What does Amazon Sales Rank Mean?

I saw this on a friend’s blog and had to share — to take a look at his blog, click here – http://allthingsthatmatterpress.blogspot.com/2010/07/amazon-sales-rank.html

Amazon Sales Rank

We often get questions about the elusive phenomenon-AMAZON SALES RANK. While the following is not perfect and does not apply to Kindle Editions, “Dog Ear Publishing” put together a fairly accurate table on book sales vs. sales rank. We thank them for their effort.

“what in the world does my Amazon sales rank number mean?”

Very roughly, the Amazon sales rank can be taken as a measure of your book’s relative success to now over 6 MILLION other books at Amazon.com. Every book that has sold at least a single copy is assigned a rank.
The Amazon sales rank is a measure of how many books YOUR book sold compared to all the other books on Amazon.com. Your rank is yours and yours alone – no two books can share the rank at any one time (books that have sold the same number have additional criteria applied). The period of time over which the sales are measured is varHowever, the ranking is updated hourly.
Amazon applies some very complex (and apparently top secret) math to maintaining rankings for their top 5,000 books. Sales are measured hourly, daily, and monthly – and rankings are determined by even the amount of time BETWEEN sales. Books in the top 5,000 keep their rankings very consistent – and Amazon enforces some “averaging” of sales to keep your book from jumping up to number one just because you got all your relatives in New Jersey to buy a copy at exactly noon on Tuesday (but, do it if you can…for about 30 minutes you’ll have the most incredible ranking!)

Changes in your Amazon sales rank is a great measure of the success of your marketing efforts – hopefully a nice bump upwards in rank corresponds to a book promotion or event. These are usually temporary, as it is consistent an concerted effort to move the sales rank significantly. A general rule of thumb (first proposed by Morris Leventhal of FonerBooks) is to note your rank twice a week for four weeks, then divide by 8. This will show your “average” Amazon sales rank. Checking any more than that is really meaningless, since these ranks can change on an hourly basis. You’ll find that titles that sit within the top 5,000 do not usually fluctuate by more than 20% (and Amazon is trying to contain even this level of fluctuation). Titles in the 10-20,000 range may jump or drop by as much 50 or 60%. Titles under the 50,000 mark will swing

Amazon Sales Rank — the “numbers”

So – what does all this mean? How MANY books am I selling?
Rank Weekly Sales
1,000            90 copies
10,000           60 copies
100,000           16 copies
300,000           12 copies
500,000           1 copy
1,000,000         1 copy per month
Now, this isn’t going to hold true all year long on a unit basis – sale rates change per season – but it will hold in the RELATIONSHIP between sales ranks.
So, theoretically, sales ranks don’t change without some action having occurred – meaning your rank won’t go up without a sale, and they don’t fall unless some other book has more sales in the past 24 hours (though the numbers get pretty funky in the “under 50,000” range). Your titles rank will drop if you have no sales, but the rate at which it will drop is dependent upon how consistently strong your sales were BEFORE it stopped selling – sort of… It’s a bit of a bell curve that hits the middle ground most severely – books with long term, strong sales drop slowly, moderate sellers (under 50,000 to about 250,000) drop faster, and weak sellers (500,000 and down) drop positions very slowly. As we said, books ranks are calculated every hour of the day.


12 Benefits of Social Media Marketing

12 Benefits of Social Media Marketing

By Nikki Leigh

Customers in these tough economic times are looking for the best ways to spend their time and money. Business people who have a strong social media presence have the opportunity to communicate directly with their potential clients.

Which of these benefits appeal to you?


  • Generating global sales

  • Building relationships is an important part of the social media puzzle
  • Generate a buzz about your business and products
  • Reach your target audience
  • Get information about you and your business to many people
  • Create links back to your site, blog etc – we bookmark your website pages & articles
  • Let customers & potential customers to learn more about you, your business & products
  • Help online visitors get to know the person behind the business or other product
  • Search engines love blogs & social sites. Your information gets to search engines quick
  • Give people the opportunity to communicate with you through the various sites
  • Comments can give you the chance to see what your social sites are thinking
  • Build credibility and increase visibility

Many people have expressed the thought that social media marketing is a waste of time. However, when you know how to use the various social media options and tools, it can be a very powerful promotional tool. We’ll share many tips in the coming weeks to help you understand why social media marketing can be a great tool to propel your business to the next level, even in a down economy.

