19.06.2014

Books for free amazon prime

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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. After Apple launched the iPod, Steve Jobs didn’t sign up pop stars for recording contracts.
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Amazon’s identity and goals are never clear and always fluid, which makes the company destabilizing and intimidating. 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.
He loves building web apps and has also written for the Wall Street Journal & Lifehacker.
In 1994, at the age of thirty, Bezos, a Princeton graduate, quit his job at a Manhattan hedge fund and moved to Seattle to found a company that could ride the exponential growth of the early commercial Internet. Books are easy to ship and hard to break, and there was a major distribution warehouse in Oregon.
Crucially, there are far too many books, in and out of print, to sell even a fraction of them at a physical store. The vast selection made possible by the Internet gave Amazon its initial advantage, and a wedge into selling everything else. For Bezos to have seen a bookstore as a means to world domination at the beginning of the Internet age, when there was already a crisis of confidence in the publishing world, in a country not known for its book-crazy public, was a stroke of business genius. In 1995, in Chicago, Bezos manned an Amazon booth at the annual conclave of the publishing industry, which is now called BookExpo America. So what makes you Earth’s biggest?” “We have the most affiliate links”—a form of online advertising.
Doeren considered this, then asked, “What’s your business model?” Bezos said that Amazon intended to sell books as a way of gathering data on affluent, educated shoppers. After collecting data on millions of customers, Amazon could figure out how to sell everything else dirt cheap on the Internet. It’s going to be really bad for books.” Before Google, and long before Facebook, Bezos had realized that the greatest value of an online company lay in the consumer data it collected. Two decades later, Amazon sells a bewildering array of products: lawnmowers, iPods, art work, toys, diapers, dildos, shoes, bike racks, gun safes, 3-D printers. Amazon’s code of corporate secrecy is extreme—it won’t confirm how many Seattle employees it has, or how many Kindle e-readers have been sold—so it’s impossible to know for sure, but, according to one publisher’s estimate, book sales in the U.S. Few notice if Amazon prices an electronics store out of business (except its staff); but, in the influential, self-conscious world of people who care about reading, Amazon’s unparalleled power generates endless discussion, along with paranoia, resentment, confusion, and yearning.
For its part, Amazon continues to expend considerable effort both to dominate this small, fragile market and to win the hearts and minds of readers. The company claims to want a more literate world—and it came along when the book world was in distress, offering a vital new source of sales. But then it started asking a lot of personal questions, and it created dependency and harshly exploited its leverage; eventually, the book world realized that Amazon had its house keys and its bank-account number, and wondered if that had been the intention all along. Even in the iPhone age, books remain central to American intellectual life, and perhaps to democracy. And so the big question is not just whether Amazon is bad for the book industry; it’s whether Amazon is bad for books.
When Amazon emerged, publishers in New York suddenly had a new buyer that paid quickly, sold their backlist as well as new titles, and, unlike traditional bookstores, made very few returns. He was a skinny kid, he was young, he was excitable, and he was completely serious about what he was doing.
In the late nineties, an Amazon vice-president named Mary Morouse e-mailed her colleagues after a trip to visit publishers in New York. And they love our sales numbers.” “Well, if you haven’t seen him, do you know a good recipe for puff pastry?” Share Tweet Buy a cartoon Publishers weren’t troubled that Amazon sold their books at dramatic discounts. By 1997, when the company went public, Amazon’s book inventory could have filled six football fields.
But someone who read Bezos’s year-end letter to shareholders might well have thought that Amazon’s eight-hundred-and-thirty-eight-per-cent sales growth had been in shoes, since he barely mentioned books. Books were his customer-acquisition strategy.” As long as Amazon kept growing like mad, investors would pour in money and Wall Street wouldn’t pay much attention to profits. 55—was a cultural critic from New York named James Marcus, who, in turn, brought in his friend Kerry Fried, who edited his pieces at the Village Voice. One day in 1997, Fried went into the company kitchen and found him absorbed in assembling an ant farm. Eighty per cent of them came in two or three similar categories, and Bezos is the same: introverted, detail-oriented, engineer-type personality.
