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May 15, 2013

Amazon Warehouse Workers Sue Over Security Checkpoint Waits

By Dave Jamieson

Whenever he clocked out after his 12-hour shift at an Amazon warehouse, Jesse Busk had one more critical task to perform before he could hop into his car and head home to sleep: Pass through the sprawling warehouse security checkpoint.

The purpose of the checkpoint was to prevent workers like Busk from pilfering electronics or other pricey goods from the Amazon stock. The process deeply annoyed Busk, but not because of any indignity he may have felt in being checked for contraband. What bothered him was the time it required after an exhausting day — up to 25 minutes, all of it unpaid.

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May 14, 2013

RNIB hails Kindle app ‘breakthrough’

amazon | By Joshua Farrington

A new Kindle app from Amazon will help blind and partially sighted people to access 1.5m titles.

The app works with the in-built magnification and speech functions of iPhones, iPads and some other Apple devices, while also creating an electronic Braille display.

Amazon consulted with blind and partially sighted people in the UK to help develop the app, which has previously been impossible due to compatibility issues with Apple’s own accessibility features.

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May 2, 2013

Do e-readers inhibit reading comprehension?

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 9:28 am

kindle_amazons_e_book_reader_is_hereResearch suggests that the devices can prevent readers from wholly absorbing longer texts

By Ferris Jabr

In a viral YouTube video from October 2011 a 1-year-old girl sweeps her fingers across an iPad’s touchscreen, shuffling groups of icons. In the following scenes she appears to pinch, swipe and prod the pages of paper magazines as though they too were screens. When nothing happens, she pushes against her leg, confirming that her finger works just fine — or so a title card would have us believe.

The girl’s father, Jean-Louis Constanza, presents “A Magazine Is an iPad That Does Not Work” as naturalistic observation — a Jane Goodall among the chimps moment — that reveals a generational transition. “Technology codes our minds,” he writes in the video’s description. “Magazines are now useless and impossible to understand, for digital natives” — that is, for people who have been interacting with digital technologies from a very early age.

Perhaps his daughter really did expect the paper magazines to respond the same way an iPad would. Or maybe she had no expectations at all — maybe she just wanted to touch the magazines. Babies touch everything. Young children who have never seen a tablet like the iPad or an e-reader like the Kindle will still reach out and run their fingers across the pages of a paper book; they will jab at an illustration they like; heck, they will even taste the corner of a book. Today’s so-called digital natives still interact with a mix of paper magazines and books, as well as tablets, smartphones and e-readers; using one kind of technology does not preclude them from understanding another.

Nevertheless, the video brings into focus an important question: How exactly does the technology we use to read change the way we read?

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April 24, 2013

Turow on Amazon/Goodreads: This is how modern monopolies can be built

Amazon’s garden walls are about to grow much higher. In a truly devastating act of vertical integration, Amazon is buying Goodreads, its only sizable competitor for reader reviews and a site known for the depth and breadth of its users’ book recommendations. Recommendations from like-minded readers appear to be the Holy Grail of online book marketing. By combining Goodreads’ recommendation database with Amazon’s own vast databases of readers’ purchase histories, Amazon’s control of online bookselling approaches the insurmountable.

“Amazon’s acquisition of Goodreads is a textbook example of how modern Internet monopolies can be built,” said Scott Turow, Authors Guild president. “The key is to eliminate or absorb competitors before they pose a serious threat. With its 16 million subscribers, Goodreads could easily have become a competing on-line bookseller, or played a role in directing buyers to a site other than Amazon. Instead, Amazon has scuttled that potential and also squelched what was fast becoming the go-to venue for on-line reviews, attracting far more attention than Amazon for those seeking independent assessment and discussion of books. As those in advertising have long known, the key to driving sales is controlling information.”

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April 5, 2013

Amazon Buys Goodreads

By Rachel Deahl and Jim Milliot

Amazon has acquired Goodreads.com, a Web site featuring user-generated reviews of books. The purchase comes amid mounting rumors that Goodreads, which CEO Otis Chandler launched in 2007, might start selling books directly from its site.

Goodreads, which is one of the most popular among a raft of sites created as a book recommendation engine–members are directed to titles by seeing what their friends are reading, or have recommended–does not currently sell any books, but many in the industry saw it as an ideal sales outlet.

The details of the purchase, which is set to close in the second quarter of 2013, were not disclosed by Amazon, but the retail giant confirmed that Goodreads will remain headquartered in San Francisco. The site currently has over 16 million members, averages 37 million unique visitors a month, and has over 30,000 book clubs.