For more details of some social media options Promo 101 offers – http://virtualblogtour.blogspot.com/2009/06/establish-and-automate-your-social.html

For more information about social media marketing – I recommend Book Promo 201: Harness the Power of Web 2.0 and Social Media Marketing – www.nikkileigh.com/book_promo_201.htm or http://www.amazon.com/Book-Promo-201-Internet-Marketing/dp/159431716X

Ebook Reader For the People Without a Kindle

I really enjoyed this article and when I upgraded my cell phone, I made sure that I purchased a storage card so that I can upload PDF’s to my phone. It works great and cost me less than $10 – and my cell phone is always with me 🙂

Phones, PCs put e-book within reach of Kindle-less

By PETER SVENSSON, AP Technology Writer Peter Svensson, Ap Technology Writer Sat Aug 15, 2:29 am ET

NEW YORK – A few weeks ago, Pasquale Castaldo was waiting at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport for a delayed flight, when a man sitting across from him pulled out an Amazon Kindle book-reading device.

“Gee, maybe I should think about e-books myself,” Castaldo thought.

He didn’t have a Kindle, but he did have a BlackBerry. He pulled it out and looked for available applications. Sure enough, Barnes & Noble Inc. had just put up an e-reading program. Castaldo, 54, downloaded it, and within a minute, began reading Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

As others are also discovering, the North Haven, Conn., banker found e-books quite accessible without a Kindle.

“The BlackBerry is always with me,” Castaldo said. “Rather than just sitting there, if I can fill that time by reading a good book, I might do that, in addition to doing the other things I might do, like reading e-mail and Twittering.”

Thanks to Amazon.com Inc.’s Kindle, e-book sales are finally zooming, after more than a decade in the doldrums.

But the pioneering device may not dominate the market for long. As Castaldo found, many phones are now sophisticated enough, and have good enough screens, to be used as e-book reading devices. In addition, e-book reading on computers is already surprisingly popular.

E-book sales reported to the Association of American Publishers have been rising sharply since the beginning of 2008, just after the release of the Kindle. It’s the best sustained growth the industry has seen since the International Digital Publishing Forum began tracking sales in 2002 — a sign that e-books finally could be about to break into the mainstream.

U.S. trade e-book sales in the April to June period this year more than tripled from the amount a year ago, as reported by about a dozen publishers.

Total reported sales at wholesale prices were $37.6 million. That’s less than 2 percent of the overall book market, but the number understates e-book sales, because not all publishers contribute to the report. The figure also excludes textbooks, an area where e-books have made substantial inroads.

While other digital media like CDs, DVDs and MP3 songs showed sharp growth rates from the get-go, e-books have puttered around as a tiny fraction of overall book sales for more than a decade. In several periods, sales actually declined from year to year as publishers wavered in their commitment and interest.

The technology has also faced unique resistance from consumers because printed books work so well.

The most well-known dedicated reading devices, the Kindle and Sony Corp.’s Reader, try to emulate the look of the printed page with a display technology known as “electronic ink.”

While many find the result pleasant to read, e-ink also imposes significant limitations on the devices. They can’t be backlit like other screens. They can’t show color. They’re also slow to update, making them difficult to use for Web browsing or other computer activities.

The Kindle has a wireless connection directly to Amazon’s store, meaning users can buy and download books to the device within minutes, much like Castaldo could do on his smart phone. The Reader lacks a wireless capability and thus needs to be connected to a computer to load books.

Amazon isn’t betting solely on the Kindle. It released an iPhone app for the Kindle store in March. It has snapped up some other developers of book-reading applications for smart phones, but these programs don’t use the Kindle store.

Shanna Vaughn, a university worker and voracious reader in Orange County, Calif., has been reading e-books on a computer or handheld organizer for at least ten years, but it was only an occasional habit until she got an iPhone last year. It’s mainly the convenience that’s winning her over: Because Vaughn can buy and download books nearly instantly to the phone, she doesn’t need to plan a trip to the book store.

Vaughn, 35, is not interested in a Kindle or a Reader.

“I never really wanted something that was a single-function device. I just couldn’t see spending … $300 for a device where I’m sort of locked in to one retailer. Whereas my phone, that does everything.”

Forrester Research analyst Sarah Rotman Epps said that while the Kindle has sparked interest in e-books, downloads of e-reading applications for smart phones have far outnumbered the Kindles sold.

The Stanza app for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, for instance, has been downloaded more than 2 million times since last summer, compared with Rotman Epps’ estimate of more than 900,000 Kindles sold through the first quarter of this year. (Lexcycle Inc., the maker of Stanza, was acquired in April by Amazon, which does not disclose Kindle sales.)

“There will be a market for dedicated reading devices, but there’s potentially an even bigger market for reading on devices that people already own, like smart phones,” she said.

According to a survey of 2,600 adults by research firm Simba Information this spring, the most common way to read e-books is on another general-purpose device: the personal computer. It found that 8 percent of adults had bought an e-book last year, a high figure considering that Kindle sales were less than half a percent of the adult population.

