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Wednesday News: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster, more on...

Amazon in Talks with Simon & Schuster – Acquisition? – Several outlets have reported that Amazon is in negotiations with Simon & Schuster, although the content of the talks is currently unknown. Confirmation of the talks came from Les Moonves himself, president of CBS, which owns Simon & Schuster, and Reuters has a link to the talk in which Moonves made the comment. Nate Hoffelder floats the possibility of Amazon attempting to acquire S&S, rather than merely engaging in early contract talks:

That is a crazy idea, yes, but hear me out. Before you send for the trank guns, just remember that in the past 6 months I accurately called the Dropbox-Readmill deal, the Comixology acquisition, and the Nook Media spin off.
. . .
To put it simply, Simon & Schuster is the smallest of the Big 5, and there’s no real connection between it and its parent company – not like there is for the 4 other major US trade publishers.

With $800 million in revenue in 2013, S&S is the smallest of the major US trade publishers (in terms of revenue). It is a wholly owned sub of CBS, a $15 billion a year company with operations mainly in the US. –The Digital Reader

Amazon, a Friendly Giant as Long as It’s Fed – I’m not sure how many more angles there are to the Amazon-Hachette battle to investigate, but you know the media outlets will keep trying. This piece from the New York Times has a couple interesting features, including a discussion of the extent to which Amazon has been working with academic publishers, as well as their push for POD rights when a book is not immediately available for shipment.

Academic houses traditionally sell their books, which are labor-intensive and printed in small quantities, for smaller discounts than general publishers do. Amazon will have none of that. “I offered them a 30 percent discount, and they demanded 40,” said Karen Christensen of Berkshire Publishing, a small academic house in Great Barrington, Mass.

Amazon, as usual, got what it wanted. Then it asked for 45 percent.

“Where do I find that 5 percent?” Ms. Christensen asked. “Amazon may be able to operate at a loss, but I’m not in a position to do that.”

Ms. Christensen, like other publishers, complains that Amazon is very inventive with fees and charges that rapidly add up.

But at the same time, Amazon has made itself essential to Berkshire, which publishes a three-volume dictionary of Chinese biography that sells for $595. Amazon is responsible for about 15 percent of Berkshire’s business. Ms. Christensen feels that she can’t leave Amazon but fears what else it might ask. “I wake up every single day knowing Amazon might make new, impossible demands,” she said.

Amazon has been reported to be seeking a new concession from publishers: If a customer orders a book and it is not immediately available, it wants the right to print the volume itself. An Amazon spokesman said it does not compel publishers to use the technology but offers it as a service. The customer wants the book immediately, so this makes obvious sense. But it chips away yet again at the publisher’s role. –New York Times

The evolution of the Harlequin case: Assessing e-book opportunities – Although not as detailed as I had hoped, this video on Harlequin as a case study project for graduate students at Western University’s Ivey Business School (Canada) is still interesting, in part because of the way Harlequin executives engaged with the students and their ideas about how Harlequin should manage their digital publishing opportunities. It’s a relatively short video, and I haven’t looked to see if some of the projects are available online, but it would be interesting to see what the students came up with in more detail. –Ivey Business School

Beachfront Libraries Are Pretty Much The Best Idea Ever – I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but here on the West Coast of the US. it’s freaking hot. Which gives way to thoughts of the beach, and of the soothing sound of the ocean (gee, do you think I might need a vacation?!). I have yet to see a beachside library out here, but what a brilliant idea. Check out some of the locations – outside of getting sand in the books, it seems like a pretty ingenuous use for paper books.

Pop-up libraries are a growing trend at beaches around the world, according to Atlas Obscura. In May, Bulgaria’s Black Sea resort, Albena, reopened its beach library for the second summer in a row. The library houses more than 6,000 books. –Huffington Post

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

6 Comments

  1. Jane
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 07:42:50

    I remember that S&S has long been considered for sale but that Moonves wasn’t receiving the money he wanted for it. Given all of the outlays, I’m wondering how it’s bottom line is doing. We haven’t had an earnings update for a long time.

