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Archive for the ‘Amazon’ tag

Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce

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Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market
Tomatoes from the Green City Farmers Market

Like so many other tech-centric new businesses, online grocery is a major topic, and yet it seems few people actually use the service.

While Wal-Mart and other retailers, including Ahold USA and Meijer Inc., are pouring money into ramping up online sales, the grocers are also buckling down on the basics of the produce department. That’s because high-quality fruits, vegetables and other fresh foods are emerging as a physical store’s best defense against growing competition from Amazon.com Inc.

Many customers decide where to shop based on the quality of the produce, and—for now—most shoppers want to pick their own ripe tomatoes or perfectly green heads of lettuce, say grocers and industry researchers. Shoppers who don’t buy groceries online most often cite the desire to pick their own produce as the reason, according to an online survey from Morgan Stanley earlier this year.

Online food and beverage sales are growing fast, up 20% since 2013, but still make up a tiny 0.16% of the $670 billion food and beverage market, according to Commerce Department figures. Only 4% of consumers said they purchased some produce through online grocers in the past year, a 2015 Nielsen survey found.

Produce also is often part of “fill-in” trips, those moments a shopper dashes to the store for a last-minute ingredient and might not wait for an online order. Produce itself isn’t usually a big moneymaker, but it draws people to stores to buy higher-margin packaged food, apparel, electronics and other items—products customers increasingly are buying online. Even Amazon wants part of the valuable market. It plans to build small stores that sell perishable foods and allow shoppers to order shelf-stable items for same-day delivery, say people familiar with the matter.

Improving Wal-Mart’s fresh food is “a huge priority for us because it’s a big traffic driver,” says Steve Bratspies, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart U.S. in a March call with investors.

(click here to continue reading Supermarkets’ Best Weapon Against E-tailers: Produce – WSJ.)

Speaking strictly for myself, I’ve tried ordering from Instacart twice. The first time, everything came as if I had picked it myself, but the second time, the produce was sub-par. All of it. Brown spots on lettuce, bruised avocados, moldy tomatoes, mushy cucumbers, etc. So I’ve never ordered from them again, and probably never will. When it comes to grocery delivery, if it isn’t perfect, forget it. I have less than zero tolerance for mistakes. A few years prior, I had an account with a local company that delivered farmers market produce, but again, after a few bad deliveries, I cancelled my service, and have not ordered from them again. In the winter months, I sometimes use Peapod, but I tend to only buy staples like pasta, paper towels, cat litter, and bottles of wine, and don’t purchase much produce because items that are delivered are often less than ideal.

A fan of Peapod
A fan of Peapod

Time willing, I would much rather go to a farmers market or a local grocery store and carefully pick my own vegetables and fruits. 

Written by Seth Anderson

October 17th, 2016 at 3:04 pm

Amazon Stores: Why We Should Be Afraid

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Amazon.com Delivery Truck
Amazon.com Delivery Truck

Slightly more on the upcoming Amazon.com invasion in your neighborhood…

Indeed, many of the reasons Amazon may be interested in brick-and-mortar stores have little to do with books, specifically. Shipping from a store instead of a warehouse or giving customers the ability to buy online and pick up in store or return items to a store could help Amazon trim its fulfillment costs, which amounted to 13% of sales in 2015 versus 12% in 2014.

Counterintuitively, having physical stores could help Amazon become more profitable. Shipping costs are variable costs for e-commerce players, meaning they rise along with sales. Brick-and-mortar stores, on the other hand, have fixed costs such as labor, rent and utilities and can gain leverage by boosting sales on top of them.

(click here to continue reading Amazon Stores: Why All Retailers Should Be Afraid – WSJ.)

Amazon Brick and Mortar Location
Amazon Brick and Mortar Location

One wonders if the timing of this rumor at all coincides with Amazon.com reporting quarterly results not in line with Wall Street estimates…

Amazon recorded it largest ever quarterly profit over the holiday quarter but missed Wall Street’s estimates by a wide margin, sending its share price into a tailspin.

Shares in the world’s largest online retailer plunged 12% on Thursday after it announced a net profit of $482m for the three months ending 31 December – up from $214m a year earlier. The company notched up $35.75bn in sales in last year’s final three months.