Bob LiVolsi, the founder and CEO of independent e-book retailer BooksOnBoard, said two-thirds of his customers read their books on their PCs. Romance, thriller and mystery titles costing $5 to $7 are the big draw for his customers, who aren’t high earners and have trouble justifying the cost of a dedicated device.

Though adoption has been slow, PCs have had a big head start in e-books, said Michael Norris, senior publishing analyst at Simba. Their ubiquity also means they provide some camouflage to avid readers who want to “read a romance novel at work while pretending to work,” he said.

Robert Lisi, a construction estimator in Charleston, S.C., reads on his BlackBerry when he doesn’t have his Sony Reader handy.

He’s even signed up for The Daily Lit, a service that sends out books in e-mail every day, broken up into chunks that take about five minutes to read on a BlackBerry or computer screen.

“I have books on tape, and then I have books on paper and as e-books,” Lisi said. “I want to get to where I’m reading a book a week, but I work, so I can’t do that.”


50 Best Websites for Audio Book Addicts

This post was shared with me this morning and I like to share details about various book release options along with distribution and promotional opportunities — so, the top audio book sites seemed like good information to share. These sites are the ones that are selling the most audio books.

50 Best Websites for Audio Book Addicts

Love reading, but hate the strain on your eyes? Then check out the world of audio books. Not only can you enjoy them without a pair of glasses, but you can listen to them while driving, in the shower, and many other places a traditional book won’t go. If you want to learn more, or simply need to grow your collection, check out these top 50 audio book sites, with everything from the best stores to free books.

Best Stores for Audio Book Addicts

These sites are ideal for finding the newest release or getting recommendations for just the right audio book.
1. Amazon: The leading name in online book selling, Amazon has a special section for audio books. You can grab the latest books or classics on CD, MP3, or as a download. Choose by subject, featured, top ten, best selling, and more.

2. Audiobooks.com: This site contains a large selection of both new and used audio books. You can buy, rent, download, or even trade items. They even have certain collections on sale.

3. The Talking Book Store: There are over 8,000 downloadable audio books to choose from including hundreds of foreign language study courses on this site. The Highly Recommended section has downloads for just $0.95 and up. You can also get a buying guide, help for downloading, and instructions on how to burn a CD.

4. Barnes & Noble: With a special section for audio books, you can find tens of thousands of titles. Browse the latest titles by subject or best sellers. They also have tons of books in other formats as well.

5. Audio Editions: In addition to the usual media, you can also find books on tape at this site. You can view the bestsellers, as well as preview the upcoming releases. There is also a book outlet with audio books priced 35 to 70 percent off.

6. Audio Books Online: The site shows you ten ways to save right on their homepage. You can also choose a variety of subjects biography to war. They also have an “Audie” award where they list their favorite books.

7. AudioBooksCorner: The site contains over 10,000 titles available by author or titles. You can also get books from around the world on this site. They even have a free section with many items available at no charge.

8. Audiobooks.net: On this site, you can choose to rent, buy, or download audio books. Each choice is discussed in further detail and start $7.95. They also have a top 20 section if you need help selecting a book.

Best Free Sites for Audio Book Addicts

Got a classic or public domain book you’ve been dying to listen to? Then visit these sites to find it and many other books without spending a single penny.
9. AudioBooksForFree: The title says it all, you can find thousands of audio books on this site for download at no charge. Choose from fiction, non-fiction, children’s, or even music on the site. Before you download a book, it will also tell you the gender of the author or narrator and if the book has explicit content.

10. LibriVox: This site provides free audio books from the public domain, many of which involve classic works. Volunteers record chapters on the site, and you can even learn more about becoming one. They also have a podcast to give you the latest in their audio books.

11. Free Classic Audio Books: You can download your first audio book straight from their homepage. Formats include MP3 and M4B. Sample titles include “Huckleberry Finn,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “The King James Bible.”

12. Audiobooks.org: Visit her for a wide selection of audio books at no charge. You can also get links to popular paid books, along with a best seller list. There are even free samples of best selling books for the viewing.

13. Books Should Be Free: Tough to argue with that, this site delivers just what it promises. They have the most popular downloads available directly on the homepage. Be sure to check out their top 50 books for even more.

14. Free-Books: This site has a readily available index with 23 choices right on the homepage. These books are available as “read and listen” or as an MP3 download. You can also get other free services on this site such as historical photos and immersion learning.

15. Project Gutenberg: A leading site for free eBooks, you can also get audio at no charge. Choose from computer generated or human read. You can also download thousands of text only books as well.

16. Podiobooks: Get serialized audio books in podcast form on this site. There are currently 6,878 episodes available for download in 335 titles. You can check out their most popular selections, or connect with other audio book fans on the site.

