Monday, 27 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Authors & Publishers, Take Note: Amazon’s Rooftop Media Acquisition is About Platform, Not Content

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 04:08 PM PDT

amazon smartphoneReuters has an interesting scoop today about Amazon’s latest purchase, but I don’t think they have the whole story.

According to Reuters’ sources (confirmed by Amazon), the 10-person media startup Rooftop Media has been bought by Amazon and will be rolled into Audible. The amount of the deal has not been disclosed, but Audible CEO Donald Katz reportedly said that “the company had been attracted by Rooftop’s content as well as its pool of comic talent”.

Reuters is calling this a content deal:

Its content now becomes part of Audible, itself a fast-growing seller of online audiobooks, and vastly increases Rooftop’s audience, said Rooftop Chief Executive Officer Will Rogers.

I really doubt this was a content deal; I think Amazon wanted the tech.

For one thing, Amazon was already a client of Rooftop Media (something Reuters forgot to mention). But more importantly, the fact that Amazon is throwing Rooftop Media into Audible suggests that there is more to it than simply content.

Amazon has a video platform, and it has an ebook platform, and it has an audiobook platform. Even though Audible and Kindle are closely interconnected now, they’re still separate platforms. And now Amazon is buying a new video platform – but mixing it in with the video platform or leaving the new platform independent.

Instead Amazon is tossing Rooftop into Audible. That move doesn’t make a lot of sense – not if this is a content deal. But if this is a tech acquisition, or in other words Amazon wants Rooftop’s platform, then the deal starts to make sense.

I think the biggest clue is how Reuters described Rooftop Media:

Rooftop records comedians at clubs across the country and licenses the digital rights to thousands of hours of comedy, which is broadcast either live or later on demand.

I wonder if Amazon wants to get into recording authors at events.

That would be the most obvious use of the platform, but it’s not the only use. Amazon might also want to establish a self-pub video platform along the lines of ACX crossed with KDP crossed with Youtube where videomakers could distribute their content.

In any case, there’s more to this than simply a content deal. What’s your best guess as to how the combined Audible/Roooftop platform could be used?

The post Authors & Publishers, Take Note: Amazon’s Rooftop Media Acquisition is About Platform, Not Content appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Drops Support for Kindle Active Content From the Kindle Voyage

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 12:15 PM PDT

kindle itunes logoIf you’re still trying to choose between a Paperwhite and a Voyage, here’s something that might help make up your mind.

I just got an email from Kindle pr with the confirmation that the Voyage doesn’t support Kindle Active Content, and it will not be getting support any time in the future.

For those just tuning in, Kindle Active Content is the clunky name that Amazon uses to describe apps developed to run on Kindle ereaders (and to be clear: Not the Android tablets). Amazon carries about 490 apps in the Kindle store, including 20 freebies, which can be installed on a Kindle – just not on the Voyage.

51mUGIWF3vL[1]The apps vary from simple games like dots and boxes to more complex apps like the choose your own adventure type of book like Dusk World (or Coliloquy’s apps), crosswords,utilities, and there are even a test prep apps.

None of which will run on Amazon’s flagship ereader, the Kindle Voyage.

The lack of app support was first noticed on MobileRead over the weekend, but at that time it wasn’t clear whether this was a new policy or perhaps the result of technical issues. The Voyage does have a higher resolution screen which could have affected the apps running on it, but it turns out that is not the case.

I was told by Amazon spokesperson Kinley Pearsall that app support would not be coming in the future, and that:

You're correct that these apps are not supported on Kindle Voyage. We’ve heard from customers that they generally prefer apps on their phones and tablets, so our focus is on building the best purpose-built reading devices.

On a related note, rumors circulated last year that Amazon was going to shut down this program. It looks like that rumor may have been at least half true; the last new Kindle Active Content was added in late 2012 (according to the listed publication dates).

But the program isn’t entirely dead; I have been told that existing Kindle models, including the Paperwhite, will continue to support Kindle Active Content indefinitely.  Of course, that is no guarantee that a future update won’t break support for a specific app but I won’t assume the worst, either.

While we’re on the topic of apps on ereaders, Amazon is not the only one to come up with this idea. The Ukrainian ereader maker Pocketbook has a well developed catalog of apps for its ereaders, and there are also a couple Android based ereaders with E-ink screens. You can install Android apps on the Onyx T68 Lynx and the Icarus Illumina. Both run an open version of Android.

I never really liked the idea of running apps on my Kindle, but I do like how I can extend the abilities of my Illumina by installing Android apps. This is also one of the reasons why the T68 Lynx compared well to the Kindle Voyage in my review last week.

Alas, Amazon doesn’t think this feature is as important as I do.

What do you think? Will this affect your decision to buy a Voyage?