It was the first time Amazon has reported three consecutive profitable quarters since 2012, but the gain was less than analysts had been expecting. Analysts, however, were expecting $36bn in sales and net income of $754m.

(click here to continue reading Amazon shares plunge after missing holiday quarter estimates | Technology | The Guardian.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 3rd, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Posted in Business

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Amazon Plans Hundreds of Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores

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Amazon - The Original Store
Amazon – The Original Brick and Mortar Store

A rumor, but a rumor from a well-placed source. Would you go to a bookstore run by Amazon? I could see picking up a package perhaps (a drop-ship location for when you are not available at your home, or whatever).

After dipping its toes into brick-and-mortar retail last year by opening its first physical bookstore, Amazon.com Inc. could be diving into the deep end.

The Seattle company plans as many as 400 bookstores, Sandeep Mathrani, chief executive of large mall operator General Growth Properties Inc., said on an earnings call with analysts Tuesday.

“You’ve got Amazon opening brick-and-mortar bookstores and their goal is to open, as I understand, 300 to 400,” said Mr. Mathrani in response to a question about mall traffic.

That compares to the 640 stores Barnes & Noble Inc. operates and the 255 locations Books-A-Million Inc. said it had as of last summer. Both companies spent years building out their retail operations. In addition to its one bookstore, Amazon already has a presence in Westfield Corp. malls, where it has set up permanent kiosks selling devices, cases and branded apparel.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Mr. Mathrani got Amazon’s figure, but he could have potentially spoken with Amazon’s real-estate executives about their plans. A spokesman for Amazon declined to comment and a GGP spokesman had no immediate comment.

(click here to continue reading Amazon Plans Hundreds of Brick-and-Mortar Bookstores, Mall CEO Says – WSJ.)

Amazon Prime and The Pope
Amazon Prime and The Pope

Written by Seth Anderson

February 2nd, 2016 at 4:50 pm

Posted in Business

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Amazon Associates Linkage Dying Off

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Amazon the Everything Store
Amazon the Everything Store…

I got an email from the Amazon Associates division, reading, in part:

As part of our continuing effort to improve the Associates program’s products and services, we are making some changes to our technology platform. This platform change will require you to replace some older product links, banners, and widgets you currently have hosted on your website as they will no longer be supported after July 31, 2015. Text links are not impacted by this deprecation.

Action Required
We ask that you replace or update the impacted ad units prior to July 31, 2015. The links require the following update that can be facilitated through your CMS (content management system). You may make these replacements at whatever scale you are comfortable with.
– Find and replace ws.amazon.com with ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com
– Find and replace rcm.amazon.com with rcm-na.amazon-adsystem.com

Keep in mind that starting August 1, 2015, any remaining legacy product links (text + image, image-only), banners, and widgets will be served with non-clickable public service announcements that will not send traffic to Amazon, impacting your referring traffic and potential earnings, if not addressed. On September 1, 2015, these legacy ad units will no longer render, thereby creating a broken link on your website.

The thing is, I probably won’t bother. When Amazon decided to kill off the Illiniois affiliates program rather than give the state a taste of the tax revenues, as we’ve discussed previously, I stopped posting as many reviews of Things I Discovered That You Might Like Too. Coincidentally, this was also around the time I became a half-hearted blogger, posting less frequently and decidedly less enthusiasm. My daily traffic plummeted, probably because there are now many alternative blog-like media outlets, places like Gawker and Deadspin and Curbed, and so on – not written by hobbyists and part-timers like myself, but paid writers1.

After a couple of years, Amazon decided that paying taxes to all the state governments was not as big a deal as they had once complained about, and reinstalled the Affiliate program. However, they wouldn’t give me my old affiliate link back, nor would they merge the two accounts I had, so basically I stopped using Amazon links much.

I don’t think I’m going to go back through the thousands of posts I’ve made to correct the Amazon links, they will just become dead links, and I no longer will get a 3% bonus from Amazon if you clicked through one of this blog’s links and purchased something. Possibly, I’ll fix a few, if I happen to run across the post for other reasons; I doubt I’ll create replacements on a global level. I stand to lose dozens or more cents, but there are more important items on my agenda.

