Those Even-Worse Amazon Numbers

Best coverage of them might be on Zero Hedge, but even the New York Times is now calling out the low-margin Internet retailer.

Cash is down another billion, to $5.4 bil. or something. For some reason, Amazon has this huge spike in Accounts Receivable–over $2 billion. I’m puzzling over what the heck that might be. Pre-orders? Zappos? I’m billed when things ship… But, more later. Want to see how the market treats ‘em today.

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Decoupling from Amazon

As a follow-on to the Goodreads announcement, and amid Amazon’s general cutting of affiliates, screwing of business partners, etc. to become more of a single destination, thought I might mention this. When you get fed up enough, it is possible to leave the Amazon fold. I mostly made my break with the Seattle-based low-margin Internet retailer last Spring, following them screwing me over while I was picking up a kid in China. Despite me being a primarily ebook/POD publisher, with limited availability in retail stores, since October, Amazon has been less than half my revenues; and though there was a nice three-week Xmas bump; by April, they’ll be less than a quarter (or sooner if I am once again “punished.”)

By dropping out, I mean I’ve pulled all my works from CreateSpace Enterprise, formerly Booksurge, and despite amazing productivity gains resulting in me more than doubling the amount of new content Olympia offers each month, have placed almost no new titles of any stripes with Amazon in quite a while (exception being Gertrude Beasley, ‘cuz man, that book was angry.)

Direct sales, Apple, Google, Kobo, LSI, etc. have been more than enough to offset any harm Amazon has done to my business. And I’m so much happier. And poised to grow well into the future. The joke is, Amazon’s decisions to censor and harass me and folks like me will, in the long run, cost them around 80% of the future ebook market.

I don’t just mean censorship of Olympia. That’s–yeah. Again, Amazon’s customers are adults with life experience; their minions in charge of censorship are 20-somethings with overpriced degrees and nothing to offer society. Deny those patrons or defraud them, continually insult their intelligence, they will shop elsewhere. The men anyway, and I only really sell to men. At some point, perhaps when Amazon expands its audio/video offerings with their de rigueur bullying of content providers, it’s quite possible a well-heeled litigant, an *AA type, may be interested to know just how much Amazon has been curating content, given that, everyone else in the technology industry has a much-different read on Sec. 512 of the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act than does Amazon. Several of these firms even protested attempts to change the law. Amazon just kinda ignores it.

Whatevs. Like I say. Adult customers, some of whom are quite ticked off at Amazon’s censorship and the fact that personal content (including purchased books from others) goes into “Docs” on the Kindle Fire, while only Amazon content is worthy of a “Books” destination, are being quite good to me. And for anything else on the courtroom front, I got a bunch of emails in a nice timeline conformant with evidentiary guidelines as indicated by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Over 100 works censored (and growing) while Amazon continues to encourage and materially benefit from infringement, often of registered works. I only ask that the .pdfs I submit be dubbed Plaintiff’s Exhibit XXX.

But it was Amazon’s censorship of works from Black Mask that are really gonna doom them again viz Itunes U. Take, for example, a university professor who wants to do a course on film noir. I know dozens. They’re more adjuncts. Free desk copies, people. I always tell ‘em not to order too many books for the bookstore. Class might have 50 students to sign up, but we’ll be lucky to sell 15 copies of The Killing.

One of these adjuncts, likely a younger one, will have a great deal of fun putting together an entire syllabus/notes/clips thing on film noir. Sell it for maybe $50 in the iBookstore. They can do fair use excerpts, or else a lot of Detour, or maybe watch the films in class. Books, give ‘em away. Or link to where they’re going to be elsewhere available (free of charge) in the iBookstore.

But no professor can do that with my film noir texts on Amazon’s forthcoming Itunes U Competitor, because Amazon has removed so many of my film noir texts. I don’t really know why. There may have been someone at Random House. Actually, wait. I think I do know why, and it’s really all Amazon’s fault.

