Tag Archives: Amazon

Internet of Things

The Internet of Things: (neologism) “refers to an expanding network of interconnected internet-enabled devices […] also known as M2M or machine to machine”. – The Guardian, Luke Dormehl

Over the years as technology has developed, devices are now able to connect with one another in a multitude of different ways. The Guardian‘s article states that while Internet of Things is still in its early stages of development, by 2020 it is thought that there will be 50billion devices with the ability to link M2M.

Alex Hawkinson, CEO of SmartThings, a home automation company, says in the article that technology can now be used to solve daily problems and can be used for security, peace of mind and saving money. Examples he gives are people being notified if doors are left open or heating left on when no-one is home, meaning that the possibility to save money on things like utility bills is possible.

Apple is said to have jumped on the bandwagon by introducing Homekit, an Internet of Things “platform” which will enable consumers to unlock doors and control lighting using an iPhone.

Google is also one of the big players investing into the idea as it is though they paid £1.9billion to Nest Labs, a home automation company wich is already looking into other domestic related operations, including health and security systems.

The article furthers by saying that people can get “hung up” on the “things” themselves, and the main point to think about is the value of the data which these devices will extract in order to function, i.e. an example given is a toothbrush with Internet of Things technology (Kolibree, the world’s first connected electric toothbrush) – data will be given on how a user brushes their teeth and where they need to improve. The idea is to get “real-time feedback” as opposed to waiting for an annual dental check, for example. Renee Blodgett, Vice President of Kolibree states that:

“Data empowers us”.

On the flip side, the article  also discusses the risks and dangers of the Internet of Things. With the extraction of data, the question of privacy and how data is monitored is raised. Evgeny Morozov calls the issue “solutionism” which is the idea that serious issues such as global warming and obesity can be solved with the aid of interconnected devices. He discusses in his latest book that “self-tracking [is] the epitome of the modern narcissistic quest for uniqueness and exceptionalism” and openly wonders why people would want to turn their lives into “temples of surveillance”.

I guess if I was to think of the Internet of Things as a very simplified version, the extraction of data is already a present occurrence in a day-to-day environment. For example, many retail outlets now take customer’s details to enhance their shopping experience and recommend clothes for customers according to recent purchases. The same can be said for bookstores and internet retailers such as Amazon. I regularly receive emails informing me of new books or recommended reads I should purchase. I guess one only has to consider Amazon’s whispernet technology; when a customer buys an ebook off Amazon, the file will immediately be wirelessly transmitted to a Kindle device.

Perhaps the next stage in technology for devices such as Kindles could be that they help enhance literacy levels, particularly in primary schools, for example. Or even in institutions for children with learning disabilities. Perhaps if a student has an exam coming up, their device can automatically extract data from recent online searches and purchases to suggest tips and reading material for them. These are just the tip of a massive iceberg of possibilities and ideas which I cannot even imagine.

With The Bookseller‘s FutureBook Hackathon taking place in London this coming weekend (14th and 15th June) – of which I shall be volunteering at – it shall be interesting to see what  the technology companies and teams in attendance shall suggest in terms of the future of publishing…

Advertisements

Publishing houses: closed for business

Over the past few months there have  been many articles written about the closure of bookshops across the country. What hasn’t been reported as much is the closure of publishers. The Guardian recently reported, that 98 UK-based publishers have gone out of business over the past year, which is 42% more than the year previous. And it is not just book publishers which have been closing, but newspaper, journals, periodical and directory publishers have also closed down over the past year.

It is thought that with pressure from the internet and online retailers such as Amazon, independent publishers in particular are struggling to make profits as margins are made smaller to compete with discounting on books. Digital piracy is also a problem for publishers, as well as being able to locate secondhand books at the click of a button. It is this latter issue which has threatened niche academic and educational publishers. Sites such as Amazon Marketplace has made it much easier for people to get their hands on textbooks, for example, and whilst this may be good news for students, it is not so great for the publishers who do not receive anything.

These statistics outline one of the main causes of publishing house closures:

Growth in sales of ebooks, whose average price is £3 or less, compared with £5.50 for a paperback, has also undermined publishers’ margins. UK consumer ebook sales rose by 134% to £216m in 2012, while print sales fell by 1% to £2.9bn, meaning that consumer ebook sales now represent 7.4% of book publishers’ total sales, according to the UK Publishers Association.

From these figures, it clearly shows that ebooks are only accounting for around 7% of book publishers’ sales. When you compare £216 million ebook sales to £2.9 billion print book sales, I think it’s safe to say that print is still the alpha male in this industry.

Although it still doesn’t stop the fact that many businesses are closing, including the Evans Brothers (the publisher who published Enid Blyton’s works 1930-1960). It is also suggested that one of the other reasons for publishing houses closing is due to the end of the Net Book Agreement in 1997 (an arrangement first established in 1899 which allowed publishers to set a fixed retail price for their books and thereby refused to sell stock to retailers who discounted their products). A couple of years ago, The Guardian wrote that it was time to bring back the Net Book Agreement.  While this is a point to consider, it is difficult to suggest what is best for the industry, as bringing it back would mean consequences to booksellers, for example. These vicious circles of possibilities and events revolve around the fact that change is sadly inevitable. We are still in a time where change is continuous and where it can also be a good thing. It’s just knowing how to adapt to change that businesses must bear in mind in this day and age.


