Amazon.com Inc. is flexing its e-commerce muscles to gain an edge on competitors in the video-streaming market by ending the sale of devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc.
The Seattle-based Web retailer sent an e-mail to its marketplace sellers that it will stop selling Apple TV and Google’s Chromecast. No new listings for the products will be allowed and posting of existing inventory will be removed Oct. 29, Amazon said. Amazon’s streaming video service, called Prime Video, doesn’t run easily on rival’s devices.
Hmm… While this sounds like an abuse of dominant position on Amazon’s part, I would really like to see a Prime Video app on the Apple TV.
With the new Apple TV coming out in November, and offering an app store, I would assume this will be possible. Apple doesn’t prevent Amazon from having its apps in the iOS App Store, and would probably not be allowed to do so on the Apple TV App Store. If this is the case, is Amazon just doing this to attack Google?
As the venerable Radio Shack nears bankruptcy, Bloomberg is reporting that Amazon may buy some of their 4,000 stores. Bloomberg says:
“Amazon has considered using the RadioShack stores as showcases for the Seattle-based company’s hardware, as well as potential pickup and drop-off centers for online customers, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the deliberations are private.”
I find it interesting that, in the US, there aren’t networks of places to pick up and drop off packages, other than, say, UPS stores. Here in the UK, there is a vast network of stores where many online sellers can send packages; there are several within a couple of miles of where I live. Amazon also recently struck a deal with the UK post office Royal Mail to use post offices for this purpose.
This makes a lot of sense. If you’ve got a package coming, and aren’t home, it’s good to have a place where you can pick it up. This option has long been available here in the UK, and when I lived in France, it was available as well. I can also take any returns to a nearby store to send them to Amazon, or other vendors, making that process easier too.
But I’m slightly sad to see Radio Shack disappear. When I was a teenager in New York City, I bought my first stereo from Radio Shack. There was one right next-door to a Carvel where I worked after school, and I saved up my money to get an all-in-one turntable and amplifier. It probably wasn’t very good, quality-wise, but it didn’t matter: it played my records.
Amazon Prime includes free two-day shipping, access to over a million songs, Prime Instant Video, and more. I use Amazon Prime here in the UK, where it offers next-day shipping, but no music. I do enjoy Amazon Prime Video, which is similar to Netflix in quality. Amazon has been creating some good exclusive TV series, and I find that, together with the free next-day shipping, it’s a good deal. Though I know that many people would rather buy Prime for shipping only, and not pay for the videos and music.
But with $27 off today, it might be a good time to try Prime.
Browsing some books on my Kindle today, then later on my iPhone, I noticed a discrepancy between the prices on the two devices. I first wondered if it was because I was logged in to Amazon UK with a different account (I have two accounts; long story). But I was logged in with the same account.
I was looking at an edition of Plato’s complete works, which retains for £36.56 in hardcover. On my iPhone, the Kindle version of this book shows up at £18.69. On my Kindle, it costs £28.72.
I looked more closely on the Amazon UK website on my Mac. I found that there are two different Kindle editions, one from 1997, and another from 2011, both from the same publisher. The later edition is cheaper. But the Kindle only shows me the older, more expensive edition. Very odd…
It’s one thing that Amazon sells bootleg recordings; I understand that it may be hard for them to police all the stock they get from “record companies,” and third-party resellers. I’d noticed quite a few Dylan bootlegs in the past couple of years. These aren’t 50-year old recordings, which are fair game in the European Union, these are just plain old bootlegs.
But it’s another thing when, in an email promoting the latest Bob Dylan release, Amazon also promotes four bootleg albums. I got this email this morning:
I assume Amazon would say it’s not their responsibility; they trust the companies to sell legal recordings, and these emails are generated by algorithm. But, still; it’s pretty lame.
I’m an Amazon Prime member here in the UK, and have been since shortly after I moved to my current location, in the West Midlands, near Stratford-Upon-Avon. Until a couple of months ago, all my Amazon packages were either delivered by the post office (Royal Mail), or one of a handful of delivery services: DPD, UPS, Yodel and others.
