Dog-Eared and Dispatched: November 8, 2015
We’re just waking up after a great day at Wordstock, and what do we find? Amazon is trying to sell books through a brick and mortar store. No, really. We’ve got more info on that as well as a handful of footnotes about binge-watching, academic publishing, and the National Book Awards. Ready? Set. Read!
As Shelf Awareness guessed back in early October, Amazon opened a bricks and mortar outlet in Seattle’s U district this week. Taking over the space occupied by a former sushi restaurant, the novel features of the store include cover out display for all titles, metadata from Amazon.com (including star ratings), and promotion of Amazon products such as the Kindle, Amazon basics, etc. Most interesting, though, has been Amazon’s ability to lure great booksellers away from other bookstores with higher wages and benefits (which the company notably doesn’t give to, say, its delivery drivers): “Amazon Books is paying its booksellers well—wages begin at $18 an hour, with benefits. That’s well above starting rates at most indies; it also comes in ahead of Seattle’s impending $15 minimum wage. The effort Amazon had to exert to recruit these talented booksellers—they were noticeably good at their jobs—and the wages they’ve had to offer, stand in an odd juxtaposition to one of the central ideas of the site. Take the shelf-talkers. Amazon has always asserted that there is value—financial and culturally—to letting readers decide which books are good. Now, not only are they bringing in gatekeepers (the press release uses the word “curator”) to tweak and hone those lists of books, and to present the books in an attractive and reasonably intelligent manner, but they’ve had to pay them well in order to bring them into the Amazon fold. This is, first, one of Amazon’s occasional seemingly accidental acts of decency in their continued expansion, but it is also a hell of a big asterisk on what has been their guiding principle: that books are all made equal and people can choose what they want with little oversight or guidance.” The bookstore has inspired a variety of reactions, from disgust to confusion to amusement. Perhaps the most interesting reaction is from the Amazon VP responsible for the store, who says: “we have no idea what is going to happen.” [Shelf Awareness, Seattle Times, New Republic, MobyLives!, Publishers Weekly]
- Collins Dictionary has named “binge-watch” as its word of the year, citing the changing viewing habits brought on by subscription video services such as Netflix.
- Lower ebook prices combine with currency fluctuations and the lack of a breakthrough blockbuster to bring down HarperCollins’ earnings by 33%.
- The National Book Award finalistsan have been announced, and include the amazing Angela Flournoy for her novel Turner House
- The entire editorial staff of the scholarly journal Lingua have resigned en masse to protest Elsevier’s predatory pricing practices; Elsevier’s response to the crisis made academics even angrier, as the company tried to claim credit for the work done by individual scholars. As prices for academic journal sky-rocket (an article can cost more than $30), some see this protest resignation as the symptom of a very broken system.