Readersforum's Blog

November 6, 2012

Booksellers Resisting Amazon’s Disruption


Timothy Ferriss is the author of “The 4-Hour Chef,” published by Amazon.

Amazon prides itself on unraveling the established order. This fall, signs of Amazon-inspired disruption are everywhere.

There is the slow-motion crackup of electronics showroom Best Buy. There is Amazon’s rumored entry into the wine business, which is already agitating competitors. And there is the merger of Random House and Penguin, an effort to create a mega-publisher sufficiently hefty to negotiate with the retailer on equal terms.

Amazon inspires anxiety just about everywhere, but its publishing arm is getting pushback from all sorts of booksellers, who are scorning the imprint’s most prominent title, Timothy Ferriss’s “The 4-Hour Chef.” That book is coming out just before Thanksgiving into a fragmented book-selling landscape that Amazon has done much to create but that eludes its control.

Mr. Ferriss’s first book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” sold nearly a half-million copies in its original print edition, according to Nielsen BookScan. A follow-up devoted to the body did nearly as well. Those books about finding success without trying too hard were a particular hit with young men, who identified with their quasi-scientific entrepreneurial spirit.

Signing Mr. Ferriss was seen as a smart choice by Amazon, which wanted books that would make a splash in both the digital and physical worlds. When the seven-figure deal was announced in August 2011, Mr. Ferriss, a former nutritional supplements marketer, said this was “a chance to really show what the future of books looks like.” Now that publication is at hand, that future looks messy and angry.

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January 10, 2012

As celebrities choose Amazon, is this the end for publishers?

  Deal for James Franco book fuels fears that online giant has become too dominant.

By Guy Adams

Who needs publishers? Not James Franco, the artsy Hollywood star, who has just signed a deal to write his first novel; and not Amazon, the vast online retailer which beat the traditional giants of the industry to secure the high-profile author.

Franco, 33, has become the latest in a string of big names to join the increasingly glamorous stable of authors now on the payroll of Amazon. According to reports, his book, which has the working title Actors Anonymous, will be loosely based on his career in the film industry.

The deal, which was reported yesterday but has yet to be formally confirmed by either side, represents an ominous development for the industry, which in recent months has seen similar deals signed by the likes of New Age “guru” Deepak Chopra, self-help writer Timothy Ferriss, and the actor and director Penny Marshall.

For years, the rise of Amazon, which heavily discounts books, has been eating into the once luxurious profit margins enjoyed by mainstream publishers. There are therefore growing fears that the online giant could soon send their industry the way of the high street bookstore.

Since it was unveiled last year, Amazon’s publishing arm has launched an array of imprints majoring on genres from science fiction to romance, and has already released more than 100 new titles, in hardback, paper back and electronic formats. It has also shown itself willing to pay huge sums to secure the services of what it considers to be the stars of the writing profession, using aggressive charm to woo them from the clutches of their former houses.

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September 28, 2011

Amazon’s grip tightens on the entire book-publishing chain

    By Julianne Pepitone

Amazon’s low-priced bestsellers and Kindle e-reader are famous for changing the book industry. What’s not so well known is how deeply Amazon’s tentacles reach into all parts of the industry, including its growing interest in inking deals with authors to publish some of the hit books Amazon sells.

Booksellers and publishers are crying foul, saying they’re being cut out of the chain by an aggressive Goliath. But some authors who have recently signed with Amazon Publishing say the company simply offered them a better, fairer deal than traditional publishers.

And those Amazon deals are a boon for consumers, the authors say, because they bring earlier book releases and cheaper prices.

Amazon quietly launched its own book imprint in 2009. The effort expanded the next year into a line of foreign translations and another of “manifestos” from thought leaders, but it stayed fairly under-the-radar until this May, when Amazon brought in famed New York editor Larry Kirshbaum to head up its Amazon Publishing unit.

Kirshbaum quickly dumped gasoline on Amazon’s publishing sparks: Last month, he signed uber-popular self-help author Timothy Ferriss, whose book The 4-Hour Workweek (published by Crown, a division of Random House) remains a perennial bestseller. Amazon plans to publish Ferriss’s next book, The 4-Hour Chef, in April 2012, in all formats: digital, audio, and old-fashioned ink on paper.

Ferriss is the highest-profile author yet to jump ship from the traditional publishing houses, and his defection has rivals spooked.

“Amazon is holding the entire book industry hostage,” says Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association. “First they disintermediated retailers, and now it’s publishers and authors.”

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August 24, 2011

Feeling Out Amazon New York

Filed under: e-tailers — Tags: , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:59 am

Posted by Macy Halford

On Wednesday, Elizabeth wrote about a topic not frequently raised on the Bench: feelings. How, she asked, does the closing of Borders, the vanishing of BOOKS · MUSIC · MOVIES · CAFE from the American strip-mall landscape, make us feel? Are we sad? Are we happy? Why do we seem not to care much one way or the other?

Her post came on the heels of another bit of book news people aren’t certain how to feel about. Amazon announced that their new New York-based imprint (called Amazon), which is the company’s fifth but its first intended to rival the big houses (it has the right address and a V.P. with a fine New York pedigree), had bought its first title: self-help-for-guys guru Timothy Ferriss’s “The 4-Hour Chef,” a book that needs to exist because, after you’ve finished your 4-hour workweek and perfected your 4-hour body, you’ll want hobbies like cooking to fill the empty days (also to impress your 15-minute female*).

Here are some of the things various parties felt about the deal. Indie bookshop owners felt angry, and told the Times that they wouldn’t be stocking Amazon’s books, since the company posed a threat to their existence. Timothy Ferriss said that he didn’t “feel like I’m giving up anything, financially or otherwise,” by going with Amazon, and in fact didn’t even offer his current publisher, Crown, a chance to match Amazon’s offer because, he thought, it never could have. An executive at HarperCollins said Amazon was a frenemy—an important customer but also “close to being in a monopolistic situation,” while an agent based in New York said he was “not so convinced that this is the end of the world the way so many doomsayers are saying.” The Times came close to expressing an emotional viewpoint by describing Amazon as “aggressive,” “ambitious,” and in possession of an “unparalleled distribution system” that reaches instantly “into tens of millions of living rooms and onto electronic devices.”

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