Even when Amazon’s entire business was in books, and its relations with publishers were fairly good, it nurtured a certain impatience with New York houses that supplied the products it sold. There was “a general feeling that the New York publishing business was just this cloistered, Gilded Age antique just barely getting by in a sort of Colonial Williamsburg of commerce, but when Amazon waded into this they would show publishing how it was done.” During the 1999 holiday season, Amazon tried publishing books, leasing the rights to a defunct imprint called Weathervane and putting out a few titles. Amazon was a megastore, not an indie bookshop, let alone a literary review, and its writers were under pressure to prove that their work produced sales. If a customer clicked on a review or an interview, then left the page without making a purchase, it was logged as a Repel. It’s a way for a retailer to get a larger discount without violating the 1936 Robinson-Patman Act, which prohibits producers from offering price advantages to favored retailers. Although co-op fees weren’t “dreamed up by Amazon,” Marcus told me, “Amazon proved to be particularly good at squeezing this money out of publishers.” Publishers paid ten thousand dollars for a book to be prominently featured on the home page. They never knew exactly how much these payments helped sales, and negotiations over them became tense. When Marcus asked if publishers should be given sales targets in exchange for their payments, Lyn Blake, the executive who had created the co-op program, said no, adding, “Look, it’s the cost of doing business.” The editorial staff was reminded that the money, unlike the receipts on sold books, went straight to Amazon’s bottom line. Judgments about which books should be featured on the site were increasingly driven by promotional fees. Around this time, a group called the “personalization team,” or P13N, started to replace editorial suggestions for readers with algorithms that used customers’ history to make recommendations for future purchases.


Author interviews became less frequent, and in-house essays were subsumed by customer reviews, which cost the company nothing. Tim Appelo, the entertainment editor at the time, said, “You could be the Platonic ideal of the reviewer, and you would not beat even those rather crude early algorithms.” Amazon’s departments competed with one another almost as fiercely as they did with other companies.
In December, 1999, at the height of the dot-com mania, Time named Bezos its Person of the Year. One day, Fried discovered a memo, written by a programmer and accidentally left on a printer, which suggested eliminating the editorial department. Anne Hurley, the editor-in-chief of the DVD and Video section, was viewed dismissively by her boss, Jason Kilar, who went on to run the video-streaming company Hulu. For the first time, Wall Street lost faith in the company, and Bezos announced that the next eighteen months would be devoted to making “serious profits.” Marcus and Fried quit before they could be laid off. The fact that Amazon once devoted significant space on its site to editorial judgments—to thinking and writing—would be an obscure footnote if not for certain turns in the company’s more recent history. According to one insider, around 2008—when the company was selling far more than books, and was making twenty billion dollars a year in revenue, more than the combined sales of all other American bookstores—Amazon began thinking of content as central to its business. By then, Amazon had lost much of the market in selling music and videos to Apple and Netflix, and its relations with publishers were deteriorating. In its drive for profitability, Amazon did not raise retail prices; it simply squeezed its suppliers harder, much as Walmart had done with manufacturers.
Amazon demanded ever-larger co-op fees and better shipping terms; publishers knew that they would stop being favored by the site’s recommendation algorithms if they didn’t comply.
In 2004, when Melville House was just getting started, Johnson’s distributor called him and described his negotiations with Amazon as being “like dinner with the Godfather.” Amazon wanted a payment without having to reveal how many Melville House books were sold on the site. Before the impasse, Amazon had represented eight per cent of Melville House’s sales, more than Johnson could afford to lose.
According to the marketing executive, the larger houses, which used to pay two or three per cent of their net sales through Amazon, now relinquish five to seven per cent of gross sales, pushing Amazon’s percentage discount on books into the mid-fifties.
For a smaller house, Amazon’s total discount can go as high as sixty per cent, which cuts deeply into already slim profit margins. Because Amazon manages its inventory so well, it often buys books from small publishers with the understanding that it can’t return them, for an even deeper discount. Publishers sometimes pass on this cost to authors, by redefining royalties as a percentage of the publisher’s receipts, not of the book’s list price. Recently, publishers say, Amazon began demanding an additional payment, amounting to approximately one per cent of net sales.
Once the fee was paid, publishing executives could discuss marketing strategies with Amazon staff; otherwise, they’d have to rely on the company’s algorithms. If a publisher resists when Amazon asks for a “bump” in payments, its books “can’t be promoted.” In 2003, Amazon introduced Search Inside the Book, which allowed customers to hunt for a phrase in a book without having to buy it.
Publishers warily allowed Amazon to scan some of their titles and convert the images into searchable text. They didn’t realize that they were giving Amazon a huge head start over potential competitors when it decided to go into the digital-books business. In 2004, he set up a lab in Silicon Valley that would build Amazon’s first piece of consumer hardware: a device for reading digital books. According to Stone’s book, Bezos told the executive running the project, “Proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job.” Meanwhile, Amazon began pushing publishers to digitize and sign retail agreements on as many titles as possible. Bezos announced that the price of best-sellers and new titles would be nine-ninety-nine, regardless of length or quality—a figure that Bezos, inspired by Apple’s sale of songs on iTunes for ninety-nine cents, basically pulled out of thin air. The price was below wholesale in some cases, and so low that it represented a serious threat to the market in twenty-six-dollar hardcovers. Bookstores that depended on hardcover sales—from Barnes & Noble and Borders (which liquidated its business in 2011) to Rainy Day Books in Kansas City—glimpsed their possible doom. The next year, 2008, which brought the financial crisis, was disastrous for bookstores and publishers alike, with widespread layoffs.