Best Devices for Audio Book Addicts

Now that you have some audio books, you need something to hear them on. Check out the below for the best in audio book products and accessories.
17. Kindle: Starting at $299, this iPod for books can hold 1,500 items. Features include wireless service that lets you download without a computer or Wifi, free book samples, and a huge selection of different reading materials. Best of all, audio book lovers will enjoy the read-to-me feature which translates text to speech.

18. Playaway: This device is preloaded with audio books and looks a lot like a Walkman. In addition to personal use, the device is also utilized for schools, libraries, and the military. Available only for rental.

19. M-Audio: Visit here to get the latest in audio technology for your computer or mobile device. They sell state of the art headphones, speakers, and more. Be sure to check out the resources section for more information.

20. Sony Reader: Similar to the Kindle, this reader starts at $279. You can get it in a variety of styles and colors as well. There are also books for sale and special offers as well.

21. MP3 to iPod Audio Book Converter: Got an iPod, MP3 audio book, and no way to connect them? Then get this free download to convert that download into an iPod friendly file. It also works with WMA, M4A, WAV, OGG, and more.

22. Exact Audio Copy: This is an audio grabber for CDs using standard CD and DVD-ROM drives. Use it to grab the audio off of any book and save into the format of your choice. The download is free for non-commercial purposes and comes with useful guides.

Best Rental Sites for Audio Book Addicts

Wish Netflix rented books? Then check out the below for the best in audio book rentals with many similar features.
23. Audible: A subscription service, Audible allows you to choose from 60,000 titles for one monthly fee. With a simple download, you can get magazines, radio shows, comedy, and speeches in addition to books for listening at your leisure. There is also a section for kids and the first three months are only $7.49 a month.

24. The Audio Book Store: This store allows you to choose whether you would like to download a single book, or rent unlimited books on CD with a monthly membership. They have 60,000 items to choose from, and they all cost $7.49 each. You can search by subject, best sellers, and more.

25. Simply Audiobooks: Three clubs to choose from on this site allow you to rent, download, or do a Playaway rental. You can even get a 15 day free CD rental trial with no shipping charges, late fees, and unlimited rentals. They also have an audio book store with 22,000 titles to choose from.

26. NetLibrary: With both eBooks and audio books, this site is worth a look. A membership gives you access to their constantly updated books. You can even get audio libros for Spanish speakers.

27. Audio To Go: Another renting site, plans start at $16.99 a month. There are over 23,000 titles on CD or tape. You can even get a free trial membership for two weeks.

28. Audio Book Worm: Choose from thousands of audio books shipped to you on this site. You can rent by mail or download their software for rentals. There is even a free trial period.

29. Books Free: Recommended by “O” Magazine, this site is definitely worth a look. You can rent books as an MPS, on CD, or even the old fashioned, paperback versions. Choose from a variety of plans, or rent books a la carte.

30. Book Club Offers: Still not sure which service to pick? Then stop here to get a side by side comparison of many leading sites. They also have more information on other similar clubs.

Best Christian Sites for Audio Book Addicts

With many audio books just for them, Christians can find everything on these sites from the Bible to the latest works in religion.
31. Audio Treasure: Get the Bible in MP3 format as a free download on this site. Choose from versions such as King James, World English, Spanish Reina Valera, and many more. You can also get other related audio books on the site.

32. Free Christian Audiobooks: Similar to the above, this site goes beyond the Bible and offers many other related works. Books are available for Windows Media and iPod. There is even the option to order the entire site on disc if you don’t feel like a lengthy downloading process.

33. Audio-Bible: Visit here to get The King James Bible narrated by Stephen Jonston. It is over 72 hours long and uses Real Audio. You can also get other related links on the site.

34. Christianbook: An Amazon like site, they also have a special section for audio books. There are currently over 6,000 titles to choose from in a variety of categories. If you prefer old fashioned books, there are also tons available as well.

35. DeseretBook: This Christian themed book store is designed for the LDS family. In addition to the many hardcovers and paperbacks, you can also find a special section for audio books. Simply expand the section to get choices such as children’s, fiction, young adult, and more.

36. The Catholic Company: With tons of products, you can also find many audio books, along with videos. View by most popular, best reviewed, and more. You can also call their toll free number or request a catalog.

Best Website for Kids and Teen’s Audio Books

Because young people like to read as well, visit these sites with loads of audio books for sale or free for the downloading.
37. Storynory: Get free audio stories just for kids on this site. You can choose from fairy tales, classics, educational, and more. Stories also come in text so your child can read along.

38. Recorded Books Youth Library: Kids and teens will enjoy this audio book site just for them. You can purchase the latest educational and fiction books straight from the homepage in different formats. There are even resources for adults on the site.

39. Learn Out Loud: Browse this catalog of educational audio books, podcasts, downloads, and free audio. There are over 20,000 titles from hundreds of authors and publishers. You can even get free videos on the site.

