imageIn geography and tech, it’s a long way from Seattle-based to the horse country of Kentucky. But Jeff Bezos should beware anyway. Some members of the horsey set just might fly or ride out to Washington state to bean him with an iron shoe—well, almost.

Enraged by Amazon’s print-on-demand grab, the Long Riders’ Guild Press hasn’t just written the U.S. Justice Department. It’s also complained to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, whose oh-so-green turf includes prime horse country. Guess where Amazon has a fulfillment center? Lexington, aka image"Horse Capital of the World"! Beshear should think beyond the Amazon jobs issue—don’t horses count more in Kentucky than West Coast e-tailers, for example?—and encourage Bezos to rein in his POD people’s excesses. Meanwhile Justice tells the Press that it’s "reviewing your complaint" and considering "any potential antitrust concerns or violations regarding Amazon and Print-on-Demand." For more on the anti-trust angle, see PDF of the anti-trust complaint that BookLocker has filed against Amazon’s so-far-unbridled monopolistic practices in POD.

imageOf horse travel and e-books: What an obvious pairing. The Press, the very kind of specialized publisher threatened by Amazon’s POD pushiness, focuses on books by and about long-distance horse travelers, including classics such as Isabella Bird‘s Among the Tibetans (LRG edition e-book here). Even short-distance equestrians, however, might enjoy e-books’ readability on PDAs, cell phones and other portable devices, Kindles along them—ugh, if Amazon shapes up. What’s more, with e-books allowing shared annotations, as many envision for the ePub standard, equestrians could swap thoughts not just about the books but actual personal experiences. Too bad Amazon released the Kindle without letting it natively render ePub.

image More about Long Riders’ Guild: Here and here.  The company’s letter to Justice’s Thomas O. Barnett, an assistant attorney general for anti-trust, describes the firm as "the world’s premier source of equestrian exploration wisdom." Also see information on the founders, Basha and CuChullaine O’Reilly, both as horse-crazed as you would expect. I don’t know if they are Kentucky based (though a whois for their shows the registrant as the Houston Inn in the Kentucky city of Glasgow). But I suspect that more than a few of their fans are. In the photo that’s CuChullaine touring the Pyramids at Giza. He and his wife are "planning the first non-stop, around-the-world equestrian expedition." Via E, they could carry around thousands of books for overnight stops without stuffing or busting the saddle bag.

Among the fans of LRG: Prince Charles and Princess Anne, who’ve expressed appreciation for the guild’s efforts to keep old equestrian classics alive.

kindlehandClose to home—our own little Amazon connection: Many people who frequent the TeleRead site are interested in the Kindle along with other electronics, as well as, yes, books; and Amazon ads seem one way to help make the TeleRead site sustainable for the long run. To Amazon’s credit, it has not told us what to write, and we’ll zap the ads in a flash if it does.

Still, we cannot help but notice a little detail. Even when we were playing the Amazon advertisements up near the top of the page, the ads were leading to zero sales despite the hundreds of thousands of people visiting us each year. Is someone trying to tell us something? Speak up!

Are your feelings about Amazon a major reason why you’re not clicking? Meanwhile we’ll be experimenting with advertisements from other sources and will welcome further suggestions from members of the TeleRead community. Thanks to those who’ve already shared ideas, especially Richard Crocker (an act all the nicer, given his PDF connections and our friendly disagreement over the format) and Colin Stahl (we’re seeing if we can try out an ad service he suggested).

(Thanks to Beth Wellington for tipping us off about LRG’s Amazon problem.)


  1. About the Amazon ads.

    I think it’s my online shopping habits.

    When I need something from Amazon, I have it bookmarked and habit takes me to my browser bookmarks. I rarely click on any ad I see in anyone’s banner on any site which probably make ad people cringe.

    And I hope the horsemen give Amazon heck!

  2. Helpful feedback, Aaron! I encourage other people to speak up. I want not just our posts but also our advertising to be useful. We draw a pretty sophisticated bunch of e-book-lovers, and many could be doing the same thing you are—which suggests that we might be better off to play down the Amazon ads and look elsewhere.

    I’d encourage you and others to tell me the kinds of ads you DO want to see. For what kinds of product and companies?


  3. David,

    Two comments for you. First, there was a fascinating article on Engadget with Bezos of Amazon:

    The fascinating part: On the books that are available in both Kindle and regular versions, the Kindle versions represent 6% of total sales. I never would have guessed that Kindle was already generating that substantial a portion of total sales.

    Secondly, regarding the ads. I don’t generally click on ads. However, I must admit to a deeper issue in my case — I run an adblock program and I don’t see most ads (the NAEB ad is visible on your site).

    Personally, I find the use of ad-blocking programs controversial. As you know, I teach Information Systems at the University level. In my classes I discuss the role of ad sponsored content with my students. I talk about the fact that they get ‘free’ football games on TV because Nike and Pepsi have on field advertisements and commercials. I point out that they ‘pay’ for those games when they buy a $60 or even $200 pair of Nike’s. The shoes may only cost a few dollars to make, but they also include the embedded cost of all of the sponsorships that Nike makes.

    Then we talk about the business model for the ‘free’ web sites. Someone has to pay the costs, and if we aren’t willing to experience advertisements then over the long run we’d better be willing to pay subscription fees or to otherwise finance the sites.

    However, despite this I still admit that I use adblock software. The problem is one of ‘safety’. I have kids using my computer, and I don’t want them to click on an ad that says “your computer is infected”. Its not so much the ‘legitimate’ ads I am trying to block as it is the drive-by infections and other problems of the modern internet age.

    Finally, I’ll wrap up with one piece of advice. I can’t see your Amazon ad, but I’ll make an assumption that it is some type of banner based on the comments. I’ve been out of the advertising game for the last couple of years, but it is pretty well accepted that generic banners don’t work. The key to the google model is that the ads are context-sensitive. Likewise, I wouldn’t expect Amazon ads to work unless they were more targeted.

    So that means that you need to link to specific books on the Amazon web site, and explain why you are linking to them. A book review, a recommendation on a technology magazine, or even a listing for Kindle hardware. People are unlikely to click on a banner to go to Amazon. However, if they are interested in buying the “Tech Bible on Converting Ebooks to Open Formats” then its much easier to click on a link on your site and go directly to the book. If you have an article on the popularity of the Kindle, you can include a link to the product page of the Kindle in your text.

    I realize that this leaves you with a dilemma in regard to maintaining your reputation vis-a-vis conflict of interest. However, it can be done. Just be above board about your need to support the site, and be above board about your reviews. Don’t simply put in random recommendations to boost revenue, and make sure you only recommend books that you really support.


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