But in the past month or two, things have changed. I now get most Amazon deliveries from different people in unmarked or rented vans. I had a chat with one of them recently, and found out something interesting. Amazon is quietly developing a delivery service of their own. They call it Amazon Logistics; at least that’s how it shown up on emails I get saying that a package has been sent, or on my Orders page:
Amazon’s fulfilment centre in Dunfermline will be the biggest in the UK. The size of 14 football pitches, in fact. The site itself is right next to the M90 and A92, so it’s within easy reach of Edinburgh, Stirling and St Andrews. Surrounded by stunning scenery and filled with attractions that include a Norman abbey, a royal palace and a racing circuit, there’s plenty to do both indoors and out. And if it’s the great outdoors you’re after, you couldn’t pick a better place. Fife is full of pretty villages and stunning coastal walks — and, of course, you’re never too far from a golf course. But there’s more to Dunfermline than the landscape. There’s also a wide range of shops, bars and restaurants, plus a theatre and a host of music venues. And if that’s not enough, all the culture and sophistication of Edinburgh is just across the river.
But as the company increases its staff within these idyllic distribution centers, it is also seeking to save money on shipping. Creating their own network may do just that.
When I asked one of the drivers, he explained that they are all temps, recruited through agencies. Some of them drive their own vans, and some drive rented vans: some of the vans I see have the names or rental companies on their sides, and I don’t think I’ve seen the same driver twice. Drivers are paid by the mile, and they have a given number of packages that they have to deliver in the day. This number can vary, and the driver made it clear that it’s very hard to keep up with the demands, and that, unless they drive all day, it’s hard to make a good living. And deliveries can be made at any time of day, up to about 9pm, and even on Sunday. (I had a book delivered this past Sunday.)
The driver I spoke to explained that drivers are responsible for packages. If a customer claims they didn’t receive it, it’s the driver who gets docked. It seems that this is a fairly common practice, at least in certain areas, and, while the drivers note exactly where they left the packages on a handheld device, it’s hard for the to prove that they did deliver them, without getting signatures.
As Amazon eschews more expensive delivery services – they still use UPS and others for expensive items – they will certainly save money, but the question is whether customers will be as satisfied as before. With Amazon Prime in the UK, most items are available for next-day delivery. Using other delivery networks, it’s possible to track packages, and even know approximately what time they are to be delivered. (DPD has a system where you can see the current location of the driver who has your package on their website.) But with the new network, packages can come at any time, and are often just left in front of doors. I haven’t had any lost packages yet, but several have been a day late.
Frankly, I don’t need all my Amazon purchases the next day. It’s a benefit of being an Amazon Prime member, and I always choose that, but if Amazon were to offer a discount for, say, two- or three-day delivery, I’d likely accept that for many things I buy from the company. On the other hand, one reason I subscribe to Prime is because if I need computer hardware for my work, and I do need it the next day, I know I’ll (almost always) get it quickly. However, if packages can be delivered up until 9 pm, then I can lose an entire day; if the post office delivers the package, I get it by lunch time at the latest.
When I lived in France, the post office, using their overnight service, delivered most packages; DHL and UPS delivered larger or more expensive items. But France is much larger than the UK; in fact, the UK is an optimal size for an in-house delivery network. My guess is that, in the long term, Amazon will move this service from using terms in rented vans to a full-fledged part of the company with its own full-time employees. I would expect to see vans with the Amazon logo soon, which would also provide advertising for the company. It will be interesting to see how this works out for Amazon.
As I write these words, it’s 4:45 pm. I’m waiting on my Kindle Voyage, which is due for delivery today. If it had come by the post office, I’d have had it hours ago. But since Amazon’s own network is delivering it, I may not get it until later this evening. It’s not that big a deal, but the service was more efficient before.
Update: 5:52 pm, and the Kindle was delivered.
Update 2: Interestingly, I just noticed that For certain Amazon Prime orders (not all), there is an option to not choose one-day delivery, and get a £1 credit toward MP3 files, Kindle books or Amazon Prime videos.