By 2010, Amazon controlled ninety per cent of the market in digital books—a dominance that almost no company, in any industry, could claim.
The literary agent Andrew Wylie (whose firm represents me) says, “What Bezos wants is to drag the retail price down as low as he can get it—a dollar-ninety-nine, even ninety-nine cents.
Publishers looked around for a competitor to Amazon, and they found one in Apple, which was getting ready to introduce the iPad, and the iBooks Store. Apple wanted a deal with each of the Big Six houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster) that would allow the publishers to set the retail price of titles on iBooks, with Apple taking a thirty-per-cent commission on each sale. This was known as the “agency model,” and, in some ways, it offered the publishers a worse deal than selling wholesale to Amazon. But it gave publishers control over pricing and a way to challenge Amazon’s grip on the market. Apple’s terms included the provision that it could match the price of any rival, which induced the publishers to impose the agency model on all digital retailers, including Amazon. In an e-mail to a friend, Sargent wrote, “Am on my way out to Seattle to get my ass kicked by Amazon.” Sargent’s gesture didn’t seem to matter much to the Amazon executives, who were used to imposing their own terms.
Seated at a table in a small conference room, Sargent said that Macmillan wanted to switch to the agency model for e-books, and that if Amazon refused Macmillan would withhold digital editions until seven months after print publication. The next day, Amazon removed the BUY buttons from Macmillan’s print and digital titles on its site, only to restore them a week later, under heavy criticism.
Amazon unwillingly accepted the agency model, and within a couple of months e-books were selling for as much as fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents. In April, 2012, the Justice Department sued Apple and the five publishers for conspiring to raise prices and restrain competition.
As proof of collusion, the government presented evidence of e-mails, phone calls, and dinners among the Big Six publishers during their negotiations with Apple. Sargent and other executives acknowledged that they wanted higher prices for e-books, but they argued that the evidence showed them only to be competitors in an incestuous business, not conspirators. As Apple and the publishers see it, the ruling ignored the context of the case: when the key events occurred, Amazon effectively had a monopoly in digital books and was selling them so cheaply that it resembled predatory pricing—a barrier to entry for potential competitors. Since then, Amazon’s share of the e-book market has dropped, levelling off at about sixty-five per cent, with the rest going largely to Apple and to Barnes & Noble, which sells the Nook e-reader. In other words, before the feds stepped in, the agency model introduced competition to the market. But the court’s decision reflected a trend in legal thinking among liberals and conservatives alike, going back to the seventies, that looks at antitrust cases from the perspective of consumers, not producers: what matters is lowering prices, even if that goal comes at the expense of competition.
When Bezos talks about serving the customer, it’s as if he were articulating his purpose in life. With Amazon’s patented 1-Click shopping, which already knows your address and credit-card information, there’s just you and the BUY button; transactions are as quick and thoughtless as scratching an itch.
If you pay seventy-nine dollars annually to become an Amazon Prime member, a box with the Amazon smile appears at your door two days after you click, with free shipping.


In December, the company patented “anticipatory shipping,” which will use your shopping data to put items that you don’t yet know you want to buy, but will soon enough, on a truck or in a warehouse near you. For years, Amazon fought furiously against paying sales taxes in states where it had no warehouses (and even where it did).
California and other states, under pressure from retailers complaining about Amazon’s unfair advantage, passed online-sales-tax laws. Amazon, with fulfillment centers across the country, favors a national online-sales-tax policy, perhaps because smaller online rivals would find it overwhelming to navigate all the tax jurisdictions across the country. You don’t have to think about how much the cashier, with her wrist in a splint, makes per hour. The Internet’s invisibility shields Amazon from some of the criticism directed at its archrival Walmart, with its all-too-human superstores. Online commerce allows even conscientious consumers to forget that other people are involved. Amazon employs or subcontracts tens of thousands of warehouse workers, with seasonal variation, often building its fulfillment centers in areas with high unemployment and low wages.
Accounts from inside the centers describe the work of picking, boxing, and shipping books and dog food and beard trimmers as a high-tech version of the dehumanized factory floor satirized in Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” Pickers holding computerized handsets are perpetually timed and measured as they fast-walk up to eleven miles per shift around a million-square-foot warehouse, expected to collect orders in as little as thirty-three seconds. Theft is a common concern in Amazon warehouses—no doubt, a knock-on effect of the absence of bonds between the company and the ever-shifting roster of low-paid employees. A company executive told the Times that Amazon considers unions to be obstacles that would impede its ability to improve customer service.
