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Publishing News: Kindle Fire and "your ad here"

Amazon pitches Kindle Fire home screen ads, Apple says DOJ complaint is "fundamentally flawed," and Craig Mod muses on covers.

Here’s what caught my attention this week in the publishing space:

Kindle Fire home screen may be for sale

Kindle FireRumors flew this week saying Amazon plans to launch an ad campaign in which it will sell ads on its Kindle Fire home screen. Jason Del Rey at AdAge reports:

“Amazon is pitching ads on the device’s welcome screen, according to an executive at an agency that Amazon has pitched. The company has been telling ad agency execs that they must spend about $600,000 for any package that includes such an ad.

“The ad campaigns would run for two months and also include inventory from Amazon’s ‘Special Offers’ product. For $1 million, advertisers would get more ad inventory and be included in Amazon’s public-relations push, according to this executive and an exec at another ad agency.’”

Del Rey says that “[b]oth agency executives have so far declined to participate, citing several concerns. For one, Amazon isn’t guaranteeing the number of devices that the welcome-screen ads will reach, telling agencies that it hasn’t decided whether the ads will start popping up on devices that have already been purchased or just on new devices.”

O’Reilly GM and publisher Joe Wikert assessed the situation on his Publishing 2020 blog. He says this is just the beginning and that other ebook retailers are going to suffer:

“Given that Amazon’s goal is to offer customers the lowest prices on everything, what’s the next logical step? How about even lower prices on ebooks where Amazon starts making money on in-book ads? Think Google AdWords, built right into the book … At some point in the not too distant future I believe we’ll see ebooks on Amazon at fire sale prices. I’m not just talking about self-published titles or books nobody wants. I’ll bet this happens with some bestsellers and midlist titles too. Amazon will make a big deal out of it and note how these cheaper prices are only available thru Amazon’s in-book advertising program. … Imagine B&N trying to compete if a large portion of Amazon’s ebook list drops from $9.99 to $4.99 or less. Even with Microsoft’s cash injection, B&N simply doesn’t have deep enough pockets to compete on losses like this, at least not for very long.”

Wikert concludes by asking: “Why wouldn’t Amazon follow this strategy, especially since it helps eliminate competitors, leads to market dominance and fixes the loss leader problem they currently have with many ebook sales?”

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Apple calls foul on the DOJ

Apple this week filed a reply to the Department of Justice’s antitrust lawsuit that was filed in April against Apple and five major publishers. PCWorld reports:

“Apple’s reply to the court is in line with a statement issued by Apple in April after the DOJ filed its case, in which it said that ‘the launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry.’ The company added: ‘Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.’”

The filing, entitled “APPLE INC.’S ANSWER,” opens:

The Government’s Complaint against Apple is fundamentally flawed as a matter of fact and law. Apple has not ‘conspired’ with anyone, was not aware of any alleged ‘conspiracy’ by others, and never ‘fixed prices.’ … The Government sides with monopoly, rather than competition, in bringing this case. The Government starts from the false premise that an eBooks ‘market’ was characterized by ‘robust price competition’ prior to Apple’s entry. This ignores a simple and incontrovertible fact: Before 2010, there was no real competition, there was only Amazon.

Reuters reports that in the filing, “Apple also denied that the government ‘accurately characterized’ the comment attributed to [Steve] Jobs.” The DOJ’s complaint (PDF) states:

“77. Apple understood that the final Apple Agency Agreements ensured that the
Publisher Defendants would raise their retail e-book prices to the ostensible limits set by the
Apple price tiers not only in Apple’s forthcoming iBookstore, but on Amazon.com and all other
consumer sites as well. When asked by a Wall Street Journal reporter at the January 27, 2010
iPad unveiling event, ‘Why should she buy a book for … $14.99 from your device when she
could buy one for $9.99 from Amazon on the Kindle or from Barnes & Noble on the Nook?’
Apple CEO Steve Jobs responded, ‘that won’t be the case …. the prices will be the same.’”

Apple’s filing responds:

Apple denies the allegations of paragraph 77. The Government mischaracterizes on its face the alleged statement of Steve Jobs to the press on January 27, 2010, which simply conveyed that a publisher would not have a particular eBook title priced at $9.99 through one distributor and $14.99 through another. Apple’s MFN provision would allow it to require the publisher to lower the price to $9.99 on the iBookstore. Apple had no contractual rights to require a publisher to require that it, or any distributor of its products, charge more for eBooks than it chose in a competitive market.” [Reference link added.]

You can read Apple’s reply in its entirety at Scribd.

It’s time to hack digital covers

Hack the CoverCraig Mod (@craigmod) mused on book covers recently in a piece on his website called “Hack the Cover,” which also is available as a Kindle Single. He says the way we search for and discover books has changed:

“The covers … on Amazon.com are tiny on the search results page. Minuscule on new books page. And they’re all but lost in the datum slush of the individual item pages. Great covers like Mendelsund’s design for The Information disappear entirely.

“Why? Because — What do we now hunt when buying books? Data.

“The cover image may help quickly ground us, but our eyes are drawn by habit to number and quality of reviews. We’re looking for metrics other than images — real metrics — not artificial marketing signifiers. Blurbs from humans. Perhaps even humans we know! And within the jumble of the Amazon.com interface, the cover feels all but an afterthought.”

Mod argues that since readers can approach a book from any number of entry points, the entire book should be viewed and treated like a “cover”:

“The covers for our digital editions need not yell. Need not sell. Heck, they may very well never been seen. The reality is, entire books need to be treated as covers. Entry points into digital editions aren’t strictly defined and they’re only getting fuzzier. Internet readers don’t casually stumble upon books set atop tables. They’re exposed through digital chance: a friend tweeting about a particular passage — and linking, directly, into that chapter … To treat an entire book as a cover means to fold the typographic and design love usually reserved for covers into everything. Type choices. Illustration styles. Margins and page balance.”

Mod’s piece is a must read this week.

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  • Gwen Jenkins

    @Digital Covers — Have many folks EVER bought books based primarily on the cover image? (Aside from certain collectors, who tend to keep their books unopened.) Hasn’t it always just been one data point?

    After all, there were no images on covers until the 20th century. Prior works by the author, the genre/topic, the title, the blurb, reviews, etc. have always been more important for bringing people into the bookstore.

    “Never judge a book by its cover” is old advice that actually does apply to books.

  • kindlelove

    My wife and I love our new Kindle Fire. It’s lightweight, easy to use and has a great interface. The first thing I recommend anyone with a new Kindle do is install the nook app. We got our instructions from http://www.kindlemad.com through google.

    It basically unlocks all the Android marketplace apps and unlocks the device. I am one very happy Kindle owner!

  • http://www.kindlefiretab.com/ Christopher

    This goes to show that kindle is really beginning to be popular and has wide market. I too is a kindle owner and I’m loving the every inch of it.