  2. Katie
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 09:55:09

    The beachfront library idea is really a case of “everything old is new again.” My library’s bookmobile used to visit the local beaches in 1930s and 1940s. Reading and the beach go together like peas and carrots. Unless your an archivist (like me), in which case it is a living nightmare. The water! The sand! The sunscreen-sticky hands! *clutches her pearls*

  3. AlexaB
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 12:18:31

    I think The Digital Reader is sniffing up the wrong tree.

    The Amazon specific portion of the video starts around 15:30.

    Moonves starts out by talking about his relationship with Amazon as a whole – he calls them a “frenemy.” Amazon’s push into video streaming makes Amazon both a competitor (of CBS-TV , Showtime & The CW) and a customer (of CBS Television Studios). Thus Moonves has a whole host of reasons to talk with Bezos personally (plus it was the Sun Valley conference, which is sleep away camp for the 1% of the 1% of internet/tech/media moguls. Of course they chatted.)

    Moonves is asked specifically about the Hachette negotiations: Would he be happy if Amazon treated S&S authors the way Amazon is treating Hachette authors (the moderator wrote a book published by Hachette).

    Moonves’s complete answer: “We are negotiating with Amazon as we speak, so I don’t want to get into too much detail about it. Obviously Amazon has a very definitive point of view on what should be done in the publishing business. Those in the publishing world are not totally copacetic with it because they do control a high percentage of those books. It’s going to be a very interesting thing to watch as we go down the future.”

    So while it’s possible that Moonves is seeking to sell Simon & Schuster to Amazon – anything is possible – I’m not sure this is the smoking gun it’s being made out to be.

    CBS Investor Relations has financial news for Simon & Schuster buried in its income reports. According to the last annual report, publishing revenues were $809 million in 2013, up from $790 million in 2012. Operating income was $113 million, up from $89 million.

    For first quarter 2014, “Publishing revenues for the first quarter of 2014 decreased 11% to $153 million from $171 million for the same prior-year period, as last year’s first quarter benefited from the continued success of fourth quarter 2012 releases. Digital book sales continue to represent a significant portion of the segment’s sales, with 29% of Publishing’s total revenues coming from digital sales during the first quarter of 2014….Publishing OIBDA [operating income]for the first quarter of 2014 increased 8% to $13 million from $12 million for the same prior-year period, as lower revenues were more than offset by a decrease in operating expenses.”

    http://investors.cbscorporation.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=99462&p=irol-newsArticle&ID=1929053&highlight=

  4. Glittergirl
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 16:39:27

    I an convinced that Amazon is trying to control the entire book market from the top down. Already it has convinced some authors to publish with them exclusively making it impossible for me, a Nook Color user, to read those books as I can’t use their app on my Nook (too old a devise) and it’s not practical to read a book on my computer where I can use their app. I can’t afford a “smart phone”, hence the old Nook, so I have to wait and hope it will someday be published in epub (the rest of the industry’s standard language). I’m so frustrated and really pray they do NOT become the monopoly they are actively trying to become.

  5. Lindsay
    Jul 16, 2014 @ 19:26:06

    I once stayed in a hotel on the beach and it had a huge library of books people had left there while on vacation, and it was great! Pre-Kindle, I used to bring a bunch of books with me on a trip and was always happy if I had a chance to leave a finished one behind as it lightened my luggage going home. Or made room for a new one! I’ve seen things like that at time-shares and when staying at a friend’s cottage, but never on such a huge scale.

  6. Janine
    Jul 17, 2014 @ 14:38:40

    If only we had a beach library on one of the LA beaches, I would happily donate some of my older paper books! It would be so great to have one of those.

    Incidentally, the Encinitas Branch Library in the San Diego area has tables and chairs on a deck overlooking the beach… almost as good!

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