Moving on…

Footnotes:
  1. or whatever it is that the Huffington Post model is of exploitation, a model followed by some other sites []

Written by Seth Anderson

June 13th, 2015 at 9:06 am

Tech and Media Companies Back Microsoft in Email Seizure Case

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Over Under Sideways

Good for Microsoft, and good for the tech industry to rally behind Microsoft1

A broad array of organizations in technology, media and other fields rallied on Monday behind Microsoft’s effort to block American authorities from seizing a customer’s emails stored in Ireland.

The organizations filing supporting briefs in the Microsoft case included Apple, Amazon, Verizon, Fox News, National Public Radio, The Washington Post, CNN and almost two dozen other technology and media companies. A cross-section of trade associations and advocacy groups, from the American Civil Liberties Union to the United States Chamber of Commerce, and 35 computer scientists also signed briefs in the case, which is being considered in New York by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

“Seldom do you see the breadth and depth of legal involvement that we’re seeing today for a case that’s below the Supreme Court,” Bradford L. Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, said in an interview.

The case involves a decision by Microsoft to defy a domestic search warrant seeking emails stored in a Microsoft data center in Dublin. Microsoft has argued that the search warrant could provide a dangerous precedent that is already leading to privacy concerns among customers. The case is especially relevant, the company says, to customers who are considering conducting more of their electronic business in the cloud.

(click here to continue reading Tech and Media Companies Back Microsoft in Privacy Case – NYTimes.com.)

Even the Faux Walls have eyes
Even the Faux Walls have eyes

You know who isn’t mentioned here or at Microsoft’s public blog page for this case? Google. I wonder why? Seems like a pretty high profile case to be siding with the US DOJ instead of privacy advocates.

Today represents an important milestone in our litigation concerning the U.S. Government’s attempt to use a search warrant to compel Microsoft to obtain and turn over email of a customer stored in Ireland. That’s because 10 groups are filing their “friend of the court” briefs in New York today.

Seldom has a case below the Supreme Court attracted the breadth and depth of legal involvement we’re seeing today. Today’s ten briefs are signed by 28 leading technology and media companies, 35 leading computer scientists, and 23 trade associations and advocacy organizations that together represent millions of members on both sides of the Atlantic.

We believe that when one government wants to obtain email that is stored in another country, it needs to do so in a manner that respects existing domestic and international laws. In contrast, the U.S. Government’s unilateral use of a search warrant to reach email in another country puts both fundamental privacy rights and cordial international relations at risk.  And as today’s briefs demonstrate, the impacts of this step are far-reaching.

Today’s briefs come from:

Leading technology companies such as Verizon, Apple, Amazon, Cisco, Salesforce, HP, eBay, Infor, AT&T, and Rackspace. They’re joined by five major technology trade associations that collectively represent most of the country’s technology sector, including the BSA | The Software Alliance and the Application Developers Alliance. These groups raise a range of concerns about the significant impact this case could have both on the willingness of foreign customers to trust American technology and on the privacy rights of their customers, including U.S. customers if other governments adopt the approach to U.S. datacenters that the U.S. Government is advocating here.

Seventeen major and diverse news and media companies, including CNN, ABC, Fox News, Forbes, the Guardian, Gannett, McClatchy, the Washington Post, the New York Daily News, and The Seattle Times. They’re joined by ten news and media associations that collectively represent thousands of publications and journalists. These include the Newspaper Association of America, the National Press Club, the European Publishers Council, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. These organizations are concerned that the lower court’s decision, if upheld, will erode the legal protections that have long restricted the government’s ability to search reporters’ email for information without the knowledge of news organizations.

(click here to continue reading Business, Media and Civil Society Speak Up in Key Privacy Case – The Official Microsoft Blog.)

