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Industry News: Amazon goes after free e-books, B&N to rethink Nooks, and new fake reviews that aren’t a scandal

March 2, 2013

Amazon changes affiliate program to deter book giveaways

It used to be if you sold a free e-book on Amazon, and a “buyer” clicked through and downloaded the free book and bought other things, you got a commission for those things. No more. If your site sells more than 20,000 free e-books in a month and 80% of your sales are free e-books, you won’t get paid any more. This move is likely to hurt independent authors who use free e-book runs to build presence on Amazon. Unfortunately, the ranking algorithms–the rules that determine how a book is ranked–in Amazon are starting to push away from free e-books. One of the test agorithms considered a free e-book as part only a tenth of a “sale,” where it previously counted as an entire sale.

What this means to you: If you use free e-books to build your online presence, you need to pay attention to how everyone shifts to account for this change. If you use free e-books to build your awareness, you probably need to think about how to account for the changes. And if you enjoy getting free e-books, you might have a hard time finding the best free e-books. Then again, there are free e-book rankings on the front page.

Barnes & Noble to rethink Nook, but has a suitor

Sometimes you figure tomorrow has to be better because it can’t get any worse. You’d have to forgive Barnes & Noble for feeling that way, considering the avalanche of bad news. So far, tomorrow hasn’t been any better. After disappointing sales for its Nook e-reader over the holidays and continued losses for the Nook division, B&N has announced it will pull back on its Nook segment. Third-quarter sales of Nooks fell 26% year over year, leading to what the New York Times called “steep cuts in advertising and…manufacturing of devices.” B&N will turn its focus to electronic content and what it called “digital education.” The company is looking to open mall bookstores and continue its college bookstore business. Retail profits for the chain rose 7.3%. Meanwhile chairman Leonard Riggio has proposed to purchase the retail segment and all its assets.

What this means to you: There are other book stores in Tampa, but outside the small used book store in Carrollwood and the independent bookstore downtown, I don’t know what or where they are. The fact that the retail division of Barnes & Noble did okay is heartening. But I have to be honest…I rarely buy things there. I buy my books through my Nook and if I’m looking for a place to go have a coffee and snack, I’m more likely to go elsewhere. I may be in the minority, but I suspect I’m not. Book stores are in trouble. And the announcement about the Nooks will further depress their sales. Who wants to buy hardware that might go away?

Characters review their own books online

Last year, RJ Ellory made news when he posted fake reviews trashing other authors’ books. That, along with some other sock-puppetry, started a discussion about fake reviews. The latest chapter may be unfolding as characters from the book This is Your Captain Speaking by Jon Methven have been reviewing the book online. The book’s a novel, so the characters don’t really exist. For his part, Methven says he’s pleased that his characters are speaking up and aren’t trashing the book, even though he put them through hell.

What this means to you: First of all, to set the stage, the reviews are obviously fake. This isn’t a case of someone posing as a real person and writing a review. The reviewer in the article is Passenger 12B. And the review is amusing, pointing out all the time Methven spent with him (or her), reworking dialogue. It’s cute and it works. And if Methven wrote it, it makes me more inclined to buy the book. The real issue around sock-puppetry is misleading the reader. In this case, that’s not happening.




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