40. Playtime Books: Get books for kids in MPS, CD, and even bilingual format. They have special sections for different subjects, the newest available on the homepage, and many recommendations. Best of all, the site is entirely free.

41. Kids’ Corner: Get many classic tales by authors such as Beatrix Potter on this site. They even have slide shows for viewing straight from your computer. In addition, there are also audio interviews with such notable figures as Mr. Rogers.

Best Specialty Sites for Audio Book Addicts

Go beyond the traditional audio books, and check out these sites many genres and readers in mind.
42. AudioFile Magazine: This is the magazine for people who love audio books. Issues contain reviews, new releases, author and narrator interviews, and even award winners. There is even a free trial offer if you are still unsure on whether or not to subscribe.

43. Soundview Executive Book Summaries: Get titles to help run or grow your business in many formats, including MP3. There are three different subscription levels to choose from. If you don’t want to join, you can also purchase single books.

44. Bookshare: Visit here for audio books for those with disabilities. The site offers more than 50,000 digital books, textbooks, teacher-recommended reading, periodicals, and assistive technology tools. Anyone can join and it is free for U.S. students with qualifying disabilities.

45. British Columbia Libraries: The “library without walls,” they have many audio books. Members can check out audio books just like at a regular library. Visitors can also get excerpts on many books at no charge.

46. Audio Publishers Association: This site contains the voice of the audio book industry. Get the latest news in the industry by stopping by here. They even have a list of resources for those interested in a behind the scenes look.

47. The House of Oojah: Australians with an interest in audio books will enjoy this site. Choose from fiction, children’s, meditation, and more. If you live outside the country, you will also find many new and interesting titles.

48. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic: Visit here to get textbooks and others on audio intended for students with visual or learning disabilities. Anyone can order one of their products, and they currently have over 54,000 to choose from. There are also lesson plans, volunteer opportunities, and more.

49. ListenToYouTube: Is there an audio book on YouTube that you want on your computer or iPod? Then visit this site to convert it into an MP3. Simply paste in the URL, click GO, and get the file without a fee or signing up.

50. Books on Tape: This site is for those who still prefer this classic method of audio books. They have over 7,500 tapes priced at up to 75 percent off. You can also get audio books as CDs or downloads.

With hundreds of books coming out every week, who has the time to find a quiet place and read? Check out these 50 audio book sites, find a book you’ll love, and share it with the entire family.

Originally posted at http://accreditedonlinedegrees.org/50-best-websites-for-audio-book-addicts/

Kindle from Amazon Now Offers the Chance for Paid Blog Subscriptions

May. 15, 2009 (8:46 am) By: Brian Osborne

If you’re a blog writer the folks at Amazon is offering yet another way for you to monetize your blog. Amazon is allowing you to sell the contents of the blog itself to owners of the Amazon Kindle and Amazon Kindle for iPhone applications.

A blog writer charges a monthly subscription price for every subscriber which they will receive 30% from. That means 70% of the subscription will go to Amazon. Amazon will set the price for blog subscriptions and writers will not have the option of offering their blog for free. Amazon estimates that it takes 12 to 48 hours to make a blog available through the Kindle Store.

When I read something like this it really gets the gears in my head turning in regards to what one could write that would be interesting enough for someone to pay for. Usually, the most honest answer is most of us would be surprised. That’s why I say if you got a blog it doesn’t hurt to offer it on Kindle. Even if it only adds up to extra beer money every month.

Read more from the Amazon website.


Originally posted at: http://www.geek.com/articles/gadgets/blog-writers-can-now-sell-subscriptions-through-kindle-store-20090515/

Should We Fear the Kindle?

Fear the Kindle

Amazon’s amazing e-book reader is bad news for the publishing industry.

It’s hard not to love Amazon’s new e-book reader. For starters, it’s gorgeous. Unlike its bulky predecessor, the redesigned $359 Kindle, which came out this week, is light, thin, and disappears in your hands. If you think there’s no way you could ever get used to curling up with an electronic reader, you haven’t given the Kindle a chance. Load up a good book and you’ll soon forget you’re reading plastic rather than paper. You’ll also wonder how you ever did without it. The Kindle makes buying, storing, and organizing your favorite books and magazines effortless. You can take your entire library with you wherever you go and switch from reading the latest New Yorker to the latest best-seller without rolling out of bed. In my few days using it, I was won over: The Kindle is the future of publishing.

And that’s what scares me. Amazon’s reader is a brilliant device that shanghais book buyers and the book industry into accepting a radically diminished marketplace for published works. If the Kindle succeeds on its current terms, and all signs suggest it’ll be a blockbuster (thanks Oprah!), Amazon will make a bundle. But everyone else with a stake in a vibrant book industry—authors, publishers, libraries, chain bookstores, indie bookstores, and, not least, readers—stands to lose out.