The post Amazon Drops Support for Kindle Active Content From the Kindle Voyage appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Video: Amazon Prime Air Expands to Include Neighborhood Watch, other Services

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 10:38 AM PDT

amazon prime air parodyAmazon’s drone delivery program may still be in its teething stages but the retailer has high hopes for the many services the drones could provide in the future.

In this new promo video, Amazon VP Michael Stusser details the many ways that the Amazon Prime Air program will be used to benefit the public. Once these drones achieve pinpoint accuracy and perfect on time delivery, Amazon will be able to repurpose the drones to perform new tasks:

  • Assisting the post office
  • Delivering pizzas
  • Surveillance

As you probably guessed after the first 30 second, the above video is a joke. It’s the work of  Michael Stusser, but he isn’t an Amazon VP. He’s an independent filmmaker with a sense of humor.

According to The Seattle Times, the video grew out of his experiments with trying to fly a drone:

Stusser said he got the idea when he and his co-director Marty Riemer started playing with one of Riemer's own drones. "We were experimenting and learning to fly these drones," he said. “You realized if you practically attempt to fly a drone, you realized how nuts it is. We’ve crashed several times, we had to avoid power lines and avoid private property.”

Stusser doesn’t think that Amazon's program will ever get FAA approval.

“Imagine the danger of one of these things dropping something in traffic,” he said. “It's just not gonna happen.”

I don’t know that drones will never happen, but he’s not wrong about the state of the technology. Drones are fun to play with but the tech is far too crude and limited for practical deployment as a commercial delivery platform.

But I wouldn’t necessarily make that argument 5 years from now.

Remember, it only took 10 years to go from the Wright brother’s first flight at Kitty Hawk to scheduled commercial air travel.  Autonomous robots have been under development for decades, and even aerial drones have been around for 4 or 5 years. I saw them at CES 2010, and I would not be surprised if a commercial drone delivery platform was demoed at CES 2010 – if not sooner.

The post Video: Amazon Prime Air Expands to Include Neighborhood Watch, other Services appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Kindle Scout: One Reader’s Opinion

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 09:30 AM PDT

kindle scoutAmazon’s crowd-sourced publishing platform opened its doors today to readers. After accepting submissions from authors for the past two weeks, Amazon is now going to give readers a chance to pick some of the books Amazon might publish next.

I’ve covered Kindle Scout extensively ever since I first broke the news last month, including a look at what authors could get from it, so I won’t repeat any of that today.  Instead I will look at KS from the viewpoint of a reader.

I’ve spent a couple hours browsing Kindle Scout this morning. I haven’t found anything that I desperately wanted to read further (I am a picky reader), but I also didn’t see any really bad works either.

Kindle Scout has 59 titles at launch (more will be added tomorrow and in the future). The works are concentrated in SF/Fantasy, romance, and thriller/mystery, the only 3 genres which Amazon is accepting at the moment.

kindle scout

I’m really only interested in SF, but I did browse the other sections and note that the cover images ranged in quality from  amateur (and possibly homemade) to clearly professional work, but as I later learned you can’t judge the books in Kindle Scout by their covers.

I have so far read 5 of the excerpts in the SF section (on the website; you can also send an excerpt to your Kindle account). None of the books grabbed my attention, but I did notice that the general writing quality was much better than some of the covers led me to expect. This was no amateur hour; all of the excerpts I read showed a writing style and polish that was on par with traditionally published books.  Some of the excerpts were even better written than what you would find under a major imprint.

I am a very picky reader so I wasn’t surprised that I didn’t find anything I loved, but I am also cognizant of the fact that I have narrow interests. I can’t judge what will have success in the market, but if the worst that can be said is that some of the covers are bad then that is actually very good news.

I won’t go so far as to predict market success for any of the books submitted to KS (the market is too fickle for that), but I do think that Kindle Scout has passed its first hurdle. The worst books have been weeded out in or before the submission stage, leaving only good books to for readers to browse through.

It’s worth a reader’s time to browse and see if there are any books you like. At worst you’ll get a couple minutes entertainment, or perhaps boredom. But if you’re lucky the book will be accepted for publication by Kindle Press, the new hybrid publishing imprint Amazon launched to compliment Kindle Scout. Anyone who nominates a book will get a free copy of the ebook if and when it is published by Kindle Press.

Described by Amazon as a hybrid platform which combines elements of KDP and Amazon Publishing, Kindle Scout is Amazon’s latest experiment in drawing on the collected wisdom of readers to find good books.

Oh, yes, Amazon has tried similar ideas before, with some success. One of Amazon’s first publishing imprints, Amazon Encore, looked for previously published books which had great reviews but unimpressive sales. And of course Amazon has also been running the Breakthrough Novel Awards for the past several years. This annual contest is similar in structure to Kindle Scout in that authors submit their works, Amazon editors pick the best, and then Vine Reviewers and customers rate them.

