Amazon will Not go Quietly or Quickly

January 16, 2010

A fine blog post from Joe Esposito that I wish I’d written…a small excerpt:

Empires, by definition, begin their decline at their peak. Today Amazon bestrides the publishing world like Caesar, and it may seem far-fetched to think of this company slipping from its dominant position. There is some doubt, however, that Amazon can continue to augment its control over so many facets of the industry. Although there may be more growth ahead, the environment Amazon operates in is evolving and rivals may force their way through cracks in the fortress.

Check the link.


U.S. Magazine Ad Sales Drop Widened in 2009

The Publishers Information Bureau has released its tally for 2009 (based on 250 members) and U.S. magazine ad sales were off by 18.1% last year while the total number of advertising pages dropped 25.6% compared to 2008. BusinessWeek points out that the revenue decrease is “more than twice as steep as a year earlier…The drop in 2008 was 7.8 percent. Ad pages fell 26 percent.”

Discovering a silver lining in a very dark cloud, Ellen Oppenheim, EVP/Chief Executive Officer, Magazine Publishers of America pointed out that “While marketers’ skittishness continued through the fourth quarter, magazine spending showed improvement compared to earlier in 2009. Magazines experienced an uptick in food spending and relative improvement in other areas, especially in automotive.”

I’m unable to find comparable Canadian data. Some anecdotal reports suggest that Canada has fared poorly; others that it has largely escaped the carnage in the U.S. magazine industry. But numbers are scarce.

Regardless, the picture at ths point for magazines in North America, as it is or newspapers, remains bleak.

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Top 10 eBook Readers

January 10, 2010

It is the bane of the current eBook mania that I must, as your humble servant, continue to give this subject far more coverage than I would like to. At the Las Vegas (“City of Disappointment and Personal Bankruptcy”) CES (Consumer Electronics Show) which ended today, there were a slew of new eBook reader introductions. This lead the U.K.’s Financial Times to run a headline, “E-readers Face Risk of Saturation.” My first thought was that surely this means that those who read about eBooks would soon rebel and refuse to read any more articles on the subject. But no, it was a reference to the devices themselves, which prior to the show, I understood to stand at 40 different chunks of mostly E-Ink encasements. If all of the introductions planned in Las Vegas come true, there will be roughly 60, many of them featuring new display technologies. They will be more specialized, as several will focus closely on periodicals rather than books, and other on flower display techniques (OK, kidding).

Regardless, the story will obviously be playing out for quite some time in 2010. I wanted in the meantime, as a reader service, to offer you one web site’s notion of the top 10 eBook devices.


I know that I need not remind you that any review site that includes a “Buy” button near the top of its review should be considered as potentially biased. But for what it’s worth, if you must buy an eReader, this site may perhaps offer guidance.

Update, January 11: ZDNet offers its view of “CES 2010: Top 10 new e-book readers”

Another update: a wealth of information here.

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Smartphones and Tablets Could Doom Netbooks

January 7, 2010

Above is the headline in a tiny article in today’s New York Times.

I reference it because it states what I believe to be true: “Stuck between the still-evolving smartphone and the emerging tablet computer, the netbook computer would seem to be doomed.”

It’s not so much that I necesarily feel that the NetBook is doomed, but I am certain that the evolution in portable computing devices is increasing at a very rapid pace.

There have been a slew of announcements of new eBook-type devices this week at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas. And a slew of other tablets, and other types of non-traditional portable computing devices. When I first heard the iPhone called “a portable computer” I thought it was hyperbole. Now that I use one, I see that it is true. But changes to the form factor are still required, and those changes are imminent.

By the end of 2010 our notion of a portable computing devices will have changed drastically.

Stay tuned.

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Will Amazon Ever Reveal Usable Data About the Kindle?

January 5, 2010

OK, I’m obsessed. I just checked and I’ve written over 30 blog entries in the last few years about Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, for what I consider empty, meaningless hype around the Kindle and eBooks generally. Where is Peter Finch’s Howard Beale when we need him: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!” (Younger readers, please check out the famous Network film scene on YouTube.)

For the record: I’m not against eBooks. They are fast maturing into a vital part of the information landscape. I think Amazon as a company is (as Mark Anderson calls it) “Amazin’,” and that it would not have become Amazin’ without Jeff Bezos. He is a fine example of a risk-taking entrepreneur.

I just don’t think that a company of Amazon’s stature, and a pioneer in eBook marketing, should appear to treat the public like fools.

Bezos’s latest insult to our intelligence was delivered on the day after Christmas. In a press release titled “Amazon Kindle is the Most Gifted Item Ever on,” we “learn” that “, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced that Kindle has become the most gifted item in Amazon’s history.” The release immediately continues, “On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

OK, with all the ongoing hype, I’m willing to believe that the Kindle was indeed  the most gifted item in Amazon’s history. BUT may I note that of course we do not learn how many Kindles that represents, nor, if you ponder more carefully, over what time period. Is this being measured from the Kindle’s introduction? Or just from fall, 2009? Amazon must be the last large publicly-traded company in the world to fail to fill in those small details on its supposed #1 product. Does the SEC ever complain that Amazon might be misleading shareholders about information necessary to their understanding of the value of Amazon’s shares? Of course not.

Mediabistro’s Galleycat pointed out in a December 28, 2009 blog entry that “64 of the 100 Top Kindle Store Bestsellers Are Free.” Does Amazon consider obtaining something that costs $0.00 a purchase? Princeton University’s WordNet‘s first definition of the term “purchase” is “the acquisition of something for payment.” I, for one, would very much appreciate it if Amazon would clarify if it thinks that the word “purchase” is simply synonymous with “obtain.”

Further, does Amazon believe that Christmas Day 2009 will be seen as the tipping point? While almost certainly less than 5% of Amazon’s book-buying customers own Kindles, have the non-Kindle owners decided it is too embarrassing to be seen in public with a printed book? I find it extremely difficult to imagine what the real or symbolic significance is in Amazon’s hyperbolic “On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, customers purchased more Kindle books than physical books.”

To Mr. Bezos and the amazing PR folks at Amazon: please stop treating us like morons!

PS: From Mike Cane an excellent adjunct to this posting here.

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