Footnotes:
  1. not a sentence I’d thought I’d type []

Written by Seth Anderson

December 15th, 2014 at 3:16 pm

Amazon’s Echo Chamber

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Echoing Rhetoric Not Your Own

Echoing Rhetoric Not Your Own 

and since I’m thinking about how odd Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com are, this is another placeholder for some later posting, a review amorphous as of yet…

It’s extremely hard for me to understand Amazon’s consumer hardware strategy. Usually, when a company has a strategy I don’t understand, I can look deeper, ask employees, or analyze the greater market to get a faint idea of what is driving the company’s behavior. But with Amazon, I can’t. There is simply no rational explanation for its products. The only thing I can come up with is this: Amazon continues to make hardware because it doesn’t know that it sucks, and it has a fundamentally flawed understanding of media. With Amazon.com, it can heavily and successfully promote and sell its products, giving it false indicators of success.

It’s an echo chamber. They make a product, they market the product on Amazon.com, they sell the product to Amazon.com customers, they get a false sense of success, the customer puts the product in a drawer and never uses it, and then Amazon moves on to the next product. Finally, with the Fire Phone, customers have been pushing back. You can’t buy a phone and put it in a lonely drawer, never to use it again, like you would with a Fire Tablet. You can’t dupe your customers by selling them a shitty phone, because a phone becomes a part of its user’s identity.

Amazon’s retail strategy of being allergic to profit does not translate well into hardware manufacturing. People buy hardware that fits into their lives, and becomes part of how they identify themselves to the world. If you want to sell hardware, you have to be in fashion, like Samsung was two years ago, or like Apple has always been. Amazon is incapable of understanding fashion, because it has no taste, and its hardware is completely unfashionable and tasteless.

Amazon is slowly destroying itself from the inside out, through its own echo chamber, by focusing on a strategy that will never work and does not even make sense.

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Echo Chamber.)

The everything store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

Written by Seth Anderson

November 7th, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Posted in Business

Tagged with

Jeff Bezos Is A Strange Man

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Amazon - The Original Store

Amazon – The Original Store 

I realize I never got around to posting a book review of Jeff Bezos semi-unauthorized biography by Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon. Mark this anecdote as a placeholder.

The set up to this story is a breakfast meeting between Matt Rutledge, the founder of Woot.com ((Wikipedia page, not actual website)) and the purchaser of Woot.com, Jeff Bezos, and Bezos’ shadow CEO:

So there sat Bezos at the breakfast table, faced with a question for which he was apparently unprepared. Many painful seconds passed without an answer. Rutledge let the pause lengthen as long as he could bear it and was just about to tell his host to forget it, when Bezos finally spoke. 

He looked down at his plate. Bezos had ordered a dish called Tom’s Big Breakfast, a preparation of Mediterranean octopus that includes potatoes, bacon, green garlic yogurt, and a poached egg. “You’re the octopus that I’m having for breakfast,” Rutledge remembers Bezos saying. “When I look at the menu, you’re the thing I don’t understand, the thing I’ve never had. I must have the breakfast octopus.”

Not until Rutledge had returned to Dallas and related the story to his anxious employees—now Amazon’s employees—did he realize just how absurd that explanation sounded. Before it can be eaten, generally, the breakfast octopus must be killed. 

(click here to continue reading This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You – D Magazine.)

And I love Matt Rutledge’s new company name, Mediocre Corporation, and his spirit about entrepreneurship. 

Roughly two months prior to the planned late-June launch of his next big thing, Rutledge, wearing jeans and a t-shirt of obscure design, leads a tour of the standard-issue gray cubicles in his new office near Addison Airport, just a few miles from where Woot still has its headquarters. Within a year of his departure from Amazon, five other senior Wooters jumped ship to join him. All told, he has 35 employees now. He’s financing the business with his own money and jokes about his burn rate. The office space and the attached warehouse were once occupied by Heelys, the briefly red-hot company that made the shoe with the wheel in its heel. Remember it? No? Perfect closeout item for Meh.com. 

Yes. It’s called Meh. The opposite of Woot. Hang on a second. We’ll get to that. First: Rutledge’s Mediocre Corporation operates Mediocre Laboratories, which will conduct a series of what he calls e-commerce experiments. The first one, concluded late last year, was called the Seligman Experiment. If you’re curious about the name “Seligman,” you are encouraged, in keeping with Woot’s founding concept of customer service, to Google it. For Mediocre, here’s how it worked:

(click here to continue reading This Internet Millionaire Has a New Deal For You – D Magazine.)