In 2011, the Allentown Morning Call published an investigative series with accounts of multiple ambulances being parked outside a warehouse during a heat wave, in order to ferry overcome workers to emergency rooms. Afterward, Amazon installed air-conditioners, although their arrival coincided with the expansion of grocery services. Bezos recently predicted to a gobsmacked Charlie Rose that, in five years, packages will be delivered by small drones.
Then Amazon will have eliminated the human factor from shopping, and we will finally be all alone with our purchases.
The combination of ceaseless innovation and low-wage drudgery makes Amazon the epitome of a successful New Economy company. Census data by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, in Washington, brick-and-mortar retailers employ forty-seven people for every ten million dollars in revenue earned; Amazon employs fourteen. Two decades ago, there were some four thousand in America, and many of them functioned as cultural centers where people browsed and exchanged ideas.
Today, there are fewer than two thousand—although, with Borders dead and Barnes & Noble ailing, the indies are making a small comeback. They grasped at the fact that Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Administration, and a friend of Attorney General Eric Holder, serves on Amazon’s board, and that three weeks after Judge Cote’s decision President Barack Obama appeared at an Amazon warehouse in Chattanooga—where workers earn, on average, eleven dollars an hour—to praise the company’s creation of good jobs.
Postal Service announced a special partnership to deliver Amazon—and only Amazon—packages on Sundays, with the terms kept under official seal. One literary agent said, “It’s strange that a President who’s an author, and whose primary income has come from being an author, was siding with a monopoly that wants to undercut publishers.” Since the arrival of the Kindle, the tension between Amazon and the publishers has become an open battle. The conflict reflects not only business antagonism amid technological change but a division between the two coasts, with different cultural styles and a philosophical disagreement about what techies call “disruption.” “Book publishing always has a rhetoric of the fallen age,” a senior editor at a major house told me.
It’s always future-perfect.” He went on, “Their whole thing is ‘Let’s take somebody’s face and innovate on it. He joined Amazon in 1998, as treasurer, then moved on to apparel, before taking the Kindle job.
An Amazon colleague described Grandinetti as the smartest guy in the room at a company where everyone believes himself to be just that. The literary agent, who knows him, said, “When you spend time with Russ, you get the sense that he thinks publishers are idiots.” At the meeting, Grandinetti displayed some of Amazon’s number-free bar graphs and encouraged a faster move into digital publishing and online selling. Amazon is the publisher.” The senior editor found it disturbing that Grandinetti couldn’t even be straight about a piece of public information. After giving “60 Minutes” a first glimpse of Amazon drone delivery, Bezos told Charlie Rose, “Amazon is not happening to bookselling. The old print world of scarcity—with a limited number of publishers and editors selecting which manuscripts to publish, and a limited number of bookstores selecting which titles to carry—is yielding to a world of digital abundance. Authors become Amazon partners, earning up to seventy per cent in royalties, as opposed to the fifteen per cent that authors typically make on hardcovers. Bezos touts the biggest successes, such as Theresa Ragan, whose self-published thrillers and romances have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. But one survey found that half of all self-published authors make less than five hundred dollars a year.
Amazon has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of writers frustrated with the limits of traditional publishing to have their work read.
David Blum, who edits Kindle Singles, cited a twenty-eight-thousand-word memoir, by a journalist named Oliver Broudy, about travelling with a collector of Gandhi memorabilia. It had been turned down by several magazines, but since Blum accepted it, in March, 2011, it has sold forty-five thousand units.
More than five hundred Kindle Singles have appeared in less than three years—three or four a week, making it hard for even an experienced editor like Blum to do much more than read and publish them.
There’s a populist inflection to Amazon’s propaganda, an argument against elitist institutions and for “the democratization of the means of production”—a common line of thought in the West Coast tech world. Amazon executives speak of the “Rust Belt media,” comparing book publishing to the steel industry in the seventies. In hardcover, Ferriss’s book has sold a fraction of the numbers of his two earlier self-help books; Marshall’s has sold seventeen thousand.
Nearly all of Amazon’s other books have fared worse: “Actors Anonymous,” a novel by James Franco, has sold fewer than five thousand.
The new publisher, Daphne Durham, has spent her entire career at Amazon, and will remain in Seattle. Grandinetti, keeping his game face on, told me, “Amazon Publishing is off to a very good start.” There was a practical reason for the failure.
Hardcover copies were printed and distributed in a partnership with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, under an imprint called New Harvest, with Amazon’s name missing from the spine. Barnes & Noble and nearly all the independents refused to stock its books—why help their mortal enemy?—and none of the titles gained enough momentum to force the stores to relent. What’s more, in its hurry to show up New York publishers, Amazon didn’t seem to know what it was doing. They don’t know how to talk to novelists.” The marketing executive pointed out that Amazon is a fast-moving company, but publishing is slow.



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