The post Kindle Scout: One Reader’s Opinion appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Amazon Launches the $39 Fire TV Stick

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 07:12 AM PDT

Fire_TV_Stick[1]Amazon has just launched a product for those who think the $99 Fire TV set top console is either too expensive, too bulky, or does more than they need (I am describing myself).

The Fire TV Stick is that Chromecast competitor which Techcrunch first reported on in March 2014. This $39 dongle plugs into the HDMI port on your TV and streams content from Amazon. It doesn’t have the gaming abilities of the Fire TV box, but it does offer all the same streaming fun, including Netflix, Hulu, Showtime, Crackle, Amazon instant Video, and many more.

Technical details are still scarce, but the product listing says that the Fire Stick runs on a dual-core CPU with 1GB RAM and 8GB internal storage.  It also comes with a basic remote which is somewhat less capable than the Fire TV remote, but all in all the new Fire Stick has much better hardware than its immediate competitors.

The Chromecast doesn’t ship with a remote, and neither the Chromecast nor Roku’s dongle can match the CPU, RAM, and storage specs of the Fire Stick.

And even though it can’t match all of the abilities of the Fire TV, the Fire Stick can still play some games, including Monsters University, Ski Safari, and Flappy Birds Family, and it can also stream music.

The Fire Stick is also designed to pair with a Fire tablet or a Fire Phone so you can stream content from the tablet to the Fire Stick. Amazon has also released a new app for the Fire Phone which lets you search for content verbally.

And best of all, the Fire Stick is on sale for the next couple days. Prime members can pick it up for only $19, and get free delivery when it ships on 19 November.

At that price, you can bet I got one.

I’m not one to watch tv on my tv anymore; I much prefer my Fire HD tablet. But I still have a TV, and for $20 I would most definitely be interested in moving some of my tv watching back to the medium screen.

Amazon does two things well: customer service and delivery of content. The reason the Fire tablets are doing well while the Fire Phone fizzled is because the latter doesn’t serve any real content delivery need, not in the way that the Fire media tablets do.

Similarly, the Fire Stick will have great sales because it’s cheap and because it builds on one of Amazon’s strengths. And that is probably what Amazon is counting on, and why Amazon is going to sell more of Fire Sticks than they hoped.

Are you planning to buy one?

The post Amazon Launches the $39 Fire TV Stick appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Time Thinks “Amazon’s Dispute With Hachette Might Finally Be Hurting Its Sales”

Posted: 27 Oct 2014 06:30 AM PDT

The BaitOver the past 6 months I have read many questionable arguments about the Amazon-Hachette dispute, but few rose to the level of sheer unsubstantiated clickbait as the piece that Time published on Friday.

According to Sam Frizell, Amazon’s slow growth in the MA media market comes as a result of the dispute with Hachette:

The book business launched Amazon to success, and now it's hurting the online retailer's growth.

Amazon announced its worst quarterly loss in 14 years Thursday, losing $437 million in three months. One of its worst-performing segments? Amazon's old core business: North American book, movie and music sales. The segment's sales increased a mere 4.8% from 2013, the slowest growth for the category in more than five years. That compares with a 17.8% growth in that segment a year ago.

Amazon chalked up the slow media segment growth to fewer students buying textbooks, but that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. In fact, the company's woes may in part be related to its damaging publicity spat with the publisher Hachette.

Frizell thinks that, in a quarter where Amazon’s overall revenues increased by 20%, a growth rate of a mere 4.8% is a bad thing.

In other words, consumers are buying lots more from Amazon than they did last year, and they’re even buying more media than last year, but because the growth rate in that one segment has slowed Times thinks consumers are unhappy with Amazon.

If that is a valid argument then I have to wonder what grudge consumers are holding against Barnes & Noble. That retailer’s revenues peaked years ago and its struggled since then to build itself up.

Or perhaps the Times piece (which I found because DBW gave it the lead this morning) is simply nonsense.

What do you think?

image by nist6dh

The post Time Thinks “Amazon's Dispute With Hachette Might Finally Be Hurting Its Sales” appeared first on The Digital Reader.

The Morning Coffee – 27 October 2014

Posted: 26 Oct 2014 08:05 PM PDT

The reading list is diverse and eclectic this morning, with stories ranging a paean on reading on your smartphone, the final words of the departing EU Digital commissioner, a look at the NYTimes’ investment in Blendle, and more.

  • The Best Device For Reading Is Still the Phone In Your Pocket (Gizmodo)
  • Departing EU Digital Commissioner Warns Against ‘Analogue Europe’ Blocking Digital Innovation (Techdirt)
  • New York Times invests in Dutch "iTunes for news" company(GigaOm)
  • Why Does Apple Want to Halve the Price of On-Demand Music? (Copyright and Technology)
  • Why you shouldn’t collect comics ()

The post The Morning Coffee – 27 October 2014 appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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