Written by Seth Anderson

November 7th, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Business

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Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s Tactics

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Stack of Books
Stack of Books

Amazon.com continues its losing war against book publishers, especially in the PR battlefield. When authors as well known as Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Ursula K. Le Guin, Philip Roth, and Milan Kundera side against you, it might be time to start dialing back the rhetoric. 

Last spring, when Amazon began discouraging customers from buying books published by Hachette, the writers grumbled that they were pawns in the retailer’s contract negotiations over e-book prices. During the summer, they banded together and publicly protested Amazon’s actions.

Now, hundreds of other writers, including some of the world’s most distinguished, are joining the coalition. Few if any are published by Hachette. And they have goals far broader than freeing up the Hachette titles. They want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.

(click here to continue reading Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics – NYTimes.com.)

Rate this packaging
Rate this packaging

Why does it even matter to you, oh book consumer? For instance, since Jeff Bezos is clearly on the political right, or at best, Libertarian in his outlook, when he favors Paul Ryan’s book over an exposé of the Koch Brothers, we should pay attention. 

Sons of Wichita” by Daniel Schulman, a writer for Mother Jones magazine, came out in May. Amazon initially discounted the book, a well-received biography of the conservative Koch brothers, by 10 percent, according to a price-tracking service. Now it does not discount it at all. It takes as long as three weeks to ship.

“The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea” by Representative Paul Ryan has no such constraints, an unusual position these days for a new Hachette book.

Amazon refused to take advance orders for “The Way Forward,” as it does with all new Hachette titles. But once the book was on sale, it was consistently discounted by about 25 percent. There is no shipping delay. Not surprisingly, it has a much higher sales ranking on Amazon than “Sons of Wichita.”

An Amazon spokesman declined to explain why “The Way Forward” was getting special treatment.

Not Barnes and Noble
Not Barnes and Noble

Book sellers have always made decisions about what books to stock, but Amazon was supposed to be the largest bookseller on the planet, where you can get any book you want. Seems as if Jeff Bezos’ company is starting to reflect his anti-tax, anti-small business, anti-regulation views.

As Ms. Ursula K. Le Guin puts it:

“We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author,” Ms. Le Guin wrote in an email. “Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

(click here to continue reading Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics – NYTimes.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

September 29th, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Posted in Books,Business

Tagged with , ,

The Amazon Fire Phone Is An Overpriced Shopping and Surveillance Tool

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Jeff Bezos introduced the latest Amazon hardware device yesterday, the Fire, an entry into the smartphone category. I’m only half finished reading Brad Stone’s biography of Bezos, The Everything Store, but one thing has been made clear: Jeff Bezos is a long-term thinker who makes no small plans.

And so what seems to be Amazon’s long term goal here? Basically, to sell more items at Amazon.com. The Fire is a hand-held cash register customized to selling you more things. Uhh, yay? Are there people out there who are irritated that it takes 10 seconds to order replacement razor blades at Amazon.com? Not to mention there already is an iOS Amazon app that scans either a bar code or the text on a package. I’ve found it occasionally useful, but frequently the scan yields zero results.
Search Amazon
The Fire is not really a phone, per say:

Although he did not show the feature onstage, Mr. Bezos confirmed that his expensive new phone does makes calls. “I haven’t made a phone call on my phone in a long time,” he said. “But I know people still make phone calls.”

(click here to continue reading Amazon Fire Phone’s Missed Opportunities – NYTimes.com.)

and skeptics abound:

At the outset, Fire looks to be an attempt to rope Amazon shoppers deeper into its world — the phone is, above all, an enhanced shopping tool. It’s not a realistic shot at the smartphone market.

(click here to continue reading Amazon Phone Is An Enhanced Shopping Tool | Digital – Advertising Age.)

Rate this packaging
Rate this packaging

and my second, nearly immediate thought about the Amazon Fire – it seems like an NSA dream! So while the Fire encourages you to purchase more consumer goods, it will allow Amazon.com to collect more meta data about your house, your office, your car, your friends, your neighbors, and so on.

The WSJ notes:

Amazon squeezed a number of new technologies into the Fire, but it seems its biggest innovation may be new uses it found for an old technology: cameras. The Fire doesn’t just take nice photos–it watches you, and what’s around you, to customize what you see and how you interact with the world.

