I’ve been mostly away from my computer for the last few days, due to an early Thanksgiving visit with family. But I’ve been following the news while I’ve been gone, and there have been a few interesting items concerning Amazon.
One is that, in the UK, Philip Jones reports that Amazon had to answer to Parliament last week concerning its habit of basing its UK business in Luxembourg where it can fulfill orders without having to charge the sizable UK value-added tax (or what we in the US call sales tax) on it orders. Jones notes that there seemed to be more of theater about the questioning than actual substance, Since Amazon has been creating jobs and throwing lots of money around, it seems unlikely to warrant even a slap on the wrist.
Also having to do with Amazon’s business practices: just a couple of weeks after it started testing month-by-month billing for Amazon Prime, Amazon has discontinued taking on new monthly users. Amazon has not made it clear why it’s doing it, or whether it will return, just that it “regularly test[s] new options for [its] customers” and is not currently adding new monthly members. Perhaps it just wanted a small group of test subscribers? Or was the response not all Amazon hoped? Either way, don’t expect the notoriously-closed-mouthed Amazon to elaborate on its reasons. Ever.
Another story of interest has to do with Tim Ferriss, one of the authors whom Amazon is publishing exclusively through its own professional publishing imprint—and, consequently, Barnes & Noble and other US booksellers are declining to carry in their stores because the e-book will be an Amazon exclusive. Ferriss’s book is set to be published in just a few days, and in a result to make an end run around B&N, he has entered into a promotional deal with, of all entities, BitTorrent.
Lately, seemingly in an effort to appear more “legit,” BitTorrent has been offering “Bundles”—free content related to recently-released media or entertainment products—that can be used for promotion. They seem to have been used primarily for music so far, but BitTorrent will be offering material relating to Ferriss’s new book, The 4-Hour Chef. With “160 million monthly active users,” and “driving between 20% and 40% of all Internet traffic,” BitTorrent might possibly be a force to be reckoned with.
That hasn’t stopped some from complaining about Ferriss comparing B&N’s business decision not to carry his books to the sort of censorship that bans books based on controversial content. paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen writes:
The disruptors who do speak out for Ferriss won’t be risking personal harm. They won’t be standing up against free speech. Ferriss approached Amazon for a book deal and in four days, it will be published. That’s not exactly censorship.
But Ferriss himself responds that, whatever the reasons behind it, any action that decreases the circulation of a book is “regress,” rather than progress, and that it should be fought rather than allowing it to snowball.
Regardless of who is right, I have to say that the decision to use BitTorrent as a promotional engine is an intriguing one. I still wonder, though, just how many pirated copies of the entire book will be hosted there right alongside the legitimate promotional content.
Finally, blow out the candles: the Amazon Kindle turned five years old today, and so did the e-reading revolution it ushered in. Voucher Codes’s “Most Wanted” blog has come up with the following infographic showing some facts and figures about the Kindle’s enkindling of the e-book market, as well as an interesting retrospective article about it. I’ve lately come to using a Kindle regularly for the first time myself, and have become even more fond of it than I had thought I would be. (I’ll write a full article on that later.) (Found via E-Reader Info.)