Friday News: Harlequin wines, Amazon Prime, E-books v. the NYT, and music for all time
HARLEQUIN LAUNCHES NEW WINE BRAND – Harlequin announced yesterday that they were introducing a new series of wines, Vintages by Harlequin. The three reasonably priced varietals are currently only available at Amazon, which unfortunately excludes some customers who cannot have the wine shipped to their state, but hopefully that will change in the near future. The labeling is what I would call catchy kitschy, which is consistent with Harlequin’s tongue and cheek branding. According to the press release:
“It’s been great working with Harlequin on this exciting new venture, and we couldn’t be happier to be producing the first range of wines bearing the Harlequin brand,” said Terry Wheatley, Executive Vice President, Sales and Marketing for Vintage Wine Estates. “It’s a special experience to sit down with a good book and glass of wine. We look forward to offering Harlequin readers that moment of everyday indulgence.
”Vintages by Harlequin features three varietals: a bright and delicate chardonnay, a fullbodied cabernet sauvignon and a juicy and complex red wine blend. Available exclusively on Amazon.com now, the wines have a retail price of $14.95 and are available to US customers only. – Harlequin & Amazon
Amazon Prime Will Be $67 Tomorrow, Here’s Everything You Need To Know – Speaking of Amazon, today is the day Amazon discounts their Prime membership by a third, from $99 to $67. If you already have an account, you may be able to gift yourself an account, as people did last year (directions below). If you do not yet have a Prime account, this might be the time to get one. I order so much stuff from Amazon that my membership pays for itself in shipping alone within the first two or three months. There’s a lot of free content, too, although the shipping is really what keeps me in.
New Amazon Prime members can lock in their $67 memberships the traditional way, but if you’re already a member, you’ll need to take advantage of a loophole. Just head over here to purchase a gift subscription for the promotional price, and then email it to yourself. Note that you’ll have to cancel auto-renew on your existing Prime membership, and wait to redeem the gift email until after your existing membership expires, but that’s a small inconvenience for a $33 savings. – Kinja
No, e-book sales are not falling, despite what publishers say – So I’m not thrilled that this story relies on the Author Earnings numbers to dispute the New York Times story on digital and print book sales, but at least it’s asking some of the questions that the other article inadvertently raised. There’s a similar theme here to the dispute over the story on musician earnings I posted yesterday, in that this Fortune article notes that the real story is much more complex than the one the Times was presenting. For example, are we only talking about AAP publishers, and what about genre differences and differences among print formats? How does the micro level look as compared to the macro level, etc.?
Tech analyst Ben Thompson says in a post on this topic at Stratechery that the overall size of the e-book market appears to be holding more or less steady, growing at perhaps 1% or so per year. So it’s not so much that the market itself is growing or shrinking by large amounts, it’s more that some within that market are winning while others are losing. That’s a very different picture than the one the New York Timesstory painted. . . .
In a sense, Thompson says, publishers and others in the industry who are celebrating the New York Timesstory are missing the forest for the trees. They are cheering the fact that print is holding up when overall book sales are either flat or declining (in part because of high prices) even as other forms of digital content are growing. – Fortune
Against Musicians’ Biographies – A very interesting article on how music is and isn’t influenced by those who perform it. Here, Sara Marcus suggests that instead of focusing primarily on the artists and their lives, we should focus on the song itself, because every performance is itself an interpretation. Which means that the listener can also interpret the song in his or her own way, too, and within a different historical contexts. As I was reading the piece I was struck by the absence of the songwriter, and how it is the performer who often gets primarily associated with a song, rather than its writer, which is a fascinating counterpoint to books, where there is much more immediacy between author and book, even when the text is being performed via an audiobook.
Songs can and often do outlive their singers. Streaming services like YouTube and Spotify, with their unprecedented access to vast searchable archives, allow a new way of listening: Instead of tracking an individual artist over a necessarily brief slice of time, we can follow particular songs across decades, chart their transit from one generation to the next, opening up different vantage points on history. “See That My Grave Is Kept Clean” was first recorded by Blind Lemon Jefferson in 1927 and again by Mavis Staples this year. The seventeenth-century English ballad “Matty Groves” had by 1800 morphed into the Appalachian “Shady Grove.” Each new version carries traces of where the song has been before and perhaps even an anticipation of where it might go next. When we listen to all of this, tuning in to form and flux over the years, we get an encounter with music that places us both in and out of time, revealing how the present is entwined with the longue durée of history and art.
Greil Marcus takes this form of listening to marvelous extremes in his two most recent books, last September’s History of Rock ’n’ Roll in Ten Songs and this fall’s Three Songs, Three Singers, Three Nations. As their titles suggest, these books track the journey of individual pieces of music across time: A representative chapter title is “‘All I Could Do Was Cry’: 2013/1960/2008.” Wildly, lyrically, Marcus writes in Three Songs of seemingly “authorless” compositions—songs by no one that belong to everyone, that change as they appear and reappear with new interpreters. “Breaking and entering,” he explains, “the song can retrieve its words from your subconscious; notes can compose a melody you sense but don’t hear.” In this alluring mystico-musicology, songs bend singers to their disembodied will, not vice versa: “The song writes itself,” and a particular singer may just stumble into “something the song always wanted to say.” – New Republic