(click here to continue reading First Look: Amazon’s Fire Phone Is Watching You – Personal Tech News – WSJ.)

John Koetsier agrees with me that this sounds a bit creepy, and writes:

How do you think it recognizes those things, including text on images, which Amazon says it will offer language translation features for later this year?

Well, the Firefly button and the camera button are one and the same. Meaning that whenever you use the camera, you’re using Firefly. And whenever you’re using Firefly, you’re using the camera. Plus, of course, you’re turning on audio sensors that capture ambient sound.

And then you’re transmitting all those pictures and sound files to the grandaddy and still global leader in connected cloud technology, the company that pretty much invented what we now call big data analytics for customer insights, and the largest online retailer in the wild wild west.

Amazon.com, of course.

All of those pictures require processing, analysis, and matching, presumably at a level — if they can identify 100 million objects — that can only be done in the cloud, and not on a small handheld device with 2 GB of RAM and 32 GB of on-board storage.

Fortunately for you, dear consumer, Amazon has kindly consented to storing all your photos, forever, in its vast cloudy server farms. How gracious Amazon is, providing that massive service for free! How lucky are you, getting all that for free!

Probably not as lucky as Amazon.

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Fire Phone might be the biggest privacy invasion ever (and no-one’s noticed) | VentureBeat | Marketing | by John Koetsier.)

I think I’ll pass…

Written by Seth Anderson

June 19th, 2014 at 8:01 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with ,

Amazon Prime Price Increase

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Amazon Prime and The Pope
Amazon Prime and The Pope

From an email sent early this morning, Amazon is raising the Prime fee to $100, an increase of around 25%.

We are writing to provide you advance notice that the price of your Prime membership will be increasing in 2015. Your 2014 annual renewal will remain at the original price of $79. On October 5, 2015, your membership will renew at $99/year.

Even as fuel and transportation costs have increased, the price of Prime has remained the same for nine years. Since 2005, the number of items eligible for unlimited free Two-Day Shipping has grown from one million to over 20 million. We also added unlimited access to over 40,000 movies and TV episodes with Prime Instant Video and a selection of over 500,000 books to borrow from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

via Amazon.com: Amazon Prime (One Year Membership)

In general, I’ve been happy with the Amazon Prime shipping deal – though it does obviously have benefits for Amazon.com as well. I purchase lots of office supplies, tools, and what-not from Amazon that I used to get elsewhere simply because it’s more “frictionless” to just click through to Amazon. That said, I’m not sure that $8.33 a month is the deal it used to be. Amazon needs to add more perks to the Prime membership to keep it compelling. I don’t use the video streaming, ever, why should I pay extra for it?

I guess I’m not alone in demanding more in exchange for this price hike:

While the moves are generally seen as a revenue booster with minimal cost effects, some have warned that the Prime increases could carry negative impacts.

UBS, citing a survey, last month said Prime customers wouldn’t be so eager to renew if the price increased. Amazon would have to provide even more value and better service to accompany a price hike, which wouldn’t help margins improve, UBS said then.

Amazon—known for robust sales, thin profit margins and big spending—posted a large revenue increase for the fourth quarter, but its profit and outlook fell below expectations.

The company has been pursuing potential deals under which it would post product listings with links to certain traditionally brick-and-mortar retailers’ websites, The Wall Street Journal reported last month.

(click here to continue reading Amazon Raises Prime Subscription Price To $99 A Year – WSJ.com.)

because there is a point at which free second day shipping is not worth the pre-paid cash, especially when the second day guarantee is more of an aspiration rather than an absolute… 

“CIRP also checked the renewal intent at the proposed $99 and $119 prices, and found dramatically different results,” said Mike Levin, Partner and Co-Founder of CIRP. “At $99, under half of subjects think will either definitely or probably renew. And at $119, 40% of subjects say they will definitely not renew their membership.”

Those numbers tally pretty closely with a poll the WSJ’s Digits blog ran on January 31, in the wake of Amazon raising the possibility of a price hike in its conference call. In that poll, 47% of the 2,889 respondents said they were not willing to pay any more for the service

(click here to continue reading People Love Amazon Prime. But Will They Pay More For It? – Corporate Intelligence – WSJ.)