Kindle Matchbook: is Amazon’s brand new programme another blow to booksellers?

Amazon is launching a new scheme which could potentially pose yet another threat to other booksellers. IPG’s Children’s Publisher of the Year award winner, Nosy Crow, posted an article on their blog today, informing people of the internet of Amazon’s latest programme: Kindle Matchbook.

The new programme will only be available for customers in the USA and will allow customers to purchase former print purchases, but in ebook form for a reduced price of $2.99, $1.99, $0.99 or for free.

Whilst this will undoubtedly be great for those avid Amazon regulars, Tom at Nosy Crow commented on the fact that ebooks will be devalued as a result and we shall return to past arguments that consumers will come to expect books (whether ‘e’ or print form) to be low in price, thus they will be less inclined to buy books at a greater price from their local bookseller on the high street. On the other hand, the question of whether customers will want to buy another copy of a book which they already have is debatable. In addition, Nosy Crow’s blog article speculates the fact that consumers will be more likely to buy print books from Amazon so they can get the ebook version at a cheaper rate (or in some cases, for free); however, surely Amazon will be selling their products at a loss rather than at a profit (which of course then makes less of a profit for publishers).

The main question is: how will this affect mortar-and-bricks booksellers (or other online retailers for that matter)?

Certainly, it is apparent that booksellers are changing the way they practice bookselling to stay in touch with its customers. And in comparison with Amazon, it is without a doubt that they offer a greater service to customers. A knowledgeable and enthusiastic sales assistant in a bookshop is by far better than a pop-up post on a website. As Nosy Crow’s post suggests: mortar-and-bricks retailers’ main products are print books, whereas retailers such as Amazon are trying to make ebooks their greatest product; therefore if booksellers were to introduce a programme or scheme equivalent to Kindle Matchbook, booksellers technically would not make a loss, as their main sellers are physical books.

Looking at the positive side, I think it can definitely be assumed that Amazon’s new venture will provide booksellers with an opportunity to develop further and therefore create an ever better experience for its customers. Yes, it is a shame that bookshops are having to drastically adapt and change to stay alive in the current industry, but publishing as a whole is not the only industry changing out there. In addition, the programme does specify that it is only available in the USA at the moment. In a way, it can be said that this gives British booksellers an advantage (and a head start)! Game on, is what I say!


Fan Fiction Forever?!

Bookselling giant, Amazon, is set to launch a publishing platform called Kindle Worlds in June 2013, which will enable fan fiction to be sold online. The news was announced on The Bookseller recently.

It has been thought that licenses have been obtained from the Warner Bros Television Group, Alloy Entertainment, for popular television programmes such as Gossip Girl, Vampire Diaries and Pretty Little Liars. Kindle Worlds will permit writers to publish any stories associated with the programmes, to be sold online. Rights holders of Kindle Worlds alongside authors of stories over 10,000 words will receive royalties of 35%, whereas a trial will be set up for works of 5-10,000 words, where authors will receive 20% of royalties.

With previous bestselling novels such as the Fifty Shades trilogy, which started off as fan fiction, it would enable popular, well-known television shows to be evolved as people write different interpretations of stories, enhancing characters in different ways and enabling readers to view parts of the stories they love in a different way.

As previously mentioned with the Fifty Shades trilogy being a success due to fan fiction, it proves that fan fiction has the potential to enhance trade publishing in the future, and potentially create more bestselling fiction. I think it will be interesting to see how many fan fiction novels are in the bestselling book charts this time next year.


So, Amazon has dipped its metaphorical finger into another metaphorical pie.

Personally, I am not too sure I am in favour of the move. I have always thought of Goodreads as being one of those sites where you could simply connect with other readers and book lovers and not really worry about anything as it was a ‘neutral’ place you could voice your literary opinions and discover. Really, it is now just going to be another platform in which Amazon can promote its books and scream at the site’s visitors: ‘Buy me! Pick me!’ (I already get enough of that through my emails!)

What about promoting books from Waterstones and W H Smiths? Bookshops are like precious gems which we need to preserve. It is not that I have anything against Amazon (I use the retailer now and then just like any other person might), but sometimes I feel that as a consumer, things can become clouded by the bigger companies out there and companies (such as Goodreads) can become lost as it is swallowed up by another giant. Still, whilst the move may have many bookworms squirming with annoyance, I guess this is a good thing for Goodreads overall though, right…?


