDP and Amazon Publishing. Launched under the auspices of a new unit called Kindle Press, Scout enables authors to submit an unpublished manuscript (plus cover and related frontmatter).

Works accepted into the program will be posted for 30 days for readers to rate and review, and the best ones will be offered a contract to be published by Amazon. Curiously, Amazon is still asking for only the ebook and audiobook rights, but not paper. On the plus side, they do offer an advance and an explicit reversion clause.

Authors get the money and publicity, but readers don’t go away empty handed. All of the readers who nominate a title which is later published by Kindle Press will receive an early, free copy and be invited to leave reviews.

Or at least that is how things are supposed to work; a check of the website reveals that Scout has not opened to the public yet; it is currently only accepting submissions from authors.

But Amazon has posted an example of what a Kindle Scout listing will look like when the program goes live:

kindle scout demo

Kindle Press marks Amazon’s third foray into the publishing industry (well, fourth if you count createspace). KDP is a service provider, Amazon Publishing is a traditional publisher, but what exactly is Kindle Press?

I don’t know yet, and I’m not sure Amazon knows yet either, but I think the distinct name is a telling detail that this is something new. It is definitely worth watching.

Kindle Scout

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Amazon to Open Pop Up Stores in SF, Sacramento Next Week

Posted: 13 Oct 2014 08:03 PM PDT

bezos bath and beyondLong a dabbler in here today, gone tomorrow pop up stores, news is going around today that Amazon is going to open a couple new locations in California.

Earlier today Geekwire reported that Amazon was opening a store in the Westfield San Francisco Centre on 22 October, but it turns out that the store is less permanent than GW thought.

I checked with Amazon, and they both confirmed and elaborated on the news:

Yes, we're excited to open new pop-up kiosks in San Francisco and Sacramento in time for the holidays so that customers can try out our new devices. … While customers can already see our products online and at retailers like Best Buy and Staples, we wanted to provide another option to try out our full line-up leading into the holidays.

Amazon had opened a couple pop up stores in SF last fall, and earlier this year they opened a traveling pop up store in China. There’s no word on how long the two new pop up stores will last, but there’s a good chance that they will include the vending machines that Amazon has been installing in airports. Those machines first made an appearance in the pop up stores in SF last fall.

From the description, I would say that the new stores in Calif are going to be far less permanent than the store which Amazon is rumored to be launching in Manhattan. According to the WSJ, the NYC store will be a permanent location at 7 West 34th Street, where Amazon customers will be able to pick up their orders, but Amazon will only say that:

We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan.

I plan to be in NYC around this time next month, and I will check to see if there is a store at that location.

Stay tuned.

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