Brace yourself for Amazon Prime Day 2: Electric Boogaloo

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Watch this fun parody of Amazon's much-mocked Prime Day.

Amazon Fire Phone for $159, includes one year of Prime

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On June 23, I posted that an Amazon Fire Phone (32GB, Unlocked GSM) was selling for $179. I almost bought one, because it includes a year of Amazon Prime, which I pay $100 per year for. That meant the real cost of the phone was $79.

Today, Amazon is offering the same phone for $159, including the same one year of Prime deal. That did it for me. I bought one. I'm going to use it as my international travel phone (my iPhone is locked by AT&T so I can't use another carrier's SIM card) and a replacement phone for when my daughter drops her iPhone in the toilet. Read the rest

Amazon will pay authors based on number of e-book pages read

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Authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will start getting paid based on the number of book pages that are read, as opposed to how many books are borrowed through two different Kindle services. Read the rest

The fate of the big box store

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What happens to all the Wal-marts when we have every last Q-tip droned in from Amazon warehouses? Read the rest

Amazon will finally start paying tax in the UK

The company will abandon the pretense that its UK sales are consummated in Luxembourg and that the money floats in a state of taxless grace in the middle of the Irish Sea. Read the rest

Amazon drops "Boy" and "Girl" categories from toy listings

Amazon's toys category is no longer sorted into "Boys" toys and "Girls" toys. Read the rest

Stream Season 1 of Transparent FREE today only (24 January)

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If you have not seen it yet, you can enjoy the first season of Amazon's hit series Transparent for free today, Saturday 24 January. A great way to spend your Saturday afternoon or evening! Read the rest

Downpour.com: audiobooks without the DRM

I love audiobooks, but I hate DRM (actually, I think it's an existential threat to humanity), and since Audible requires all its books to be sold with DRM (even when the publishers object), that's left me with limited options -- until 2014, when I discovered Downpour. Read the rest

Hideous $10,000 plastic Christmas tree

Grad writes, "While cruising Amazon looking for some new Christmas tree magic for my family, I ran across what must be the world's most expensive Christmas tree." Read the rest

Amazon and Hachette kiss and make up

After nearly a year of Amazon (the largest bookseller on earth) refusing to sell books from one of the largest publishers on earth, they've finally made peace. Read the rest

Kindle Original vs Kindle Voyage

Jason Weisberger finally upgraded. Did seven years make much difference? The answer will probably not surprise you, but the details might.

Amazon vs Hachette is nothing: just WAIT for the audiobook wars!

In my latest Locus column, Audible, Comixology, Amazon, and Doctorow’s First Law, I unpick the technological forces at work in the fight between Amazon and Hachette, one of the "big five" publishers, whose books have not been normally available through Amazon for months now, as the publisher and the bookseller go to war over the terms on which Amazon will sell books in the future. Read the rest

FTC sues Amazon over in-game purchases by children

Online retailer Amazon is accused of hooking millions of dollars from underage users making unauthorized in-app purchases. The Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit Thursday charging that the company willingly allowed kids to set up purchases without the consent of their parents.

Though most were for smaller ammounts, some of the charges ranged as high as $99, and typically were for game weapons, clothes and other virtual bullshit installed on its Kindle Fire gadget.

"Amazon’s in-app system allowed children to incur unlimited charges on their parents’ accounts without permission," FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez wrote in a press release issued by the comission. "Even Amazon's own employees recognized the serious problem its process created. We are seeking refunds for affected parents and a court order to ensure that Amazon gets parents' consent for in-app purchases."

Amazon's in-app purchase system, established in 2011 to help the firm catch up with competitors Apple and Google, was relatively rudimentary and lacked locks or passwords to prevent unuathorized users racking up huge bills. Within a month, internal emails show that Amazon was aware of "problems" that were "clearly causing problems for a large percentage of our customers," according to the FTC's lawsuit.

Amazon only added passwords months later, and did not apply them to purchases of less than $20 for a year. Even then, according to the suit, Amazon did not disclose that doing so once would enable further purchases for more than an hour.

The FTC settled a similar lawsuit with Apple earlier this year, when the company agreed to institute stricter policies and paid $32.5m in restitution. Read the rest

How Hachette made the rope that Amazon is hanging it with

In my latest Guardian column, "How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage," I discuss the petard that the French publishing giant Hachette is being hoisted upon by Amazon. Hachette insisted that Amazon sell its books with "Digital Rights Management" that only Amazon is allowed to remove, and now Hachette can't afford to pull its books from Amazon, because its customers can only read their books with Amazon's technology. So now, Hachette has reduced itself to a commodity supplier to Amazon, and has frittered away all its market power. The other four major publishers are headed into the same place with Amazon, and unless they dump DRM quick, they're going to suffer the same fate. Read the rest

Apple appeals against e-book verdict

Deepto Hajela with the AP: "Apple filed papers on Tuesday telling a federal appeals court in New York that a judge's finding it violated antitrust laws by manipulating electronic book prices 'is a radical departure' from modern antitrust law that will 'chill competition and harm consumers' if allowed to stand." Read the rest

Charity sends Amazon a cake celebrating 3d anniversary of unpaid invoice

Metabrainz is the charity that oversees Musicbrainz, a free/open music metadata service that has gained in popularity since Gracenote took all the audio metadata its users keyed in by hand and enclosed it, denying all but the top bidders access to it. Musicbrainz is free to use, but has a premium, higher-availability service for commercial operators, like Amazon.

For three years now, Metabrainz has been chasing an unpaid invoice at Amazon. Metabrainz is a tiny, charitable nonprofit that relies on grants and donations for the majority of its operating capital, but commercial operators are also key to its survival. And Musicbrainz is an integral part of the plumbing of the Internet at this point, a powerful check against one player achieving dominance through a chokehold on a key resource.

So Metabrainz sent Amazon Headquarters a birthday cake, celebrating the third birthday of good ol' invoice #144. As a volunteer board member for the charity, I'd mightily appreciate it if someone at Amazon would take the time to nudge this invoice through the system.

We just delivered this to @amazon HQ in honor of a 3 year overdue invoice. Can we please get this mess fixed? --ruaok Read the rest

Jeff Bezos, Amazon's switchboard operator

John Biggs interviewed Jeff Bezos: "What we’re finding right now is that even our heaviest Kindle ebook customers are still buying physical books. We’re seeing a lot of vinyl sales." [TechCrunch] Read the rest

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