Bookshops – places of discovery and places of prominence on the high street

Over the past couple of months, bookshops have been a prominent topic in the news and have been something which I have been blogging about over the months. Not only are bookshops one of the key places publishers can sell their works, they are also places of inspiration. Bookshops are places of beauty. I love visiting bookshops, I could spend all day in one. It is for this reason that I have been keeping an eye on any news about bookshops which has recently been in the media.

tumblr_lz3sogh5sJ1qlwf5yo1_500

The Bookseller has published two articles over the past couple of days where they stated that ‘bookshop browsing is vital for the publishing industry’. One of the points which was emphasised was that bookshops enable customers to browse and therefore discover. Bookshops open up an avenue of discovery which online retailers such as Amazon cannot match; consequently, it has been suggested that consumers do not browse the internet as often as thought. It was discovered that 21% of all book sales were a result of consumers browsing in bookstores.

I think one of the key questions is, is whether consumers will  continue to browse in bookshops if they have to pay to browse? (CEO of Harper Collins, Victoria Barnsley, predicted last month that customers will have to pay to browse in bookshops in the future) It was said that 35% of all book purchases are from a book shop, meaning that 65% of people order their books online. Whilst it seems like a small amount, if 21% of that 35% is made up of purchases through browsing then it means that a significant amount could potentially be lost if bookshops do start to charge customers to browse, or the business closes down.

It seems though, that bookshops will not be leaving our high streets without a fight… Also this week the Mail Online reported that mortar-and-bricks retailers will start to sell books with additional chapters and content which will not be made available online. Essentially, bookshops will hold exclusive content in order to draw customers into buying from them as opposed to e-retailers. The idea is only just being introduced with Joanna Harris writing an exclusive additional chapter for her latest novel Peaches For Monsieur Le Curé, which is only available through Waterstones. Ian Rankin is another who is keen to publish exclusive content which will only be available through Waterstones.

shop-logos_220x120_0001_Waterstones

With these latest developments in the revolution of the mortar-and-bricks bookseller coupled with the #FutureFoyles project and the introduction of bookselling degrees at the University of Derby, the bookshop of the future will certainly be an intriguing development in the industry. Personally, I cannot wait to see what will become of the beloved bookshop.


The year of the mergers

Penguin Random House

(Image taken from Aziz Isham, The House of Penguin: Notes on a Publishing Apocalypse)

Penguin Random House

The Bookseller released an article last week reporting how Australia has approved the Random House Penguin merger which was announced in October last year. It has been reported that companies Pearson and Bertelsmann will own approx. half each; the former owning 47% of shares and the latter owning 53%. Of course this means that both companies’ publishing firms across the world will be involved in the merger, including offices in the USA and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, China and Spain.

Waterstones and University of Derby

Not only have two of the publishing worlds’ ‘big six’ has joined forces, but other companies in the publishing sector are also coming together. Book retailer Waterstones have of course done deals with e-retailer Amazon in the past in which they have agreed to sell Amazon’s Kindle in their stores. More recently, however, Waterstones has announced its agreement with the University of Derby to launch the first professional qualification in bookselling, which will be the equivalent of a first year in an undergraduate degree.

Curtis Brown and Conville & Walsh

The two literary agencies announced earlier in February that they would be joining together to ‘extend their authors’ reach in the new publishing multiverse. Like with the Penguin Random House merger, Curtis Brown has bought a 50% stake in Conville & Walsh. It is not the first time the agencies have worked together though; both have formed alliance on film projects in the past for M L Stedman and S J Watson to name a few.

Predictions for 2013:

Whilst obviously, the Penguin and Random House merger was a big deal in the trade publishing world, however, the end of January saw the prediction that consolidation of academic publishing houses will become more common this year, particularly with the mass rise in digital sales, as well as developments in Open Access. George Lossius, CEO of Publishing Technology told The Bookseller how consolidation is ‘not the sole domain of the trade’ although the consolidation of small publishers into large publishers recently means that the prediction for this to happen in 2013 is more likely.

Other developments predicted is the mass surge in Open Access publishing and the rise in purchasing digital academic textbooks for Universities around the world. Cambridge University Press Chief Executive, Peter Phillips, said that digital educational services were massive, yet the demand for print textbooks and Print On Demand was still popular and was still a growing part of academic publishing, particularly in the Far East and Latin America.

Personally, I think that mergers between publishing houses will continue to change the industry. With the changes in the digital revolution in publishing, large (and small) publishing firms have joined forces to try to enhance the services which they are already providing. In addition, with the rise of giant Amazon, publishing houses should stick together. It is thought that Amazon controls 80-90% of the market, as reported by Aziz Isham, The American Reader (as above). With Amazon controlling such a large part of the market, there are obviously fears that the future of publishing will not extend much further than Amazon. Personally, whilst I do and have used Amazon in the past, I think it is important for publishing houses to still exist! It would be a shame for years of companies’ hard work to be over-taken by Amazon and in addition, I do like to have that choice of being able to purchase my books direct from the publisher – again another service which is increasingly on the rise…

As I have summarised in this post, mergers are affecting ALL aspects of the industry: trade, academic, literary agents and retailers! I guess the interesting game now is, one publishing house at a time, to guess who will be the next merger…?