Monthly Archives: September 2012

Why Wal-Mart Discontinued Carrying Kindle: Cherchez La Showroom

Last May, Target, one of America’s biggest retail chains, announced it would no longer carry Kindles. Today it’s the turn of an even larger chain – indeed, the country’s largest. Wal-Mart will no longer carry Kindles either, report Stephanie Clifford and Julie Bosman of the New York Times.

Speculation focuses on the practice known as showrooming. In showrooming, customers enter a retail store and, when they have located the product they’re shopping for, walk out, go home and purchase the item on the Internet at a lower price. Some shoppers simply scan the bar code of the product in the store and order it online on the spot. This in effect makes the brick and mortar store a mere “showroom” for customers to examine products they have no intention of buying there. Last Christmas Amazon actually promoted the practice, alarming and outraging many stores and store chains. We know of at least one publisher that fought back by discontinuing distribution of its books on Amazon.

Though Wal-Mart didn’t give a reason for ditching Kindles, it appears that it was Kindle’s Fire tablet that pushed the retailer over the line. The Fire, a far more all-purpose device than the original Kindle e-book reader, can be used to buy from Amazon countless products carried by Wal-Mart, and buy them perhaps at a price lower than Wal-Mart. “’The Kindle Fire is the Trojan horse,’” the Times reporters quote the head of an e-book recommendation site. “’It’s a shopping platform that covers so many more categories than e-books. It affects Wal-Mart in a different way than the early Kindles and e-readers did.’”

Clifford and Bosman are the same team that wrote up Target’s action last spring. Here’s our posting about that event, and all you have to do to understand what’s going on is substitute “Wal-Mart” for “Target”.

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Independent bookstores aren’t the only retailers chafing at the practice of showroom. Just ask Target.

The latest objector is Target, the giant retail store chain. Executives, reacting to what they perceived as showrooming of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, informed Amazon they would no longer carry it.

Though Amazon sells most of its Kindles on its own website, many customers like to examine them physically, just as they may now do with Kindle’s rival, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, which may be “road-tested” by customers in B&N’s brick and mortar bookstore. Recognizing consumers’ natural impulse to touch, Amazon began distributing Kindles in big retail chains.

It’s hard to predict what impact Target’s action will have on Kindle sales. With nearly 1,770 stores in 49 states and gross revenues of $65 billion, boycott of a product by Target can have a seriously detrimental impact on any supplier. More ominously, if Staples, Best Buy and Wal-Mart, which also sell Kindles, see themselves as showrooming victims and follow Target’s lead, it could put a crimp in Amazon’s sales – and its image.

For the complete story read Target, Unhappy With Being an Amazon Showroom, Will Stop Selling Kindles by Stephanie Clifford and Julie Bosman in the New York Times.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World under the title One Showroom Too Far: Why Wal-Mart Shut Its Doors to Kindle.

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Amazon Alliance with Ingram: Policy Shift?

Of the many companies that have reinvented themselves in the violent upheavals of 21st century publishing, Ingram Content Group (as it is now called) stands out as one of the most resourceful.  It has transformed itself from what Publishers Weekly described as “the book industry’s quintessential middleman” to what former CEO Skip Prichard called a “centerspoke of an industry in transition.” At its core is the mission of “helping content reach its destination,” as Prichard put it, and to enable publishers do that efficiently whether the product is tangible or digital.

It’s likely that Amazon admires Ingram for the same reasons, for it has just  announced that it  has engaged Ingram to distribute the e-books produced by its recently created publishing company.  Those e-books will still of course continue to be sold on Kindle, but they will also be available throughout Ingram’s vast network of retailers, many of which are competitive with Amazon.

Laura Hazard Owen, reporting the story exclusively on PaidContent, writes that “The deal, with Ingram’s digital distribution arm CoreSource, will make the ebooks available to Amazon competitors like Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo — though, of course, those competitors aren’t compelled to stock Amazon titles.

“The idea of Apple selling Amazon’s ebooks,” adds Owen, “is particularly interesting, given the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Apple and book publishers for allegedly colluding to set ebook prices.”