Written by Seth Anderson

March 13th, 2014 at 8:52 am

Posted in Business

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Amazon and the Perils of Non-Disclosure

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Amazon - The Original Store
Amazon – The Original Store

George Packer discovers a truth about corporate America, including the faux Libertarian strain in the tech industry: namely, they are extremely reluctant to talk to outsiders about anything, consequential, or not.

To some degree, secrecy prevails in all American corporations, and in large institutions generally. No one at these places wants to get caught saying the wrong thing. A gaffe (famously defined by Michael Kinsley as inadvertently telling the truth) is more likely to get you fired than dishonesty, deception, or any number of other ethical breaches. And this situation keeps getting worse, as any reporter who has had to negotiate ground rules with phrases like “on background with quote approval” knows all too well. It was a great relief to read Will Blythe’s Times Op-Ed about refusing to sign a termination agreement after being fired from the digital publisher Byliner because it would have prohibited him from saying anything disparaging about the company. The inexorable inflation of ground rules, non-disclosure agreements, and other impediments to speaking and writing can only be stopped when people refuse to go along with them.

I was naïve about tech companies until I started reporting on them. They turn out to be at least as closed as companies in other industries. This seems backwards—aren’t they filled with hardcore libertarians who want an end to privacy as we’ve known it, a more open and connected world? Apparently for everyone except themselves. And perhaps a sector that monetizes information is more likely to become obsessed with protecting it than if the product were oil or cars. But even in this atmosphere, Amazon is reflexively, absurdly secretive—only giving the absolute minimum information required by law or P.R. In response to a host of fact-checking questions, many of the company’s answers were along the lines of “We don’t break out that number externally,” “We do not share Kindle sales figures,” and “As a general practice, we don’t discuss our business practices with publishers or other suppliers.”

But I would argue that a culture of secrecy is bound to end up harming the institution itself, especially when it’s firmly under the control of one leader, as Amazon is under Jeff Bezos. Without some permeability to the outside world, groupthink takes over, bad habits become entrenched, and a company, like a government, is slow to recognize problems that are apparent to everyone else. I saw this happening with American officials in Iraq, holed up in the Embassy in the middle of the Green Zone and beguiled by their own data points while the country outside spiraled down in flames.

(click here to continue reading Amazon and the Perils of Non-Disclosure : The New Yorker.)

Randy's Bookshelves Number 1
Randy’s Bookshelves Number 1

If you are interested in Amazon and the book publishing industry, you should also read Mr. Packer’s fascinating article, Cheap Words, with its byline, Amazon is good for customers, but is it good for books? which begins;

Amazon is a global superstore, like Walmart. It’s also a hardware manufacturer, like Apple, and a utility, like Con Edison, and a video distributor, like Netflix, and a book publisher, like Random House, and a production studio, like Paramount, and a literary magazine, like The Paris Review, and a grocery deliverer, like FreshDirect, and someday it might be a package service, like U.P.S. Its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns a major newspaper, the Washington Post. All these streams and tributaries make Amazon something radically new in the history of American business. Sam Walton wanted merely to be the world’s biggest retailer. After Apple launched the iPod, Steve Jobs didn’t sign up pop stars for recording contracts. A.T. & T. doesn’t build transmission towers and rent them to smaller phone companies, the way Amazon Web Services provides server infrastructure for startups (not to mention the C.I.A.). Amazon’s identity and goals are never clear and always fluid, which makes the company destabilizing and intimidating.

Bezos originally thought of calling his company Relentless.com—that U.R.L. still takes you to Amazon’s site—before adopting the name of the world’s largest river by volume. (If Bezos were a reader of classic American fiction, he might have hit upon Octopus.com.) Amazon’s shape-shifting, engulfing quality, its tentacles extending in all directions, makes it unusual even in the tech industry, where rapid growth, not profitability, is the measure of success. Amazon is not just the “Everything Store,” to quote the title of Brad Stone’s rich chronicle of Bezos and his company; it’s more like the Everything. What remains constant is ambition, and the search for new things to be ambitious about.

(click here to continue reading George Packer: Is Amazon Bad for Books? : The New Yorker.)