To understand why, consider how simple it is to buy books on your Kindle. You press a button to take you to Amazon’s store, type in a title or author, and press Buy. In 10 seconds, the book’s yours. Everything is automated: When you buy the Kindle, Amazon pre-syncs your reader with your account info, so there’s no need to type in a credit card number or billing address. There’s no need to connect the Kindle to your computer, either—it comes with free, built-in cellular Internet access that lets you buy books from just about anywhere. In addition, Kindle books are cheap, the majority selling for $9.99 or less. Consequently, as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told investors last month, Kindle owners are voracious book buyers. According to the company’s stats, when people get a Kindle, they keep buying the same number of physical books as they did before—and they buy nearly twice as many e-books as paper books.

In exchange for this convenience, though, the Kindle locks you down with more rules than the Army Field Manual. The Kindle won’t let you resell or share your books. Anything you buy through the reader is fixed to your Amazon account, readable only on the Kindle or other devices that Amazon may one day deem appropriate. (The company has hinted that it’ll build an iPhone app that can read Kindle books.) Even worse, you can buy books for your Kindle only from Amazon’s store. Indeed, the device makes it difficult to read anything that’s not somehow routed through Amazon first—you can surf the Web on the Kindle, and you can convert some of your personal Microsoft Word or text files to the device’s format, but doing so is slow and not very reliable. In order to read blogs, magazines, newspapers, and books, you’ve really got to go through Amazon’s store first.

You can see where this is going: Kindle owners buy a lot of stuff, and the more stuff they buy, the more likely they are to stick with the Kindle in the future, even when/if someone else invents a better, more open e-book service. This restriction makes Amazon the prime market for book publishers. How can they resist giving over their entire catalog to a store that attracts so many eager, captive shoppers? Publishers’ acquiescence in turn increases the Kindle’s appeal to new buyers. If you’re in the market for an e-book reader, you’ll probably choose the one that offers the most books, and that means Kindle. (At the moment, there are about 240,000 titles available for the Kindle; the Sony Reader, its closest rival, has fewer than 100,000.) Taken together, these trends all point in one direction—Amazon will come to rule the market for e-books. And as the master of the e-book universe, Amazon will eventually call the shots on pricing, marketing, and everything else associated with the new medium.

The Kindle isn’t the first electronic device to impose unpalatable restrictions on users. Until recently, if you wanted to (legally) download a broad range of major-label music for your iPod, you had to buy it from Apple.* (Ironically, it was Amazon that launched the first big online store that sold music without restrictions.) The same goes for video games. You can’t play just any game on your Xbox. You can play only the games that have been approved and licensed by Microsoft. Then there’s the iPhone, a veritable electronic Attica. The iPhone lets you buy music wirelessly—as long as you buy it from Apple. The iPhone lets you add new programs to your device—though only the programs that Apple approves of. Other than that, you’re free to do what you like!

But the Kindle’s restrictions are more worrying than those associated with the iPhone, the iPod, and other gizmos. For one thing, if you objected to the iTunes Store’s policies, there was always another way to legally buy music for your iPod—you could buy CDs (from Amazon, perhaps) and rip the tracks to MP3. That’s not an option for books; there’s no easy way to turn dead trees into electrons. Moreover, books are important. As a culture, we’ve somehow determined that it’s OK for a video-game console maker to demand licensing fees and exercise complete control over the titles that get on to their systems. Sure, this restricts creativity and free expression, but if that’s the business model that keeps the game business alive, so be it.

But we’ve come to a different cultural consensus on books. First, we’ve decided that books should be sharable—when you buy a book, you can pass it along to others freely. In fact, governments and large institutions actively encourage the practice; we build huge, beautiful buildings devoted to lending books to perfect strangers. We’ve also decided that there should be an aftermarket for books: When you buy a book, you’re also buying the right to sell that book when you’re done with it. This not only helps people who can’t afford new books, it also encourages those who can afford them to buy more—it’s much less risky to buy a $30 hardcover if you know you can sell it for $15 in six months. (Amazon is one of the biggest players in the used-book market.) And we’d certainly balk at a world in which your books were somehow locked to the store where you bought them. Say Barnes & Noble signed a deal to sell the next Twiligh
book at a huge discount. But with a catch—the book would be published in invisible ink, and in order to read it you’d need to buy a special Barnes & Noble black light. This is ludicrous, of course, and no bookstore would ever attempt such a deal. But what’s the Kindle other than a fancy digital decoder ring?