The Ingram coup is a feather in the cap of Laurence Kirshbaum, who heads the East Coast operation of Amazon’s publishing operations. Amazon’s insistence on exclusivity has not only alienated competitors but worried authors seeking the broadest marketplace for their work. The alliance with Ingram suggests a shift in policy and offers the intriguing hope that Amazon Publishing will extend its good will to printed books and hold out the olive branch out to bookstores

You can read Owen’s full story here. And for a thumbnail description of Ingram’s transition, read Jim Milliot’s  Not Your Father’s Ingram

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Amazon Friending Rivals?

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Introducing Doctor Orient

When Doctor Owen Orient, a prominent New York physician decides to renounce his practice and all the material comforts he has become accustomed to, his goal is to find a simpler, more meaningful existence for himself.

But Orient is not like ordinary men. For years he has been studying the secrets of the Occult and, though he seeks simplicity now, finds himself drawn more and more deeply into a horrifying series of events that challenge his scientific rationality, his occult powers, and the instincts and emotions that guide his manhood.

The puzzle that began in a Manhattan black magic commune eventually draws Orient to far-flung lands to confront an ancient ravening evil–a battle in which telepathy, telekinesis, and even sex become weapons in a frenzied struggle to the death–and beyond…

For the first time E-Reads is collecting the seven novels in the Doctor Orient series in a new, unified format, and will make them available to readers all over the world. Written over a period of more than twenty years, the books narrate Doctor Orient’s discovery of his own psychic powers, his continuing research and his efforts to expand and deepen his understanding of the hidden level of reality in which psychic events occur and the monstrous and terrifying uses to which such powers are put to use by those who regard humans, and humanity as a whole, as play-things for exploitation of their dark desires. Frank Lauria, the author of the Doctor Orient series, is also at work on the first new Doctor Orient novel in almost two decades.

The first novel in the series. Doctor Orient, is a spellbinding novel of psychic war for the soul of a young girl. You’ll witness…

+ A coven of witches and warlocks, among them some of New York’s most prominent
celebrities, toying with sexual perversion, Black Magic and human sacrificeï.

+ A hot downtown discotheque where an incredibly beautiful sixteen-year-old seduces
young men into the service of Satan.

+ A defrocked priest whose consuming ambition and awesome occult powers make him famous enough to lure a capacity crowd to Yankee Stadium to witness a dark miracle–the cure of the Vice-President’s daughter.

Doctor Owen Orient, psychiatrist, physician, psychic adept and his team of Telepaths, stake their lives against the ravening evil known as–Susej.

“Hypnotically readable…Frank Lauria has written the most believable Vampire and Werewolf stories I have ever read.”
–William S. Burroughs.

 

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Will Paper Go Away? If We’re Smart We Won’t Let It

One of our agency’s specialties is fantasy and science fiction, and though these genres lend themselves to epic lengths, sometime in the 1990s I began to notice something odd: manuscripts – both by unpublished writers and professional authors – were getting longer and longer. Books that once averaged 75-100,000 words were swelling to 150-200,000 or even longer. In some cases the length was appropriate to the structure and content of the books. But in too many others I became concerned and even alarmed by a tendency to prolixity.

From both a practical and artistic viewpoint this was far from a good thing. The longer a book the higher its printing costs, and unless the author was a star who could deliver an audience guaranteed to read his or her book at any length, more and more books were being rejected on grounds of length alone. The economics just didn’t support a midlist book of bloated girth. But in esthetic terms as well the books were becoming unsightly, unmanageable and unreadable. What was going on?

It took a while before I figured it out. As authors shifted from mechanical typing to electronic word processing, they were no longer editing their work as they used to. The introduction of automatic spell checking only aggravated the problem. Authors were losing the vital skill of self criticism. Many, perhaps most, forewent printing their work out and reviewing it in hard copy, and they were losing the “feel” of print. If they’d troubled to scrutinize their manuscripts on paper they might easily have seen overblown descriptions, overwrought dialogues and unnecessary repetitions. But the computer was making life too easy for them.