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March 19, 2013

Dale: Booksellers have publishers ‘over a barrel’

Iain Dale

Iain Dale

Publisher and former Conservative Party politician Iain Dale has hit out at the big booksellers, including W H Smith, Waterstones and Amazon, saying they have publishers “over a barrel”. Speaking at the Independent Publishers Guild conference this morning (7th March) Dale also repeated a call he made ten years ago to abolish “sale or return”.

Dale, founder of the political publisher Biteback Publishing, reserved his harshest criticism for W H Smith, which he said was “very willing to take publishers’ money and sell no books in return”.

He added: “Whenever I have done business with W H Smith they demand a large “marketing fee”—some might call it the book trade industry of protection money— to place our books in their stores.

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March 18, 2013

The Curse of “You May Also Like”

Algorithms and “big data” are good at figuring out what we like—and that may kill creativity.

By Evgeny Morozov

Of all the startups that launched last year, Fuzz is certainly one of the most intriguing and the most overlooked. Describing itself as a “people-powered radio” that is completely “robot-free,” Fuzz bucks the trend toward ever greater reliance on algorithms in discovering new music. Fuzz celebrates the role played by human DJs—regular users who are invited to upload their own music to the site in order to create and share their own “radio stations.”

The idea—or, perhaps, hope—behind Fuzz is that human curators can still deliver something that algorithms cannot; it aspires to be the opposite of Pandora, in which the algorithms do all the heavy lifting. As its founder, Jeff Yasuda, told Bloomberg News last September, “there’s a big need for a curated type of experience and just getting back to the belief that the most compelling recommendations come from a human being.”

But while Fuzz’s launch attracted little attention, the growing role of algorithms in all stages of artistic production is becoming impossible to ignore. Most recently, this role was highlighted by Andrew Leonard, the technology critic for Salon, in an intriguing article about House of Cards,

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March 14, 2013

Do you truly own your e-books?

Amazon and publisher restrictions control your access, but a bookstore lawsuit could change that

locked_kindle-620x412By Laura Miller

To the casual observer, the e-book revolution has produced two bumper crops: smutty trilogies à la “Fifty Shades of Grey” and lawsuits. First there were the authors (as represented by the Authors Guild), who sued Google Books for digitizing their work without permission. Then the Department of Justice sued five publishers and Apple for adopting a policy known as the agency model. Finally, a trio of independent booksellers filed a class-action suit last week against the six largest book publishers and Amazon, accusing them of collaborating to create a monopoly on e-book sales and shutting small retailers out of the market.

The booksellers — Fiction Addiction of Greenville, S.C., Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, N.Y., and Posman Books of New York City — are demanding the right to sell what they term “open-source and DRM-free” e-books, files that can be read on a Kindle or any other e-reading device. The publishers are accused of entering into “confidential agreements” with Amazon making this impossible.

The dispute and the situation that fostered it are confusing, and it can be difficult to suss out how either one affects readers. To put it simply: The Big Six publishers require that all their copyrighted e-books be sold with DRM (digital rights management) protection. DRM is coding designed to prevent the people who buy an e-book from making copies of it. A Kindle will only support DRM-protected books that are in a format that Amazon owns and that only Amazon can sell.

 

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March 10, 2013

US indies launch DRM lawsuit

posmanThree US independent bookshops have launched a lawsuit against the big six publishers and Amazon in America claiming that by signing a contract to sell e-books with DRM through Amazon, they are combining to restrict the sale of e-books through indie stores.

Fiction Addiction in South Carolina, Posman Books in New York [pictured] and Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza are taking the action against Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Random House, Macmillan and Amazon claiming that the publishers signed contracts with Amazon to sell e-books with DRM that was “specifically designed to limit the use of digital content” to Kindle devices, according to Publishers Lunch.

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March 7, 2013

Amazon and Achieving the Moral Middle Ground

Filed under: Bookshops — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:57 am

 

moleskineBy Jared Shurin

So here’s a thing – not sure if it is blog-worthy or not, but if it isn’t written, it won’t happen.

I had a really nice chat in a bookshop the other day. I was leering at Moleskines (Hobbit Moleskines, in fact, because that’s how I roll), as was another guy. We chatted a bit about the notebooks – how we use them (or don’t), how silly they are (but we get them anyway), how many we have (way too many), etc. Dude had 28 notebooks. Which sounds extreme, but then he explained that he has one for each project – whenever he’s got a new scheme, he gets a new notebook. Awesome idea, and were I 1/8000th as organised, I’d follow suit. (My notebooks? I try to keep them magical and inviolate, but inevitably tear out pages, jot down to-do lists, etc. Ruined.)

Anyway, it was a silly conversation and I’ve had a thousand just like them in bookstores all over the world. Sometimes they happen with the staff. Sometimes with other customers. Sometimes at events. Hell, sometimes I even manage to have meaningful conversations with other readers at events that I’ve organised.

 

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