 

 

Blogger’s Note:  I was working on this blog post, and had a few more sentences written than appear here. However, I typed relentless.com into my browser1, and my computer instantly crashed with a System Kernel Panic. So only Jeff Bezos knows what else I had written, I don’t time to recreate my blah-blah…

Footnotes:
  1. Safari []

Written by Seth Anderson

February 12th, 2014 at 9:07 am

Posted in Books,Business

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Amazon Affiliate Program Back in IL

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https://i1.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5545/11213398444_0b931224a3_z.jpg?resize=640%2C640
Amazon dot com box

We’ve written about the Amazon Affiliate program in Illinois on a few previous occasions. Today I received this email:

Hello,

We’re pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We’re now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.

Residents of Illinois who would like to participate in the Amazon Associates program can submit an application here:

http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/apply/main.html

Thanks for your past participation in the Amazon Associates program. We hope to see you again soon.

Well that was a big circle around the campfire

Written by Seth Anderson

December 4th, 2013 at 6:09 pm

Posted in Business

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Amazon Q4 profits fall 45 percent

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Beasts_of_tarzan

Earlier today…

The company’s shares are down a bit today, but the company’s stock is taking a much less catastrophic plunge in already-meager profits than Apple, whose stock plunged simply because its Q4 profits increased at an unexpectedly slow rate. That’s because Amazon, as best I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers. The shareholders put up the equity, and instead of owning a claim on a steady stream of fat profits, they get a claim on a mighty engine of consumer surplus. Amazon sells things to people at prices that seem impossible because it actually is impossible to make money that way. And the competitive pressure of needing to square off against Amazon cuts profit margins at other companies, thus benefiting people who don’t even buy anything from Amazon.

 

Via:
Amazon Q4 profits fall 45 percent.
[automated]

Written by eggplant

January 29th, 2013 at 11:00 pm

Posted in Links

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Last FU from Amazon.com

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Amazon - The Original Store
Amazon – The Original Store

Amazon.com sent me a last fuck you for bothering to be an affiliate for Amazon in Illinois:

Dear Former Amazon Associate,

We have just sent you a payment for the amount of USD 5.40 for the remaining advertising fees less adjustments and fees on your recently closed account. This payment also includes any credit balance carried forward from previous payment periods.

If your billing address is in the U.S. and you selected payment by check, we will deduct a $15 processing fee from the check we send. (This charge does not apply to Associates with non-U.S. billing addresses, as direct deposit is not available to them.)

$5.40 – $15 = Fuck You for helping us sell our goods.

Gee thanks. Luckily, I recently jumped through all the hoops to give Amazon.com access to direct deposit, or else I’d really be pissed off. I truly hope that action is taken on a federal level to force Amazon.com to pay sales taxes, retroactively, so Jeff Bezos can choke a bit.

Written by Seth Anderson

June 30th, 2011 at 10:16 am

Posted in Business

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Amazon and Texas Taxes

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Ready for a scotch

I guess Governor Quinn still hasn’t decided whether to sign the Illinois Amazon affiliate killing bill yet. Meanwhile, Amazon is in a fight with another state, namely Texas.

The planned closure of an Amazon.com Inc. distribution center in a suburb here has opened a debate about whether taxes or jobs is the better answer for Texas’ tattered budget.

The online retailing giant said last week that it would close its center in Irving due to a dispute with the state comptroller, who is demanding that Amazon pay $269 million in sales taxes it should have collected on goods sold to Texas residents.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that businesses without a physical presence in a state are not obliged to collect taxes on the goods they sell there.

Since then, states have been trying to get Congress to change the law or have been seeking a way around it. A coalition of states has lobbied Congress to force online retailers to collect some taxes—so far without success. Some states, including Illinois and New York, broadened the definition of “physical presence” to include online retailers who pay commissions for referrals by local partners.

Illinois lawmakers recently passed a similar bill, which awaits the governor’s signature. Amazon has responded to the various laws with lawsuits or by cutting ties to the local businesses.

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Exit Spurs Tax Fight in Texas – WSJ.com.)

Written by Seth Anderson

February 17th, 2011 at 8:58 am

Posted in Business,government

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