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Robinson-Patman, Amazon, the publishers, and the ABA: Where’s the lawsuit? (Updated)
June 3, 2014 | 3:16 pm

Two different op-eds have popped up on CNN and Al Jazeera suggesting that Amazon, big bully that it is in the Hachette negotiation, needs to be taken down a peg under the Robinson-Patman Act. (If you didn’t hear a raspy voice say “I’m Patman” when I mentioned the name of that law, I’m pretty sure you did just now.) Robinson-Patman is an anti-predatory-pricing regulation that’s on the books dating back to the ‘30s, intended to prevent businesses from charging different prices in different towns to undercut local competition, or from using their size to bully suppliers into giving...

Redesigning the small bookstore
June 2, 2014 | 3:35 pm

books1What would the bookstore of the future look like? The Economist’s Intelligent Life magazine asked four Commonwealth architecture firms to come up with their futuristic vision for a small High Street bookshop with two floors of 1,000 square feet each, and a limited budget of £100,000 (about $168,000) to make all the improvements. The visions they came up with are certainly interesting. They differ in details, but they all agree that it’s not just a matter of moving furniture around to make it look nice. They need to redefine the bookstore’s business model, and then design a space to...

Hachette vs. Amazon: Big publishers messed up, small publishers rejoice, investors beware, and ordinary people don’t care
June 2, 2014 | 1:08 pm

Late-night comedy hosts and political radio pundits love Presidential elections. No matter who wins, they’re guaranteed four more years of great material. I feel kind of the same way about the Amazon/Hachette spat currently going on. There are so many great articles coming out, and I am desperately trying to resist the temptation to blog them all! Let’s see here: the Minneapolis StarTribune has an interesting story about public reactions to the Amazon-Hachette spat at BookExpo. As might be expected, the reaction by the general public was generally positive toward Amazon and “Huh? Who’s that?” toward Hachette. Most attendees...

Publishers, Amazon, and competition: Three points of view
June 1, 2014 | 11:00 am

There’s a theme in the triad of Amazon/Hachette articles I found this morning, and the theme is…competition. First of all, here’s a rare op ed in favor of Amazon that originally appeared in CNN’s “Fortune” section. (Though it seems to have vanished from there; the link no longer works and the author reposted it on his own blog.) Len Sherman rebuts an earlier anti-Amazon piece by Adam Lashinsky and argues that Hachette’s background as an illegal colluder suggests it is more interested in keeping prices high, whereas Amazon wants to keep them lower for consumers. ...

Not everyone has a local bookstore, nor should they have to
May 30, 2014 | 12:14 pm

img_1118 People like to talk about the importance of buying books in a local independent bookstore to help keep local independent bookstore culture alive—especially now that the mud is flying around about Amazon and Hachette squabbling with each other. Rather than support a bully, the thinking goes, you should buy books from a local instead. But as Kelly Jensen notes in BookRiot, that’s often not possible. It may even smack of “privilege.” Not all readers have access to brick and mortar stores. Not all readers have the capability to walk to their local indie...

Hachette responds to Amazon’s statement, will discuss compensating authors when terms are reached
May 28, 2014 | 1:28 pm

Last night we got a statement from Amazon in regard to its current squabble with Hachette over contract terms; today we get a (somewhat snarky) statement from Hachette. Digital Book World has posted Hachette’s statement, which I’ll reproduce in full here: It is good to see Amazon acknowledge that its business decisions significantly affect authors’ lives. For reasons of their own, Amazon has limited its customers’ ability to buy more than 5,000 Hachette titles. Authors, with whom we at Hachette have been partners for nearly two centuries, engage in a complex and difficult...

Two fingers to UKIP with “More Bloody Foreigners” event
May 27, 2014 | 10:25 am

BloodyAfter a European election with a surge for the UK Independence Party that showed just how xenophobic the English are prepared to be, a counterblast is being staged at the London Review Bookshop  with a "More Bloody Foreigners" event scheduled for June 11th, featuring four continental European crime writers - Poland's Mariusz Czubaj, Bosnian Andrej Nikolaidis, and Italians Marco Malvaldi and Ben Pastor - supported by their publishers Bitter Lemon Press, Europa Editions, Istros Books, Maclehose Press, and Stork Press, and the Polish Cultural Institute in London. "Located in the heart of Bloomsbury, just a Rosetta Stone’s throw from the British Museum,"...

Sneaking books into bookstores is not a good idea
May 25, 2014 | 10:36 am

Here’s another one from the “probably not a good idea” department. Self-published writer Brendan Leonard had a bright idea: he might see if he could get his book more exposure by planting it in a Barnes & Noble store. All that was necessary for it to ring up was to have an ISBN bar code on it, which it did. He then had the idea to use it as an Instagram promotional gimmick: place books in various stores and post their location to Instagram so people could go buy them. Granted that he was giving money away by giving his...

Updated: ‘Amazon Derangement Syndrome’ characterizes dispute between Amazon and Hachette
May 24, 2014 | 12:36 am

So, there’s a thing. Over on The Passive Voice, and some other blogs with similar points of view, they refer to it as “Amazon Derangement Syndrome (ADS),” for the way a certain class of people seem to like to run around like chickens with their heads cut off whenever the evil Amazon does another evil thing evilly. Now, I’ll grant that ADS might not be the best term to go around using if you want to engage in serious discourse, given that the sort of people who toss it around are likely to be just as opinionated in...

Comic book shop advocate pushes for windowing of digital comics
May 2, 2014 | 4:58 am

The Southgate, Michigan News-Herald has a story about a local comic book shop owner, Dennis Barger, who has formed a nationwide “Comic Book Retailers Alliance” to advocate for print comic book shops. His rhetoric should sound familiar to anyone who’s watched e-books “kill” print bookstores. Barger said, despite what some people in the industry think, social media and other marketing isn’t what sells books for the most part. “The employees at local comic shops pushing these books is the difference in being in the top 200...

That’s show biz: The value propositions of bookstores and movies
April 12, 2014 | 5:35 am

Sometimes when I’m trawling through the news, I run across unrelated posts that form an interesting juxtaposition. Here’s one concerning the very similar way that technological change has affected two entirely different industries. First, Dan Meadows (not a close relation as far as I know) has an interesting pair of posts relating to bookstores, publishers, and their respective value propositions. In the first one, he talks about bookstores and publishers in general. The services these institutions offer hasn’t changed—bookstores still have about the same number of books, publishers still offer the same services—but because people suddenly have even better...

Indie bookstores doing fine: Now stop demonizing Amazon?
April 10, 2014 | 10:31 am

amazonSalon, rarely the most Amazon-friendly of venues, has just run another story on the state of the indie bookstore sector in the U.S., and found surprisingly positive trends. And naturally, being Salon, it saw fit to headline the report with a hit at Amazon like: "The independent bookstore lives! Why Amazon’s conquest will never be complete." In the article, Andrew Leonard picks up on the same kind of data that I instanced previously on the relative fortunes of indie bookstores and major book chains (Borders in particular, of course) in the era of digital disruption. "Brick-and-mortar bookstores aren’t dead, yet," he...