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Monday Midday Links: Amazon Questioned About Privacy by Congress

Congress is asking Amazon to explain its SILK service. SILK is the service that Amazon will be using to speed up browser access on its tablet. Rather than spend the money on building a faster processor like Apple’s A5, Amazon has developed SILK which takes in web content and then optimizes it for the Kindle Fire. It also uses predictive analysis to push pages to your Fire that it believes you will want to see. All of this allows Amazon to track every step the user takes on the Fire. Forbes suggests that Amazon use this data on an anonymous basis only. Forbes also suggests that Amazon isn’t the only one trying to capture all your web browsing data. Be careful out there, folks.


NYTimes has an article about Amazon’s new publishing ventures. Some interesting tidbits:

  • It purportedly paid $800,000 for Penny Marshall’s biography
  • It saw a review of a self pubbed book in Publishers Weekly for which the author paid $100 and liked the concept of the book.  Amazon will be publishing it next month.
  • Kiana Davenport’s hated publisher is Penguin.
Paul Biba posted about Harper Collins’ poor quality digital publication of Terry Pratchett’s “Snuff.”  Clearly, these books are not undergoing any post conversion proofing.  Apparently, though, this is not a problem isolated to digital books. One of the commenters mentioned that a friend has a paper copy which has errors as well.
In July, adult mass market sales were down 28.6% and adult hardcovers declined 17.8%.  More stats here.
ReDigi is a site where consumers can buy and sell used digital music.  ReDigi says this is legal.
We strongly believe that this marketplace will provide and protect the rights of consumers as they were provided for under US copyright act and the first sale doctrine.  Just because things have gone digital doesn’t mean that people have given up their hard fought for rights, each individual has the right to sell their legally purchased digital goods. The ReDigi marketplace is NOT about file sharing, it is a method offacilitating the legal transfer of music between two parties.  The ReDigi approach is novel, it verifies that the track was properly acquired, manages items selected for sale within the sellers music libraries to prevent multiple copies (protecting the seller from copyright infringement), and facilitates an even greater level of copyright protection than the previous CD market.
One of the initial facebook commenters says that the first sale doctrine can’t be implicated because the original sale does not include transfer of ownership, but a license.  It is true that those are the terms of service from Amazon and iTunes but this is an area of law which is unsettled.  Is it a license of a true sale?  I hope that ReDigi has deep pockets to defend itself so we can get some clarity in the law.
In the People section  (reg requ’d) of Publishers’ Marketplace came the notice that Hachette has laid off 11 people in the sales & marketing department.  This may be a result of two things.  First, the decline of volume of sales due to the cessation of the Twilight series and second, the reduction in physical retail stores like Borders.
Books a Million has followed Barnes & Noble’s lead and pulled all the DC Comics from its stores.  While I understand B&N and BAMM’s desire to fight back against Amazon, I don’t think this is the best way to go about it.  DC Comics reported selling 5 million comics in just five weeks.

DC Comics has sold more than 5 million comics in the first six weeks of its line-wide relaunch, the publisher trumpeted this morning, saying the company “is experiencing its best comic books sales in more than 20 years.”

That figure includes more than 250,000 copies of Justice League #1, whose debut on Aug. 31 kicked off the New 52. According to DC, Action Comics #1 and Batman #1 — the top-selling comics in the direct market in September— have each moved more than 200,000 copies, while the first issues ofDetective ComicsThe FlashGreen Lantern and Superman have all sold more than 150,000.

As a consumer I hate exclusives but they often work. I was a long time customer of DirecTV primarily because the NFL Ticket is available only to DirecTV subscribers.  NFL Ticket, for non football fans, is a pricey package that allows you to watch every game every Sunday.  I was told by a DirecTV employee once that the NFL Ticket is responsible for millions of DirecTV subscribers and that DirecTV makes no money off the NFL Ticket.  In some sense, it is nearly a loss leader for DirecTV.  This doesn’t mean all of the other media providers black out the NFL because to do so would be to likely lose even more customers to DirecTV.  Instead, those other media providers have to offer something else more attractive.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Christine
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 11:30:32

    I confess I find it strange that Amazon is demonized for negotiating exclusives- something every major business does. Target always seems to have some extra bonus content for hit movies when they are released- I remember a coworker saying she had to buy the DVD of Twilight from Target for her daughter as it had all kinds of additional content exclusive to Target.It didn’t keep Walmart and a million other stores from carrying the other version. Everything from cable stations to fast food chains to cell phone providers have relied on “exclusive” deals to attract customers, why is this so significantly different?

