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Monday Midday News Roundup: UK eBook Price War

It’s a quiet newsday but I had to post this article.   Amazon UK has opened and the prices were low because the publishers decided not to impose Agency pricing.   The low Amazon prices has spurred a price war and now all ebooks at WH Smith are 50% off.   Even with the exchange rate, the prices for many books are cheaper at WH Smith than they are in the Amazon US store.   You can tell which books are available to you by the convenient badges that say “Limited Availability” and “Available Everywhere”.

I’m trying to figure out how to convince WH Smith website that I am not a US buyer.   Haven’t quite figured this out yet.


Debbie Stier, Director of Digital Marketing at HarperCollins, posted about a great website that helps parents with homework of their children.   Ever have a problem in math or grammar and are not sure what the correct answer is?   Apparently Kahn Academy videos can help you out.   I’m bookmarking this for the future because I often am not smarter than a fifth grader.


After robust sales in hardcovers for the first quarter, recently released numbers show a slight decline in book sales from last year (which was a pretty sucky year).

Compared to the first half of 2008, just before the recession kicked into high gear, bookstore sales in the first six months of 2010 were down 3.6%.


A new ebookstore, Weightless Books, has opened offering DRM free ebooks.   The site has a very clean interface but I haven’t bought anything and thus can’t offer any judgments on the ease of use, etc.   (I will mention that when I first saw the name of the store, I thought it said Weightloss Books and thus were a bunch of books on dieting).


A professor gets ejected from Starbucks because she doesn’t like the gramatically improper names of the drinks.   Ms. Professor sounds like she is a joy to be around.

“I just wanted a multigrain bagel,” Rosenthal told The Post. “I refused to say ‘without butter or cheese.’ When you go to Burger King, you don’t have to list the six things you  don’t want.

“Linguistically, it’s stupid, and I’m a stickler for correct English.”

The Professor also does not like using the words “Venti” or “Grande”.


And, apparently, RWA is promoting the RITAs by buying adwords.   I recall that RWA authorized the expenditure of some amount of money to promote the RITAs, but I don’t recall how much. Interesting, definitely.   Worthwhile?   I don’t know.   There are several arguments against ad words and most have to do without getting return for your investment but the ad showed up in my gmail box today.

RITA Ad Words

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. Dana
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 11:14:04

    Oooh, the UK ebook prices are making me jealous. I hate the Agency pricing model. I’ve cut back on my ebook buying, and I’ve started going back to used book stores.

  2. Ridley
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 11:47:46

    I won’t use “venti” or “grande” either. If I am in a Starbucks I use “small,” “medium” and “large.” Their marketing decisions aren’t a language mandate. It’s part of the reason I avoid them in favor of Dunkin’ Donuts.

    While the professor sounds like a prig, the barista was an idiot for making a big deal about it. I’d file it under “New York.”

  3. MaryK
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 11:48:17

    Huh, I’ll probably use the homework website myself. I have to study for the GRE. :(

  4. Lynne Connolly
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 11:49:02

    The prices are driving those of us in the UK crazy. All we can do is look at them,especially in the Amazon store. Because they don’t start shipping the new Kindles, the first in the UK, until 27th August. I have one on order, and my delivery date is 8th September. Until then, I can buy a Kindle book for my computer, or hang on, hoping they keep the prices low.
    The Sony Pocket is now £10 cheaper than the cheapest Kindle at Waterstones and WH Smith, but I’m glad I went for the Kindle because of the extra inch on the screen and the improved clarity.
    Kindle store – not so much, yet, because I’m used to dragging and dropping from my computer.
    I do read in bed at night, and I can’t use a bedside light. So what clip on lights do you recommend for the Kindle? I like the look of the Really Tiny Light, but not sure about its effectiveness. The Kandle looks – interesting. And before you tell me there’s a cover and light combo, I know, but it’s £50 – that’s half the price of the Kindle again, and while I’d love one, I can’t see the vfm. Besides, I’m thinking of crafting my own cover. Anyone done that?

  5. Lisa J
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 12:56:38

    Thanks for the tip on the 1/2 price sale. I was able to order three books (available in the US) for less than I can buy them from US bookstores even with the exchange rate. Yea!!!

  6. Joy
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 13:08:13

    @Lynne Connolly: There’s really no reason to wait until your Kindle gets there to buy the books. You can buy them now and immediately download them to your Kindle when it arrives. It’s like having a built-in To Be Read pile when you get the thing! I did that for my nook. I’ve learned the hard way not to take low ebook prices for granted–a bunch of ’em I had my eye on just went UP again.

  7. Lurker
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 13:22:32

    To Ridley, thank you for my daily laugh.

  8. Yeldir
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 13:24:19

    @Joy – thanks for the tip about pre-ordering your books. I have my Kindle on order and can’t wait for its arrival.

    @Ridley – The only people that don’t use the proper terms at Starbucks or anywhere else are those that can’t say them or don’t understand what they mean. I think the people that work at these locations are doing a great job for less than nothing pay so instead of boycotting them why don’t you drive through, order off the menu and give a huge tip.

  9. Jen Armintrout
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 13:40:14

    At a Starbucks in NYC, the counter guy forced me to use their stupid terminology before he would ring up my drink. He was soooo passive aggressive about it. It was the highlight of my day.

  10. Ridley
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 14:18:55


    I can’t say I follow your logic. I dislike a company’s marketing strategy, so I should reward them by buying their product and tipping?

    How about I continue to go to Dunks, which doesn’t foster absurd pretensions of being a fancy coffee house and is the humble coffee chain it is, and get better tasting coffee at half the price while ordering in common English? That makes a lot more sense to me.

  11. RachelT
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 14:27:15

    Smiths are now showing 66% of top 100 fiction ebooks!