Some publishers, wary of the Kindle’s restrictions, have declined to make their books available for the device. Tim O’Reilly, the tech book publisher and digital evangelist, wrote in Forbes recently that the Kindle’s requirement that all books be bought through Amazon was “a non-starter for us.” O’Reilly instead chose to publish e-books using the open ePub format, which can be read on devices like the Sony Reader and the iPhone but not the Kindle.

But many publishers are wary of going the open-standards route. The best way to make e-books sharable and to untether them from proprietary devices like the Kindle would be to sell them without copy protection—but the book industry, like every other content business, is paranoid about piracy. Record labels fell into the same trap: They demanded that Apple impose copy restrictions that forced iPod owners to buy music through the iTunes store. But that ended up making Apple the nation’s largest music retailer, with the power to single-handedly determine the price of all recorded music.

“Everyone is worried that Amazon will end up becoming to books what Apple is to music,” Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, told me. (Aiken’s group has criticized the Kindle’s text-to-speech feature, which automatically creates a kind of audio book from an e-book; the guild says that Amazon should compensate authors for reading their books aloud. But that’s another argument for another time.)

Aiken points out that even if Amazon does create a Kindle app for the iPhone and other devices, the service will still have the same fundamental problems. Your books will still be locked to Amazon—you’ll just have two or three places to read them rather than one. At the moment, Aiken notes, Amazon is selling e-books at a loss in order to spur Kindle sales—it sells books for $10, but pays publishers more than $10 per copy. But once Amazon gets control of the market, it will be free to impose price reductions—to force publishers to reduce their e-book rates to less than $9.99. “That would be potentially devastating to the industry,” he says.

And even if the publishing industry isn’t devastated when a single bookstore takes over the e-book world, the marketplace for books will be diminished. Amazon stands as proof of how innovative retail practices can transform an industry; over the last decade and a half, the company revolutionized the book market with innovations like customer reviews, collaborative filtering, one-click shopping, and unbeatable customer service. It launched all these services to stay ahead of its rivals. But what will happen when it has no rivals?

Correction, Feb. 27, 2009: This article originally stated that Apple’s iTunes Store was for many years the only place to legally download music for the iPod. It was the leading online purveyor of music produced by major record labels. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Farhad Manjoo is Slate‘s technology columnist and the author of True Enough: Learning To Live in a Post-Fact Society. You can e-mail him at document.write(““)document.write(“farhad.manjoo”+”@”+”slate.com”);farhad.manjoo@slate.comdocument.write(‘‘);.

Posted at – http://www.slate.com/id/2212320/

More online shoppers take the word of anonymous product reviewers

As authors we face reviews on Amazon and other book buying sites. Do consumers believe anonymous reviews? Do they make purchasing decisions based on reviews? Do you make decisions based on reviews? I guess another part of the question is, how useful or harmful are these online reviews?

Nikki Leigh

More online shoppers take the word of anonymous product reviewers


As online shopping grows more popular, consumers are increasingly relying on the opinions of people they’ve never met.

These opinions, offered by names such as “Anonymous,” or “Skater” or “Crazy Cat Lady,” cover all kinds of products, no matter how expensive, cheap, big or small. (Twelve people have reviewed a lint roller refill on Drugstore.com.)

In the Internet’s ever-growing social community, people trust one another more than advertisers. And retailers are increasingly figuring that out. Businesses are incorporating customer reviews into their marketing campaigns, providing links to top-ranked products and in some cases, flirting with the idea of making the reviews accessible via cell phone in brick-and-mortar stores.

“Online reviews have changed everything. It sounds so perfect. Anyone and everyone can share their experience with a product or service,” said Michal Ann Strahilevitz, marketing professor at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. “It is as if all online shoppers have an instant community of friends, recommending the good and warning about the bad.”

But the system isn’t perfect, she said. Some people rate everything they try; others never rate anything. Also, merchants and competitors can disguise ulterior motives behind fake names.

“Generally, the greater the number of reviews, the more likely the average is to be accurate. Comments also help. If extensive comments are made, and the writing style varies, that is a good sign,” Strahilevitz said.

The next frontier in user reviews will come as luxury retailers adopt them and as ratings systems become more elaborate, experts say.

Seattle-based Amazon.com, a pioneer that allowed reviews when it launched in 1995, lets users rank each other for credibility. The company also uses tags to distinguish top reviewers and people who use their real names.

“When we first did it, we got letters from publishers saying, ‘Maybe you don’t understand your business. You make money when you sell things,’ ” Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos told BusinessWeek four years ago. “Our point of view is, no, we make money when we help customers make purchase decisions.”

This holiday season, Amazon assembled a team of six real customers to give advice on goods and dubbed them the “tell-it-like-it-is consumer advocates.” The reviewers received free products as part of Amazon Vine, a company program that gives products to select Amazon customers in return for their opinions.