The advent of e-books made things even worse. If there was no need to publish a book on paper there was certainly no exigency to edit it on paper, either.

These thoughts were provoked by an article in the Sunday New York Times business section entitled In Defense of the Power of Paper by Phyllis Korkki, which begins “Paper still matters.” “For long texts,” Korkki notes, paper printouts “allow a reader to better understand relationships between sections of writing.” To which we add that they also enable authors to exercise the same comprehension as readers.

If it were up to me, I would require authors to follow this procedure: 1) Print out your manuscript. 2) Put it away for at least two weeks in order to distance yourself from your work. When you return to it you will be able to read it coolly and objectively. 3) Start cutting, marking the text up on paper with a pen or pencil. How much? I have seldom seen a freshly completed manuscript that could not benefit from a 25% trim. But rather than succumb to the tendency to indulge in narcissistic self-admiration, set the dial at 50%. The tougher your self-editor is, the gentler your real-world editor will be. Let economy be your byword.

Incidentally, Korkki makes another significant point on which we have been harping for years. Print is not just better for authors, it’s better for readers, too. Citing a 1997 study demonstrating that “people’s comprehension is superior when they read texts on paper as opposed to online,” she quoted a publishing executive who asserts that while “digital technology is better for socializing and sharing…, paper is best for quiet contemplation.” See The Medium is the Screen. The Message is Distraction.

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published on Digital Book World as Surefire Weight-Loss Cure for Fat Manuscripts. It’s Called Paper

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Brian Aldiss: Challenging Readers’ Minds for Fifty Years

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Brian Aldiss: Challenging Readers’ Minds for Fifty Years

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As Detectives Scrutinize Death-Ship, 48 Hours Examines Natalie Wood Case

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As Detectives Scrutinize Death-Ship, 48 Hours Examines Natalie Wood Case

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AutoCorrect Gone Wild!

I can remember the exact moment I became aware that AutoCorrect was shoving my vintage automobile into a ditch.  I was reporting on the introduction of electronic “catalogues”.  With a nasty squiggly red underline, spellcheck rejected my spelling of the word and insisted I change it to “catalogs”. I could easily have asked Word to accept my version and that would have ended the autocorrection. Or I could have disabled the feature on Word  entirely. But I elected to duke it out, snorting triumphantly every time I overrode the red squiggle challenging me. Eventually I yielded to the streamlined contemporary version. My antique spelling had become an embarrassment, like wearing knickerbockers or a bonnet.

I was relieved to learn that I’m not the only person quarreling with AutoCorrect.”It is an impish god,” laments James Glieck in the New York Times. Glieck’s beef is a not just about minor differences of opinion about spelling, but rather Autocorrect’s aggressive insistence on substituting words in the belief that that is what you really meant.  Such as forcing “egocentric” on you when you absolutely meant “geocentric.”

“Who’s the boss of our fingers?” Glieck demands to know. “Cyberspace is awash with outrage. Even if hardly anyone knows exactly how it works or where it is, Autocorrect is felt to be haunting our cellphones or watching from the cloud.”

The issue may seem trivial but it’s not.  “The better Autocorrect gets,” maintains Glieck, “the more we will come to rely on it. It’s happening already. People who yesterday unlearned arithmetic will soon forget how to spell. One by one we are outsourcing our mental functions to the global prosthetic brain.”

One thing Glieck overlooks is the spelling of “Autocorrect”.  With an angry red squiggle, Spellcheck refuses to recognize its legitimacy.  (Microsoft Office’s web page spells it “AutoCorrect”, but as I type it I’m getting red-squiggled!) And while we’re at it, Spellcheck doesn’t recognize “Spellcheck” either!

Details in Auto Crrect Ths! by James Glieck. For a look at the light side of Autocorrect, click here

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Autocorrect Shows Us Who’s Boss

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If You Can’t Follow Your Own Bliss, Follow Elizabeth Gundy’s

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If You Can’t Follow Your Own Bliss, Follow Elizabeth Gundy’s

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Messiah or Charlatan, She Was One of a Kind

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Messiah or Charlatan, She Was One of a Kind

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We Remember

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