  12. Joy
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 14:47:33

    Oh, and I don’t use the “proper” language at Starbucks, after ordering “grande” about 10 times when I meant large and getting the wrong size (i.e. not the one I thought I was ordering; back when I was a child and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I was taught that in Romance languages “grande” means “large” and that’s all I can remember some days). I say large or medium to the baristas here, and we manage to work it out (“I want the one that MEANS medium, please?”).

  13. Vi
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 15:25:22

    Considering some of the romance titles ou there, maybe we shouldn’t judge Starbucks too harshly. I’m off to get a Venti black iced, unsweetened. :)

  14. Vi
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 15:26:09

    Oooopsy, *out*

  15. Kim in Hawaii
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 15:40:48

    We have Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts on the island, but I’d rather have Krispy Kreme. They are such a hot item that Hawaiian residents bring them home by the dozens from Las Vegas. The Dolphin Hotel served them during the RWA Continental Breakfast -manna from Heaven!

    (Note the purposely misspellings of Dunkin Donuts and Krispy Kreme – brand names that we remenber).

    While it commendable that romance readers want to order their coffee in plain speak, it becomes a little complicated here in Hawaii as businesses use a combination of English, Hawaiian, and Pidgin – a language developed by the different immigrant workers to communicate with each other. It ultimately became the key to organizing workers, seeking statehood, and giving them rights previously denied. I’ve seen Pidgin pop up in Las Vegas and even Tampa!

    In the case of Starbucks, let’s not forget that it was the showcase of American ingenuity in creating new business and franchising something so simple as coffee.

    Personally, I’d rather have a Diet Coke as I read romance books by the kai (sea).

  16. Ridley
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 16:07:01

    Krispy Kreme is gross. I tried their donuts during their brief foray into New England and I have to say I don’t get the appeal. I could eat like a munchkin sized bit, but a whole one of those donuts was just too much.

  17. Ros
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 16:27:50

    I’m glad you pointed it out because I totally read that as Weightloss Books, too, and couldn’t imagine why I’d be interested.

    I’m another who refuses to use Starbucks terminology, but I’ve never met an assistant in there who has made a fuss about me calling a small, a small.

    And finally, yay to the cheap ebook prices in the UK. Now if only they would lift geographical restrictions so we could actually buy all the books we want…

  18. Ros
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 16:29:54

    @Yeldir: I think people can be forgiven for not understanding what Starbucks terms mean. If they choose to use ‘grande’ to mean something other than ‘large’ then it’s not the customer’s fault for misunderstanding that. I would much rather they used clear terminology and drop the pretentious stuff.

  19. Serena
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 18:20:00

    I was taught that in Romance languages “grande” means “large” and that's all I can remember some days
    Yes, and “Venti” means 20. Don’t know how they came up with that.

  20. Susan Reader
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 19:36:54

    Actually, “Venti” is the only one that makes sense. It’s a twenty-ounce cup.

  21. meoskop
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 21:38:39

    @ Ridley – althought not a coffee drinker, now I want to write an ode to Dunkin Donuts. I mean, if we need to learn a language and tip big to reward a company for appealing to the pretension in many of us by overcharging for a swell-a-gent beverage, then how much nobler are the hard working people of the less glamourous working class shop, the humble DD’s?

    Without Mr Rosenberg’s ability to transcend his upbringing and bring franchising to the masses, would we even have these hard working folks in green aprons charging several times the cost of a simple donut for the privilege of handing us a heavy ‘scone’?

    I say embrace the spirit of Yankee ingenuity founded in Quincy by embracing the pink and orange. Drop a $20 in the tip box and know over the course of the week you would’ve spent it at Starbucks anyway!

  22. meoskop
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 21:40:51

    ps – Am I the only one that sees the disheartening parallel between the coffee wars and the Agency model? Put it in a green apron and claim it’s worth more than the superior paper version at the local retailer, and you’ve got the mindset they’re counting on for ebook price gouging.

  23. Ridley
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 21:50:35



  24. Suze
    Aug 16, 2010 @ 22:06:24

    I dunno, the sole, solitary, single Romance title at Weightless doesn’t look very romancey. Meh.

    I don’t mind Starbucks, although I’d prefer to patronise an independent barista (if only one was open in my town later than 4:30 pm). I also don’t get the appeal of Krispy Kreme, and I despise cutsie misspellings.

    However, I also don’t buy Coke. Don’t like it, but also don’t like their union-busting or water use policies.

    Wow, what a grouch I am tonight. Probably shouldn’t have skipped supper. Off to eat.

  25. Azure
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 05:53:53

    Jane, if you ever figure out how to get WHSmith to “forget” that you’re a US buyer, please pass that on–I’ve tried to figure it out myself without success. Until then, if there’s a UK ebook I really want, I have to bite the bullet and buy it at Waterstones, which still lets me buy UK ebooks. *fingers crossed that this continues*

  26. sao
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 07:36:31

    I bought a small, clip-on booklight in a bookstore or brookstones several years ago. I suspect it would work fine with a Kindle, although I don’t have one. It cost 5 or 10 bucks.

    I don’t bother with the Starbucks silly sizes, except in some stores they have a real small, which is smaller than their listed funny-name small.

    Venti has always made me think of Gone With the Wind. I guess my classical education is lacking.

  27. Media Books
    Aug 17, 2010 @ 11:15:04

    In todays climate of recession this is exactly what all us book readers need! I am on amazon ordering books tonight.

  28. Angela
    Aug 18, 2010 @ 11:23:20

    @Lynne Connolly: Regarding a reading light, I bought this one for my Kindle 1, and I just clip it to the cover – it works fantastic and is perfect for what I need.

    <–is also looking for a way to get WH Smith to forget I'm in the US ;)

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