It was back when that whole Booklocker/CreateSpace/Booksurge thing went down. I took the Booksurge deal for Olympia, which was good while LSI adapted. But the crack tech minds at Booksurge couldn’t handle multiple imprints. So, given the dire threats to my business, I put Black Mask and Silk Pagoda into CreateSpace regular, taking advantage of free pro setups, and garnering dozens of pro setups for future use.

In the process, I learned that CreateSpace Pro was a much better deal than Booksurge (later CreateSpace Enterprise). About the only thing the latter division offered was lower print costs than LSI if you were gonna dropship 15-25 books to a university store. Downside to this was, the quality out of CreateSpace Enterprise is absolute crap, with most of my carton’s spines coming out mangled. My rep blamed this on non-standard sizing, (5×8, hmmph), and I went back to telling people to order from LSI.

So, I put a bunch of books into CreateSpace Pro. And got censored. Harassed. Removed from sale inexplicably. Heard demands from my rep that I use another ISBN that was registered to my company, as that first ISBN was registered to my company. It just went on. Even books that have been in place four years now–still a chance they vanish.

They finally got around to abolishing the Pro Plan this month, as given the numbers, they were losing $ on every copy sold.

Meanwhile, people still want my books, even in 5x8s if the spines ain’t mangled. I’m real good at niche marketing. For academic stuff, Apple’s got a goldmine up its sleeve and a long history of capitalizing on the education market, while Google could, tomorrow, start dropshipping LSI/Ingram titles.

Be interesting to see Amazon’s earnings tomorrow. You gotta think the firm’s cash holdings will at least be on the increase after Xmas, for the first time in many quarters, but who really knows?

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Almost Got all the Kinks Out

To make books work with the Kindle Fire, had to pretty much revamp my entire workflow. Then it takes me just a little while to get used to all the changes. Anyway, Merry Christmas, Internet.

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Still Playing With This

Have to work out some kinks for auto-generating covers (needed for Kindle Fire… and iPad too, of course :)

Rerunning batch script on 35k ebooks takes a bit of time…

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Sorry for delays

Making a fix to 35k+ books for Kindle Fire weirdness. Have processed 27k+ now, so… soon :)

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PDFs of New Pulps Fixed

Err, you know, laptop, boat, etc.

Were we missing quotes from pdfs lately? Looks like it’s a problem on FoxIt, but maybe not in Acrobat or something… anyway, reran the last couple hundred pdfs today, which I think are all I’ve done on this PC, so… that’s… better.

I’d in the past switched via macro from Unicode (8212) to ill-advised html entities (147-148), because, well, those… worked… in various and sundry reading devices. But can switch again…

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They Are Kinda Similar, Plus I Am on a Boat

Both stories about a guy who becomes a chauffeur. One, the Heyward, he’s fleeing a job at Cal-something. The other, from N.R. de Mexico, guy’s washed out on general aviation. Sort of a warning, the N.R. de Mexico guy is semi-famous for having written (along with Henry Miller, Anais Nin and others) pr0n at $1 a day for an Oklahoma oil millionaire, who had certain needs. de Mexico also wrote Marijuana Girl for the same “Intimate Novels” gang, and even with the 1dollarscan guys helping me out, their texts are a major pain to proofread. Not a lot of smut in this one, it was the ’50s, but clearly the author’s aiming for a market beyond straight noir.

Anyway, I’m on a cruise, currently stopped at Space Coast, FL, so not gonna sort out what’s going on with adding descriptions, save to place ‘em here. They were too long anyway. Enjoy, and more pulps soon as I get back, there were several I just got a notice about.

