Dog-Eared and Dispatched
Happy St. Patrick’s Day, literary citizens! We hope you enjoy a safe and happy celebration tomorrow. Until then, we’ll get rolling on the latest edition of Dog-Eared and Dispatched!
In this week’s rundown of the wild world of book culture, we investigate Amazon’s Prime membership price hike and accusations that the company has been dishonest about its free shipping services. Next, we look into how public libraries are faring these days, including one woman’s sizable donation to the NYPL. Finally, we take a break from the quarreling between Apple and the U.S. Department of Justice to give an update on the antitrust lawsuit up north as Canada and Kobo continue to butt heads.
Don’t forget about the footnotes! Find out more about the controversy surrounding the L.A. Times Festival of Books, the winners of this year’s NBCC awards, the latest (and greatest?) book-related apps, more hints of Amazon’s attempts to take over the literary world, and more!
Amazon has announced it will be raising its Prime membership fees as of March 17, increasing the price from $79 to $99 for regular members and $39 to $49 for student members. To many industry analysts, this bump in price isn’t surprising, especially considering the company’s lower-than-anticipated fourth quarter earnings. In an interview with Reuters, Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law said, “If you consider things like inflation and fuel costs, a Prime membership valued at $79 in 2005 would be worth more than $100 today”—though, as Reuter’s noted, Law “declined to say how the company calculated the figure.” This reasoning isn’t good enough for some current or potential Amazon customers, however, with Prime member Caryn Brooks stating, “I’m going to cancel. My thought is that the price should be going down. Prime customers order more from Amazon because of their membership. By having Prime members, [Amazon has] more guaranteed sales . . . they should nurture those folks, not repel them.” In addition, some consumers are now accusing the company of cheating on their free shipping services by “encouraging third-party vendors to increase their prices to Prime Members by the amount they charged others for shipping.” Two such lawsuits—one filed in February and the other filed this past Friday—are still pending judgment, with no legal response yet given by Amazon. Meanwhile, Barnes and Noble’s chief merchandising officer, Jaime Carey, took advantage of the bad blood created by Amazon’s price hike to remind consumers of B&N’s unaltered membership program: “As another online bookseller announces higher membership fees, the Barnes & Noble Member program maintains its very low annual fee of $25, which includes unlimited free express shipping with no minimum purchase at BN.com.” [Shelf Awareness, Seeking Alpha, Publishers Weekly, Reuters, ABC News]
The Public Library Association’s five-day conference kicked off this Tuesday, March 11. Many attendees barely made it into Indianapolis before winter storm Vulcan hit the city, bringing with it a 50 degree temperature drop. In fitting literary fashion, PLA President Carolyn Anthony utilized the weather as a metaphor for the challenges currently faced by public libraries, including “a storm of technology changes, budget cuts, and challenges to our relevancy.” Anthony went on to say that the “profession has responded and become more nimble than ever,” with the general public more widely recognizing the “many roles [that libraries serve] in the community beyond being a traditional book lender.” The Pew Research Center’s latest report seems to align with this statement, with survey results revealing that “1) more than two-third of Americans are engaged with public libraries; 2) people who have extensive ‘economic, social, technological, and cultural resources’ are also more likely to use and value libraries; 3) Technology users are generally library users,with evidence suggesting that the ‘most plugged-in and highest-income respondents,’ while not as dependent on libraries are nevertheless ‘highly engaged with public libraries and the most avid supporters of the idea that libraries make communities better’; 4) There are people who have never visited a library who still value libraries’ roles in their communities; and 5) despite a widely perceived information overload in the digital age, most Americans do not feel overwhelmed by information today. Among the people who feel ‘information overload,’ most are actually less likely to use newer technologies than others—and less likely to use libraries.” As if to further drive the PLA’s beliefs and the Pew’s findings home, the New York Public Library recently found itself the recipient of a six-million-dollar donation, as announced by the library this Wednesday. The generous donation was made Lotte Fields, a devoted literary citizen and library patron, who passed away at the age of 89. [Publishers Weekly, MobyLives!]
The Commissioner of Competition in Canada has put Kobo in a bit of a bind—not to mention a bad mood—by mandating that the ebook retailer re-negotiate its contracts with the Big Five publishers. Giving Kobo 40 days to complete this process as of February 21, the e-tailer is now down to 16 days with a majority of its contracts still up in the air. Should Kobo fail to draft new contracts with these publishers before the full extent of the 40 days runs out, its existing contracts with the Big Five publishers will be considered void and Kobo will be forced to remove all associated books from its online bookstore. According to Good eReader’s editor in chief, Michael Kozlowski, “The only play Kobo has in a legal battle against the Canadian Government is to play the jurisdiction card. The publisher settlements and the abandoning of Agency pricing was purely based in the United States. The Justice Department and the settlements have no legal jurisdiction in Canada.” Kozlowski went on to say, “If Kobo fails to make a case and have to absorb profit loses by switching to a hybrid of wholesale and agency-lite, it looks likely Kobo will kill their Canadian ebook business. They certainly won’t be able to compete against Amazon and Apple.” [Commissioner of Competition, MobyLives!, Good eReader]
1. The I’s have it! The Los Angeles Times adds IndieBound buy buttons to their 2014 Festival of Books.
2. The National Book Critics Circle announces their 2013 winners, including authors Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Americanah) and Sheri Fink (Five Days at Memorial).
3. Spritz, the speed-reading app, may allow readers to peruse books at a speed of 1,000 WPM—but at what cost?
4. Scribd and Parade Magazine present a state-by-state listing of the U.S.’s most popular readings.
5. Rooster book app aims to make the serialized novel mainstream once again.
6. Amazon eyes Quercus Books, the currently purchasable independent press best known for publishing Stieg Larsson.