  2. Janet W
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:01:17

    It saw a review of a self pubbed book in Publishers Weekly for which the author paid $100 and liked the concept of the book. Amazon will be publishing it next month. Is the Times criticizing this? Did the author do something dishonourable? I’m trying to figure out what it was, if it was. It sounds like she paid for advertising. Unless PW doesn’t share that placement on the list is available to those who pay for it? It’s hard to distinguish between the ok/not ok in the myriad ways authors bring books to the attention of readers. It sounds like this author succeeded in capturing someone’s attention. p.s. Re bonus content, I remember Mary Balogh saying that Walmart had asked for a bonus epilogue for some book in the Huxtable quintet (I think) — that eventually she would be able to put on her website. Is this uncommon?

    p.s. #2 I couldn’t find the new Courtney Milan at my local B&N — in fact, there were lots of Harlequins available but no historicals (that I could see). And I’m not the only person saying/seeing this — what’s going on?

  3. Kim
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:11:44

    “… the decline of volume of sales due to the cessation of the Twilight series and second, the reduction in physical retail stores like Borders.”

    It’s amazing that one successful series can contribute that much to a company’s bottom line. While publishers are allowing mid-list authors to go elsewhere (self-publishing), would they do more to keep a mega-star author from walking?

    Also, more is going on than just Borders closing. Courtney Milan’s book isn’t being carried at Target or Wal Mart, but I found it in my local supermarket. How is it possible that a Harlequin product isn’t in major merchandise stores, but it’s distributed in grocery stores?

  4. susan
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:45:39

    At my job we recently converted a print book to ebook. Apparently it was part of the contract with the converter that we do not get to proof before it is released! As the only editor on staff (my company is not in the publishing business; we have a web site ) I was surprised to hear this. Corrections are done after the fact, a process we are now in the middle of, and something I am involved in.

    Since we are not a publisher, we used an outside conversion house and they did a pretty good job overall. But based on the errors/issues, it seems to me that these places may have only limited knowledge of publishing protocol and standards. So poor quality digital publications are not such a surprise. I can only hope that this changes as digital becomes more the norm.

  5. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:56:40


    I’m a digital formatter and I can only speak to myself. But since I’m also a publisher, I get where you’re coming from.

    The formatter can’t be responsible for correcting the work. I assume that the work that is sent to me is complete and correct. While I will, occasionally, correct a thing or two while I’m formatting, it’s always a gamble because that’s not my work. Going in after the fact to do corrections (especially if you’re working in more than one format) is extraordinarily more time-consuming than if the work had been delivered flawlessly. I have to assume that that caveat is there for a reason and, quite frankly, I’d have the same caveat. If it’s a text editing problem and not a formatting problem, or if the client wants to tweak this or that bit of formatting to make it look more like the print version, I won’t fix it for free.

    I came to this after one client turned a 10-hour job into a 100-hour job.

  6. Ros
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 13:00:59

    @Moriah Jovan: If you were dealing with a scan of a book, rather than a digital file, who would you expect to be responsible for correcting the errors introduced by the scan? Is that a formatting issue or a writing/editing issue?

  7. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 13:13:48


    I don’t do scanning, but I do do a little OCR. After I produce the text, I send it back to the company to edit. It’s usually a right mess.

  8. Kerry
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 13:20:46

    @Ros: A file full of OCR errors doesn’t constitute “complete and correct,” to my way of thinking. The line between formatting and editing isn’t a fine one. If the writer/publisher wants someone to meddle with the text, they’d better be willing to pay for editing services on top of formatting and accept the consequences of a third party’s influence on the words.

  9. Kathryn
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 13:59:25

    I think that what bothers me about Amazon publishing books is that whole books (not just “extras”) become exclusive to Amazon and that I can’t purchase them anyway else or legally use any other ereader to read them. As for the DC comic exclusive–that is less of a problem for me, since the paperback version is available elsewhere (and I agree that B&N and BAM boycott of DC comics is probably hurting them more than it is hurting DC and it is certainly not hurting Amazon).

    But both issues signal I think a disturbing trend– where we are ending up with knowledge and cultural products becoming even more commodified and even more controlled by people who are not interested in accessibility but only in profits.

  10. Jane
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 14:16:40

    @Janet W PW doesn’t review self pubbed books. You have to pay for a review if you are a self pubbed author. I dn’t think Times was criticizing this but rather pointing out that Amazon is finding content in a variety of different ways from self pubbed authors.

  11. Tabs
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 14:20:29

    I bought a paper copy of Snuff, am 3/4 of the way through it, and haven’t noticed any problems.

  12. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 14:38:31


    Now commencing run on $100 PW reviews for self-pubbed authors.

  13. Jackie Barbosa
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 15:03:27

    @Moriah Jovan: Honestly, even if Amazon doesn’t pick you up, a somewhat favorable review on PW could be a big boost to sales for a self-published author. Heck, even a poor review might be a boost. $100 for visibility on a site like PW is CHEAP in my book.

  14. Moriah Jovan
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 15:06:33

    @Jackie Barbosa:

    Do they actually review you, though? Or is it for consideration to be reviewed?