Increasingly, retailers are realizing what Amazon knew early on: When consumers make smart decisions, retailers benefit, said Patti Freeman Evans, a vice president and research director for Forrester Research.

“Consumers who actually read these reviews and find them valuable are more likely to be more loyal to that store, shop more frequently with that store and are less likely to return the item,” Evans said.

All retailers aren’t necessarily comfortable with negative reviews, but they are learning to get over it.

“What they’ve found is there’s a lot of value in that negative review,” Evans said. “Wouldn’t you as a retailer want to know if there’s a problem with the product?”

David Lonczak, chief marketing officer of Bellevue-based Drugstore.com Inc., said reviews have helped his company to better communicate with suppliers. In one case, a manufacturer added an inner seal to a product because reviewers complained about leaks, he said.

“The user-generated content, whether written or video or otherwise, has become more and more dispersed and more and more available and it has started to prove to be quite valuable,” Lonczak said. “Shoppers are looking for, ‘What is real, what can I believe? I can’t touch the product or feel it or smell it, how can I be sure what is right for me?’ “

Drugstore.com, which has a sister site, Beauty.com, has allowed user reviews since 2003. Since they upgraded their system earlier this year by partnering with PowerReviews, daily input is up 250 percent, Lonczak said.

Drugstore.com sends e-mail reminders to customers, asking them to submit reviews. The site labels reviewers who have bought products as a “verified buyer.”

“We know that customers are depending upon their peers to help them figure out what works and what doesn’t work,” Lonczak said. But, “we don’t want the ability of anybody to come to the site and write a review, or a manufacturer dissing another manufacturer’s product.”

San Francisco-based PowerReviews helps Web sites with their online customer review platform in exchange for the right to put those reviews on Buzzillions.com. Its clientele has reached 550 and is growing.

PowerReviews co-founder and CEO Andy Chen says the turning point came three years ago when even brick-and-mortar retailers began to realize that a bad review isn’t the end of the world.

The most frequent question that company executives still ask him is, “What do I do with negative reviews?” He tells them that negative reviews add credibility.

If a company deletes a negative review, the consumer who wrote it will notice and get a bad impression. Also, four-star rated products sell better than five-star ones, Chen said he’s found by studying data sets provided by clients.

“If they see no one who’s unhappy, they immediately think they can’t trust the entire set of reviews,” Chen said.

PowerReviews moderates reviews and deletes less than 4 percent, Chen said. The goal is to encourage constructive debate, not verify accuracy.

Thus, if someone loves a product but hates the customer service, that review is deleted because it’s not about the product. Or, if someone posts where to find the same product cheaper elsewhere, it is deleted, Chen said.

Other than that, the reviews stay.

“We love misspellings because misspellings mean it’s a real person that wrote it, not a marketer,” Chen said. “You wouldn’t believe how many ways people spell comfortable. … Grammar mistakes, funny punctuation, misspellings, typos — that’s how people speak.”

Profanity and hate speech are not allowed, he added.

Multibranded retailers, such as REI, have learned that bad reviews do not drive away sales but shift them to a similar product on the site, said Chen, whose company works with Seattle-based Recreational Equipment Inc.

Despite widespread adoption, anonymous reviews still draw criticism, especially from bad review victims. At its worst, anonymity encourages vicious lying. But at its best, it is self-correcting and frees people to be honest.

Former New York Times book critic Richard Bernstein wrote a letter to Bezos to tell him that Amazon’s reader review system encourages cowardice.

“It’s the anonymity that Amazon grants to its reader-reviewers that I objected to, on the grounds that anybody who wants to say something nasty about somebody else’s work ought to have the little bit of bravery needed to say it under his or her name,” Bernstein said in an August letter that ran in the International Herald Tribune.

Indianapolis-based Angie’s List, which compiles user reviews on contractors, service companies and health care providers, does not allow anonymous reviews. Consumers pay a membership fee to join.

“We work really hard to not let folks game our system,” spokeswoman Cheryl Reed said. “We think it’s a distinction that makes a huge difference. … Companies can’t put themselves on the list, nor can they report on themselves. We do allow them — free of charge — to respond to reports, though, and we display the responses next to the report in question.”

But anonymous review are the norm, and seem here to stay.

Four-year-old Yelp.com, based in San Francisco, boasts about 4 million reviews of restaurants, bars and businesses that draws about 15 million visitors a month. Yelp even lets people rate itself. “You suck … but I still love you,” one wrote.

Seattle-based Onlineshoes.com has embraced user reviews. For CEO Dan Gerler, a shoe industry veteran, the reason is simple: He relies on the reviews himself. “Consumers have the greatest faith in other consumers.”

P-I reporter Andrea James can be reached at 206-448-8124 or andreajames@seattlepi.com. Read more about online retail at blog.seattlepi.com/amazon.


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