Month: September 2013

Go Read This | Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX: power, with a helping hand | The Verge

You have to hand it to Amazon, its is just going at this market hard and not letting up and by the looks of things, it is learning as it goes:

Whether you’re in the market for an 8.9-inch or 7-inch tablet, the Kindle Fire HDX is a hard device to beat. Not just for the screen resolution or the high-end processor, either: at $229 for the smaller model or $379 for the larger, the HDX is among the cheapest tablets on the market that we’d even consider recommending at those screen sizes. Even the LTE models, at $329 and $479 respectively and available for Verizon and AT&T, are as cheap as you’ll find for their kind. (And they’re not even the cheapest of Amazon’s new tablets.)

If Amazon can deliver on all its promises with its core apps, from email to the updated Silk browser, and can make the HDX into both the best vessel for Amazon content and something more besides, these two tablets are going to be hard to beat. And Mayday’s going to have a lot of customers this fall.

via Amazon’s Kindle Fire HDX: power, with a helping hand | The Verge.

Go Read This | Don’t blame Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter for the fact that technology changes behavior – The Shatzkin Files

It’s kind of remarkable that this still has to be repeated so often, but it does, it really does:

I spoke this past week with the communications director at a think tank who has their publishing arm reporting to him. He’s new to the world of books. He reports that his team keeps portraying Amazon as the enemy; from his perspective, they are “the answer”. Yes, he’s worried about whether their increasing hegemony over the book-buying public could ultimately result in some nasty cuts to his margins. In fact, probably they will. Amazon is likely the most profitable account for almost every publisher because their sales are massive and their returns are minimal. Some publishers report that even their demands for co-op spending are less onerous than Barnes & Noble’s. Of course, they will probably push the envelope over time and claw back more of that margin from publishers. Most retailers would.

via Don’t blame Amazon, Facebook, and Twitter for the fact that technology changes behavior – The Shatzkin Files.

Go Read This | Tesco tablet expected on 23 September

Tesco-LogoIt has been clear for some time that probably only full-scale retailers have the capacity to respond to Amazon, Google, Apple and other digital giants. They have the advantages of scale, access to capital, direct customer interaction and customer inertia working in their favour.

Of course, those advantages are threatened by online retailers like Amazon and by the shift to digital consumption of media. It makes sense then that really forward-looking retailers will attempt to move into the digital distribution and retail space. Many of them have been offering online grocery shopping effectively for some time, long before Amazon or other newer entrants. Tesco has been making what look like smart moves in digital media for a while. It will be intriguing to see if this forthcoming tablet play works.

Success, however, cannot be measured by units sold alone. A good sign of it working would be of the company sells lots of tablets AND signs lots of people up to its digital content services. At the kind of price point the articles on the tablet are talking about, content sales and customer acquisition for the digital services are the goal in the short and medium term.

The question that arises for me is what’s the longer term play for Tesco? How can it build on success in the UK (if it materializes) and can it compete with the giants even if it does succeed in the UK. The costs of such competition can be quite hefty, as B&N has learnt to its cost:

Tesco might be able to hit the £99 price using a cashback-style promotion, Wood suggests: “I can see Tesco using substantial discounts on other services such as bundled media from Blinkbox, or vouchers for discounts on petrol or groceries through its ClubCard loyalty scheme.”

The tablet would take on competitors from the likes of Apple, Google and Amazon, and will be tailored to online shopping and video viewing – both areas where Tesco is looking to capitalise on its position.

via Tesco tablet expected on 23 September – and may be very low-priced | Technology | The Guardian.

Go Read This | Is This The End For New Zealand Publishing? | Stuff.co.nz

New Zealand MapReally wonderful piece over in The Dominion Post about book publishing in New Zealand. It has serious echoes of the Irish market and many of the same problems crop up for the publishers there.

I wrote a column for The Irish Times that touched on some of the issues mentioned. This really is interesting throughout and a must for anyone who wants to understand small market publishing:

Varnham struggles to secure writers. Who can afford to take months off to research and write a book for a $3000 advance? More government support – for writers and publishers – would help.
And, she says, ebooks are not the answer. They’re a fabulous way to get books out worldwide but sales are minimal and the return to the publisher is tiny.

“I think the answer for us is to persuade New Zealanders to buy more New Zealand books.”
She credits Awa’s survival to bookshops such as Wellington’s Unity, which stacks front windows with Kiwi stories.

“I always say I need valium before I go into the average bookstore in New Zealand. It’s so distressing if you don’t see your own books properly displayed and you just walk through a towering mountain of Dan Brown and The Hunger Games. Not to mention Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The only way bookshops will survive, says Booksellers chief executive Lincoln Gould, is if they work together with publishers to find new sales models.

In his less gloomy moments, Walker sees opportunity for small independents or writer co-operatives such as those emerging in the United States.

via Is This The End For New Zealand Publishing? | Stuff.co.nz.

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Go Read This | Automation Anxiety | Wilson Quarterly

So much in this I just don’t know where to start, but it has much to recommend it (also, a Joyce reference!):

More than a century has passed since that now-celebrated day in 1904 when Joyce’s creation crisscrossed Dublin, and for most of that time technology and jobs have galloped ahead together. Just as Bloom observed, technological advances have not reduced overall employment, though they have certainly cost many people their jobs. But now, with the advent of machines that are infinitely more intelligent and powerful than most people could have imagined a century ago, has the day finally come when technology will leave millions of us permanently displaced?

Judging by the popular press, the answer is yes, and there is plenty of alarming data leading some people to support that view. Between January 1990 and January 2010, the United States shed 6.3 million manufacturing jobs, a staggering decrease of 36 percent. Since then, it has regained only about 500,000. Four years after the official end of the Great Recession, unemployment is still running at a recession-like rate of around 7.5 percent, and millions of Americans have given up even looking for work.

via Automation Anxiety | Wilson Quarterly.

Go Read This | Marketing will replace editorial as the driving force behind publishing houses

Great piece by Mike Shatzkin:

While it is probably still true that picking the “right books” is the single most critical set of decisions influencing the success of publishers, it is increasingly true that a house’s ability to get those books depends on their ability to market them. As the distribution network for print shrinks, the ebook distribution network tends to rely on pull at least as much as on push. The retailers of ebooks want every book they can get in their store — there is no “cost” of inventory like there is with physical — so the initiative to connect between publisher and retailer comes from both directions now. That means the large sales force as a differentiator in distribution clout is not nearly as powerful as it was. Being able to market books better is what a house increasingly finds itself compelled to claim it can do.

via Marketing will replace editorial as the driving force behind publishing houses – The Shatzkin Files.

Go Read This | Face it: your digital product is a service | NEXT Berlin

Great post this! Like this piece:

This is why digital products are more akin to services. If you have a bad day in a restaurant, the staff talk, and they adjust what they offer for the next day. Mistakes can be more readily rectified, customer demands worked into the product at greater speed. If you apply an agile approach to the code underlying your digital product, you have the same opportunity – you just need a company structure that will support that sort of rapid decision-making and implementation.

via Face it: your digital product is a service | NEXT Berlin.