When the former HarperCollins CEO Jane Friedman cofounded Open Road Media in 2009, the publisher was one of the first of its kind: The idea was that it would mine the backlist for books that had never been available as ebooks, snap up the digital rights and publish the ebooks for the first time, thus introducing authors like William Styron and Alice Walker to new audiences.
Nearly four years and 3,000 titles later (with an additional 1,000 titles under contract), the company is still focused around acquiring and marketing backlist titles. Open Road has raised $15 million so far, from Kohlberg Ventures, Golden Seeds and Azure. (The company would not disclose revenues or whether it is profitable.) It still does not pay advances and still splits revenues 50-50 (after recouping some digitization costs) with authors, but it has also expanded its focus. It is publishing print books, expanding to new verticals like romance and the Vietnam War, signing up a limited number of original manuscripts, and handling digital distribution and marketing for both U.S. and international publishers.
Amazon Kindle tablet ships to Australia, has it missed the boat?
- The Kindle Fire is finally available in Oz, but has Google’s Nexus 7 stolen its thunder?
Australians have always been expected to wait in line for new hardware and services from Amazon, although it’s not that hard to jump the queue if you can fake a US delivery address. Historically it’s been worth the wait for gear like Kindle eBook readers, because they’ve been so much better than the competition yet considerably cheaper. It’s only recently that competitors like Kobo are really rivalling Amazon in Australia when it comes to quality eBook reader hardware and services at comparable prices.
Amazon unveiled a game-changer back in 2011 when it released a 7-inch Android tablet with an amazing US$199 price tag. Here was a top-shelf Android tablet at bargain basement pricing — subsidised by Amazon’s economies of scale and the fact it knows it will make money on content and services. Once again Australians looked on with envy, forced to make do with the clunky and expensive first-gen Samsung Galaxy Tab — stuck with a breathtaking $999 price tag in Australia.
Feature article project teaching technology to younger generation
HARVARD — Hildreth Elementary School teachers made a special presentation at the school committee meeting Monday night about the Feature Article Project for fifth-graders.
The Feature Article Project is a readers’ workshop designed to incorporate reading and writing skills into technology. The workshop helps students design their own magazine article by analyzing articles in Time.
By reading other magazine articles, the students are taught to become critical thinkers, learning to question whether the story is supported by fact or opinion. Through this method, students learn note-taking skills while choosing their own topic using library resources.
The fifth-graders are encouraged to support their topic using at least three different references. One required source is the Internet. Students are taught how to navigate online to find credible resources, yet also be discriminating when it comes to finding evidence to support their topic as everything posted on the Internet is not true.
The students are then taught computer word processing skills with Microsoft Word and including how to store data on flash drives.
Next, they are taught how to publish their story using Microsoft Publisher where they design their story into a two- or three-column article. With Microsoft Publisher, students learn to insert charts and graphics and paste images from the Internet into their article.
Amazon’s (not so secret) war on taxes
In August 2010, Cheryl Lenkowsky, an auditor for the Texas state comptroller, sent a letter to a top tax executive at Amazon.com’s Seattle headquarters. At that point, Amazon had been selling a wide array of merchandise to Texans for 15 years without collecting a penny of sales tax from them. Tax-free shopping was a delight for customers, a vital competitive edge for the company — and a hemorrhaging wound for state government.
Now, Lenkowsky informed the company, all that was about to end. Texas’s audit, which had gone back four years, had resulted in an “adjustment”: a bill for uncollected taxes, plus penalties and interest — $ 268,809,246.36 in all. Added Lenkowsky helpfully: “We have included a pre-addressed envelope for your payment convenience.”
Apple and the Department of Justice are set to spar in a closely watched price-fixing trial set for early June but, increasingly, attention in the case is turning to a third party — Amazon. In pre-trial filings, Apple is trying to expose redacted evidence that the company claims will “embarrass” Amazon and show that the retailer engaged in the same activities for which Apple is now on trial.
The claims are set out, in part, in a letter last week from Apple’s law firm that urges US District Judge Denise Cote to reveal information about its pricing as well as “internal discussions about the inferiority” of its Kindle e-reader compared to the iPad. Apple also says the redacted information will help expose the “fiction” that Amazon was “forced” to adopt a new pricing system as a result of a 2010 arrangement between Apple and five big publishers.
This arrangement — known as “agency pricing” — resulted in publishers requiring retailers to sell ebooks on a commission basis, in which publishers could set the price. This led the Department of Justice, state governments and class action lawyers to sue Apple and the publishers; the latter settled the cases and agreed to pay out millions but Apple is holding its ground.