This is the first time I’ve noticed this. I did see that, for some items (I tried putting a few different items into my shopping cart, then going to check out), this option is not available. It may have something to do with which distribution center has the item, or what the cost of shipping a specific item is. My guess is they use second-class mail for the 3-5 business day delivery, and save more than £1. If I’m not in a hurry, I’ll be very happy to get a £1 credit for each order like this.
One thing that has kept me from buying more ebooks is the inability to share them with my partner. In the US, you can share Kindle ebooks, on a one-off basis, but it’s not a simple process. Here in the UK, there is no such feature.
I noticed a new feature listed on Amazon’s Kindle Voyage page called Family Library. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)
This is something I’d been hoping for for quite some time. Now, if one of us buys a Kindle ebook, the other can read it. It’s not yet clear if this means we can both read it at the same time, but I would guess that it will function like that. It’s also not clear if this is specific to the Kindle Voyage; I don’t think it would be. But with this feature, I’m more likely to buy ebooks in the future.
I couple of months ago, I cracked my Kindle Paperwhite’s screen. I tossed it on my bed, one day, and it landed on my iPhone, making a nasty crack with spidery lines extending a few inches. It wasn’t broken, but there was no way I could read on that device; it was too distracting.
So, I put it aside and bought a new one (in part, thanks to Amazon offering me a 20% discount, after I inquired whether the Kindle could be repaired). Today, I went to check it out, thinking that my partner, who is happy to read a non-backlit Kindle, might want to use it. The cracks only showed up when the light was on, so I thought that she might want to use it with the light off.
I charged it for a bit, entered my PIN, then, much to my surprise, the crack is gone. If I look really close, I can see a whitish spot where the contact point was, but the rest of the crack is gone. I don’t know why this happened, but my guess is that whatever liquid is in the screen filled the spaces, and did so seamlessly, hiding the crack. I don’t know how long it took for this to “heal,” but it’s been a couple of months. (I regret that I hadn’t taken any photos of the screen to be able to show before and after views…)
So, if you have a Kindle Paperwhite with a cracked screen, hold on to it. You may find, as I did, that it will self-heal after a while.
Amazon has announced a new Kindle, the Kindle Voyage (odd name…) that is due to ship in November. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) A bit smaller than the Kindle Paperwhite, this device boasts a higher screen resolution (300 ppi compared to 212 pip for the Paperwhite), and an adaptive light, so the screen light will vary according to your ambient lighting. There are also page-turn buttons in the device’s frame, on either side of the page, which provide haptic feedback.
This device is a bit lighter than the Paperwhite, but also more expensive: at $199, that’s a big step up from the $119 Paperwhite. (The difference is less here in the UK; the Paperwhite is £109, and the Voyage £169.) It’s not clear whether many people will pay $200 for an ebook reader, but I’m pretty sure that there are enough die-hard Kindle users who will welcome the new device.
We won’t know for a month or so, but I sincerely hope that Amazon makes e-reading a better experience through improved fonts. It’s one of the things I dislike about the Kindle; the fact that the fonts just aren’t very book-like.
If you’re a Kindle user, you know that you can manage your Kindle library on your Amazon account page. There’s a link that says Manage Your Kindle:
This takes you to a page where you can see your content and your devices, and alter some settings related to your Kindle account page. From the Your Content section, you can choose to deliver a book to one of your devices, but you can just as easily download it from the device itself. You can also delete the book, clear the furthest page read, and more.
But there’s a secret, “hidden” Kindle page which is much more useful. Go to http://kindle.amazon.com/, sign in, and see how much more information you get.
Click Your Books, and see all your books, what your reading status is for each one (whether you’re currently reading, finished, etc.), rate books, and set whether you want your notes to be public.
One thing available from this page that you cannot access any other way is Your Highlights. This lists all the passages you’ve highlighted in all your books, and you can copy them. Since there’s no way to copy text from a Kindle book, this is a good way to get bits of text if you need them for, say, a report or article.
You can also follow people from this page, but I’ve never really felt this to be useful. Perhaps you want to follow famous authors and read their notes and highlights, or just see what your friends are reading; as long is this information is made public.
While some of the information on this page is the same as that on the Manage Your Kindle page, the main attraction here is highlights. As far as I know, this is the only way to access them in copyable form. Check out this page; you might find it useful.