Trapped:

Dear Reader:
I’m thirty-four. I’m a college professor. I was fired because a girl was found in my room. Honest, she was only taking a shower. She had a million dollars and she waved them under my nose — all this and the lady, too. But I wouldn’t be bought, so I got out pronto.
I found a job as bodyguard to a rich old refugee who was in deadly fear of being murdered.
His young wife was a gal who would never let a man’s blood cool. Then his adopted daughter decided I was her meat, too.
What a spot for one guy to be in. Envy me? Don’t.
When the old man did get bumped off, who was the fall guy they tried to pin it on? Me, of course.
What could I do? What would you have done? Let me know, won’t you?

and Private Chauffeur:

HUSBAND!
WHY stop at meeting the man in a hotel, Dolores Carter asked herself. Why not bring him home as your chauffeur?
It was easy enough to make the arrangements. Her money let her do as she pleased. It had destroyed her husband’s medical career—Forced upon him an unwilling mistress—turned him into a man who inflicted pain for the joy of it—made of his daughter a love-hungry adventuress. But this was the last straw, the final act of emasculation Dolores had contrived for him….
On these pages are laid bare, as by a keen, cold scalpel, the minds of people caught up in an emotional tornado. Tearing, away the masks by which they conceal their dark deeds even from themselves, the author exposes the subtle ties which bind innocence to guilt, good to evil… and three unhappy women.
N.R. de Mexico’s last novel, Marijuana Girl, probed the strange passions which make for drug addiction. Here he creates an even more profound and stirring book, relentlessly coming to grips with inadvertent vice and creeping evil!

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Those Awful Amazon #s

I’m of the opinion, shared by some of my fellow independent publishers, that Amazon will only become a company you can deal with again after their stock price corrects. Talking a 60-70% drop from its peak, a la Netflix. Betting against Amazon’s stock has been a fool’s errand for well over a year now, with the shares soaring even as the company repeatedly and routinely missed earnings targets, but this time, as they say, might just be different. The problems at Amazon are now too big to ignore.

The way to understand Amazon’s business is to look at its cash. And its cash position has not been healthy for a very long time. Its supposed main ebook competitors (apple and google*), have enormous cash hoards, which those firms add to each and every quarter. Apple, for example, just increased its cash holdings to over $80 billion, Google’s at $40 bil., Amazon is now at $6 billion, down from $10 at the start of the year.

Gets even worse, Amazon’s Accounts Payable (the money they owe somebody but haven’t come through with yet), at $6.5 bil., is up $1.7 bil. from a year ago. Their net cash is less than their Accounts Payable for the first time in a very long time. Google’s Accounts Payable stands at around $500 bil., Apple–I don’t know what they owe, but I’m pretty sure they’re good for it.

Some of Amazon’s cash issues might be attributable to the Zappos acquisition. If so, that was a very stupid acquisition. But to list Amazon’s errors over the past couple years would fill a business text.

If this company doesn’t execute flawlessly with Kindle Fire and in general over the next three months, there will be layoffs at Amazon. I’d recommend they start with the folks who think driving customers to third-party sellers via censorship is a good idea. Cut those employees, Mmm’kay?

Disclaimer: we at Disruptive Publishing used to be highly dependent on Amazon for our revenues. Didn’t really have a choice, actually. Since the censorship began, and especially since this summer, when I pulled out all my titles from CreateSpace Enterprise (formerly Booksurge), that has ceased to be the case. At this point, Amazon, while still a significant source of funds for me, is just one revenue stream among many. And after all, pr0n drives distribution. Given Amazon’s 2% profit margins, compared to the 20+% margins enjoyed by Apple and Google, the Seattle-based retailer is just not as monolithic as you’d think, especially as Apple and Google continue to slowly, steadily, profitably, improve their ebook offerings.

*Yes, I’m leaving out B&N as an ebook competitor to Amazon. But Kindle Fire will kill the NookColor, if it hasn’t already. And, really, given that B&N first aggressively courted my titles, then decided to eliminate me, while still owing me money, my only interaction with them at this point is to teach my daughter to laugh like Louie dePalma, so that the pair of us can properly celebrate when our local B&Ns go the way of Borders in a year or two.

**Look, I’m, rooting for Kobo, OK. They seem very nice.

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In Frankfurt for Book Fair

Guten Tag. Actually, though folks in the States think I might be German, I stand out here as ‘Merican. All the store clerks say hello. I experienced this repeatedly, searching for an adapter for laptops.

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Oof, those two categories were hard to kill

Apologies. Gone now. #hacked

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