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Appeals court judges ask probing questions in Apple e-book anti-trial case
December 16, 2014 | 7:56 pm

Yesterday, the appeals court heard testimony from Apple and the Department of Justice relating to the e-book anti-trust trial appeal. To my surprise, two of the three judges seemed amenable toward Apple’s point of view. They expressed concern over why the publisher collusion was such a bad thing when it was for the sake of stopping monopolist Amazon, and hinted that Judge Cote might have erred when she ruled that Apple’s behavior constituted a pro se anti-trust violation—a violation so obvious that it doesn’t need the “rule of reason” test applied to it. Apple attorney Theodore Boutros asked for...

Apple iPod DRM case heats up, but might still fizzle
December 7, 2014 | 12:37 pm

The wheels of justice grind slowly, and sometimes a bit of grit gets stuck in the gears. This seems to be the case with the ten-year-old lawsuit against Apple over the DRM policies it used to enforce on iTunes Music Store music and iPods. Over the last couple of weeks, it’s started moving again, and the testimony and depositions have been interesting to follow. But now it looks as though, just as it’s getting started again, it may come to a complete halt. Locking Out Competitors At heart, the case has to do with the way Apple continually...

Amazon issues EU VAT guidelines for KDP authors
December 2, 2014 | 10:24 am

KDPFollowing the introduction of the European Union's new VAT-MOSS regime, as reported by Chris Meadows, Amazon has now issued details on the implementation of VAT collection for Kindle Direct Publishing, and KDP authors like me have received a lengthy email from the Kindle Direct Publishing Team covering the new regulations. It begins as follows: Hello, On January 1, 2015, European Union (EU) tax laws regarding the taxation of digital products (including eBooks) will change: previously, Value Added Tax (VAT) was applied based on the seller’s country – as of January 1st, VAT will be applied based on the buyer’s country. As a...

Amazon’s Kiva robots herald warehouse automation
December 1, 2014 | 10:28 pm

kiva_robotsHere’s an interesting feature on Amazon’s Kiva robots, used to automate the process of filling orders in some of its warehouses. I hadn’t been entirely clear on how those robots worked, but the article does a great job explaining. The Kiva robots essentially resemble oversized Roombas—squat hockey-puck-shaped gizmos that trundle along the warehouse floors. They operate by latching onto huge inventory shelves and carrying them along with them to “stow stations” where workers load incoming shipments of merchandise into them, or to “picking stations” where order pickers grab the merchandise and put it into a box. To hear...

Diane Duane holds Cyber Monday sale; may have to close e-book store
November 30, 2014 | 4:58 pm

Diane Duane’s e-book store is running a 50% off sale for Black Friday/Cyber Monday. All e-books in the store are half-off, no discount code required. But as Duane explains in a blog post, this could very well be her last Cyber Monday sale, because of the new VAT MOSS regulations coming into effect as of the New Year. As Duane points out via a quote from a Huffington Post article on the matter, the new regulation—and its removal of the minimum threshold at which UK businesses need to worry about VAT—is going to hit many UK small businesses particularly...

New European VAT law could threaten small e-businesses
November 29, 2014 | 10:19 pm

New European Union regulations regarding value-added taxes (a sort of European equivalent of sales tax) will take effect January 1, 2015 that could cause problems for businesses selling electronic goods and services. Referred to as VAT MOSS (for “Mini One-Stop Shop,” the web portal each member state will run to make payments easier), the new regulations put the onus on businesses that provide “telecoms/broadcast/electronic services” to EU customers to keep track of and charge each customer VAT at the rates that apply to the country where that customer lives. Previously, businesses were free to charge at the rate that...

Amazon adds UK post offices to bricks-and-mortar footprint
November 27, 2014 | 4:42 pm

British Booksellers AssociationAmazon has just expanded its distribution and delivery network in the UK by partnering with the Royal Mail to deliver Amazon packages to British post offices - an arrangement that observers say could help to support the ailing UK postal service, already under attack from private sector competitors in the parcels and door-to-door delivery space. The UK post office network, spun off from the delivery network in April 2012 as Post Office Ltd., gives Amazon around 10,500 new points of presence across the country, "taking the total number of Amazon pickup points across the UK to more than 16,000," according...

James Patterson wants Amazon to do more to promote reading
November 20, 2014 | 7:16 am

Salon Magazine has an interview with bestselling author and literary franchise James Patterson that is refreshingly free of the anti-Amazon rhetoric that has characterized both institutions of late. At least they’re not currently trashing Amazon for what it’s doing. They’re complaining about what Amazon ought to be doing but isn’t. And I can’t say that I necessarily disagree. Patterson is planning to launch a new public awareness campaign to encourage reading, following on the heels of his $1 million in grants to bookstores. The campaign will include a TV ad featuring a public book-burning (a bit of a cliché,...

Blurred lines: Social media and news media feeding into each other
November 19, 2014 | 7:35 pm

On GigaOm, Matthew Ingram expresses fascination with the way that the news media and social media have collided and blurred the lines between each other, in the context of the recent Uber scandal. We’re increasingly seeing major news stories break and grow in social and new media—Twitter, Facebook, blogs—with the traditional media being relatively slow to catch on. Rather than issue press releases, public figures and companies are issuing quick responses via Twitter or Facebook. So is this a good thing or a bad thing? That depends a lot on your perspective. Obviously if you’re...

Why is Black Friday now Black Thursday Night? Blame Amazon
November 18, 2014 | 11:06 pm

black-friday-comic-2Tis the season. As we gear up for the Christmas shopping rush to begin, we face a dilemma that’s become a lot more prominent in recent years: many retailers are going to open for early Black Friday shopping on Thanksgiving evening. This has horrified a certain percentage of people who see it as another sign of the commercialized holiday’s insidious creep. If the slippery slope slide continues, before you know it we’re going to witness a sort of reverse Nightmare Before Christmas scenario in which Santa Claus decides he wants to take over Halloween. But what really seems to...

Amazon and Hachette finally agree to a contract!
November 13, 2014 | 3:55 pm

Hachette logoFinally! While I'm sure that Authors United and their compatriots will continue to find something to harp about, it should stop being how big bad Amazon is bullying poor benighted Hachette. According to the letter to Hachette authors and agents (via Joe Konrath): The new agreement delivers considerable benefits. It gives us full responsibility for the consumer prices of our ebooks. This approach, known as the Agency model, protects the value of our authors’ content, while allowing the publisher to change ebook prices dynamically to maximize sales. Importantly, the percent of revenue on which Hachette authors’ ebook royalties are based will not decrease...

Dutch treat, Dutch auction, Dutch date … Amazon dares storm of Dutch epithets going Dutch in Netherlands
November 13, 2014 | 12:25 pm

amazonI hope no Dutch uncle is going to get me in Dutch over all my Dutchisms (or should they be Netherlandisms?) in this article, but how else to convey the news that Amazon has opened a Dutch website, Amazon.nl, offering its wares in the Netherlands? This already includes extensive Kindle ebook offerings in Dutch as well as the localized Kindle client software, and English ebooks, though no products beyond ebooks, at least at this stage. According to reports in the Netherlands Times, the new Dutch version of the Kindle Store will offer some 20,000 Dutch titles by local authors, as well...