  15. Isobel Carr
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 15:11:14

    How is it possible that a Harlequin product isn’t in major merchandise stores, but it’s distributed in grocery stores?

    Different buyers. Publishers have no control over whether or not a buyer picks up a book. My own books are in Target, but not in Walmart. And they were picked up by one of the major supermarket suppliers, so I’m in a bunch of grocery stores in the Midwest and the South, but not on either coast (as far as I know).

  16. Ridley
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 16:19:52

    Oh that makes me such a sad panda that the DC reboot is selling so well. They set the sexist fan service dial to 11 in those, reaffirming my decision to eschew superhero comics in favor of indies. Knowing it’s selling well does not give me hope for a future filled with more inclusive comics.

    Comics Alliance had a good writeup on the failtastic approach they’ve taken to writing female characters.

  17. Andrea
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 17:56:16

    Publishers Weekly “Select” program for self-publishers is not a guaranteed review. You can pay $149 to have your book _listed_ (with what amounts to a one-line blurb) in a quarterly supplement which lists only self-published work.

    Of these, a minimum of 25 will be selected ‘on merit’ for a review by PW reviewers. (There are 132 titles listed in their July 2011 issue, working out at around $20,000 for the listings). The reviews appear to be a single, longish paragraph.

  18. Deb
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 20:37:24

    The Forbes link tops off an irked-at-Amazon day. Why is everyone shrugging about what happens to consumer information? I do NOT want anyone using my information for purposes I don’t sign off on, and I don’t think I’m the only one.

  19. SAO
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 00:06:17

    I’m with Kathryn. I’m concerned about the way the e-book revolution has hastened the trend of cultural and knowledge products being commodified for profit. As a kid and teen, most of the books I read were borrowed. I’m a highly literate adult because I read my great-grandfather’s leather-bound Kipling, I read my grandmother’s musty Little House books, I read my father’s copy of War and Peace.

    Sure, most of those books are probably free on Guttenberg, but newer books aren’t. I rejected Dawkins’ selfish gene theory because it didn’t fit with what I’d learned in college — until my F-i-L handed me the book. I wouldn’t have bought it, since I didn’t believe.

    Guns, Germs, and Steel is another book that changed my thinking about the world. I borrowed it, too.

    Maybe I should invest more in further education and read more of the seminal books coming out, but it can be hard to tell the gold from the dross.

    But when all of these are on e-readers and only licensed, I and my children will be notably less literate and less educated.

  20. Christine M.
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 05:32:10

    @SAO: And why not pick them up at your public librairy, be it on paper or e? Or at the librairy of your local university? That way you can keep on borrowing and not having to spend any money.

  21. Christine
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 09:54:49

    Deb said “The Forbes link tops off an irked-at-Amazon day. Why is everyone shrugging about what happens to consumer information? I do NOT want anyone using my information for purposes I don’t sign off on, and I don’t think I’m the only one. ”

    Unfortunately it’s long past that point. Far more intrusive (imho) monitoring of everyone’s information is already in place. Your calls on your cell phone are pretty much public information- people can buy lists of all your ingoing and outgoing calls, the internet browser you use is tracked and all your websites listed. Every application for your phone and computer gathers your whereabouts, information on your friends, habits etc. Google your name and see how much public information on your education, residence, job and family is listed. A person can choose not to use Amazon’s products but probably will not be able to do without internet, cell phone etc.

  22. Christine
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 10:04:07

    SAO said “I’m with Kathryn. I’m concerned about the way the e-book revolution has hastened the trend of cultural and knowledge products being commodified for profit.”

    I feel this is just a far smaller chip off of the large block of the “computer revolution.” Cultural and knowledge products have been “commodified” since personal computers became the standard for every person and student. I wouldn’t want to be a student these days without access to a computer- you would be at a serious disadvantage to all the other students. Even practice tests for things like the bar exam are computer programs now. Compare that advantage to the student using the paper book tests and grading his own practice exams. E-readers are far less expensive than a computer and most major ereader suppliers have free applications for computers (Kindle, Nook etc.) so if you have a computer and need the information you can access it that way. Ditto with ebooks from libraries. Lately most of my reading is by ebooks from the library which saves me a huge amount of time dropping books off and saves me overdue fees. IMHO the e-book revolution hasn’t “hastened the trend of cultural and knowledge products being commodified for profit”- it’s falling on the tail end of it.

  23. Deb
    Oct 18, 2011 @ 10:38:27

    Christine, I agree. But just because it’s already happening doesn’t mean we should accept it. I want the Fair Information Practices put into law, gosh darn it! The EU does it.

    Your emails and other files on Google, Yahoo or anywhere else are also not subject to the same protections as whatever is on your laptop. If the FBI wants that, they only need to say it’s an emergency; if it’s on your personal computer, they need a search warrant. Which is why I am trying to do less and less online. Keep the Cloud.

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