Wednesday News: book bots, Amazon’s drone delivery, mixed-media book pricing, and interrogating authors
HarperCollins Brings AI To Book Recommendations – From the Penguin Hotline to NPR’s Book Concierge, book recommendations are moving far away from the art of hand-selling, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that publishers are now turning to bots. Harper Collins is currently utilizing two on their Facebook accounts, and if they are successful, more are sure to follow. Funny how publishers are willing to embrace digital technologies in marketing, but not so much in formatting.
Two bots have been added to the publisher’s Facebook accounts to supply users with book recommendations. One account will focus on young adult titles, while the other appears to be more general.
A quick test of BookGenie, the non-YA bot, makes it clear that all of the recommendations are HarperCollins books. This differs from the Penguin Hotline, which was publisher-agnostic. – Forbes
Amazon plans to ‘parachute’ parcels from drones – Amazon recently filed a U.S. patent for their drone delivery program, and there is even video from testing conducted in December the UK. So is this the great domestication of the drone, and given how many packages Amazon moves, what are we potentially looking at here in terms of air traffic? Given the fact that the package will be “forcefully propel[led]” from the moving drone, I’m not sure how much would actually be safe for drone delivery.
In the private drone trial in Cambridge, Prime customers using the service can choose from thousands of items held in a warehouse. After the centre receives the order, an electrically-powered drone will fly at heights of up to 400ft and carry packages up to 5lbs is then guided by GPS through the air.
Amazon announced it had delivered its first package via drone through a video on YouTube. The delivery took 13 minutes after it was purchased for the customers to receive it, founder Jeff Bezos said. – The Bookseller
The Irrational World of Mixed-Format Digital Book Pricing – Dartmouth’s Joshua Kim takes on the wacky world of digital book pricing, and while I’m not sure he’s framing the issue impeccably (e.g. his point about the marginal cost of selling ebooks), his general point about how pricing schemes are so often frustratingly irrational and seemingly stacked against the digital customer is well-taken. Kim points out that both publishers and Amazon are giving up profit by putting such a high premium on the digital + audio combo v. the Audible audiobook price. In this case, he wanted to read Matchmakers: The New Economics of Multisided Platforms with Whispersync. Until he did the math:
The price for the Kindle version of Matchmakers is $19.79. Adding on Audible narration costs an additional $5.99. This bring the total cost of the digital/audio book to $25.78.
Instead of paying this amount, I purchased the audiobook from Audible using 1 Audible credit. The cost for the audiobook ended up being $9.56.
In order to get audiobooks at $9.56 it is necessary to sign up for the Audible Platinum Annual plan. You give Audible $229.50 up-front. You then get 24 credits (which equals 24 books), 12 credits of which can be rolled over to the next year.
The cost to me to be able to read Matchmakers as a Whispersync enabled e-books/audiobook would have been $16.22. A price premium of almost 170 percent over the audiobook only option. – Inside Higher Ed
AN AUSTRALIAN CHILDREN’S-BOOK AUTHOR’S U.S. CUSTOMS ORDEAL – A very disturbing account by an Australian author of her hostile and terrifying interrogation upon arriving in the U.S. via the Los Angeles International Airport. There is so much wrong with what happened to her and what she sees and describes during her ordeal that it is difficult to list everything, and in other times, such an incident might be seen as a gross exception. But these are not other times. And when a 71-year old Australian author of children’s books – and a literacy advocate – faces such treatment, it’s time for artists in general, and collectively, to take note.
On the morning of February 6th, the seventy-one-year-old Australian children’s-book author Mem Fox arrived on a United Airlines flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles. She was en route to a conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on the theme of diversity, where she was scheduled to deliver a keynote speech on teaching children to read. Fox, whose 1983 book, “Possum Magic,” is the best-selling Australian children’s book of all time, has travelled back and forth to the United States more than a hundred times in the course of her life. This time, she told me recently by phone, “Things began to unravel when the digital photograph machine—you have to walk through one at LAX—malfunctioned,” and an immigration official told her, “Oh, just go down there and speak to a real person.” . . .
At first, Fox told only her family and her publisher what had happened. “I was afraid to discuss it at all before I got home, for fear I would be detained,” she told me. She took detailed notes about her experience, and back in Adelaide, where she lives, complained to the American Embassy in Australia. Within hours, she received a formal apology. But she says she can’t imagine travelling to the United States again. (When asked for comment about Fox’s account, Jaime Ruiz, a spokesperson for U.S. Customs and Border Protection at LAX, said, “That is not how we treat passengers. We treat passengers with respect and professionalism. We have zero tolerance for passengers being treated unprofessionally.”) – The New Yorker