“You Root for the Authors!” Hachette Author Stephen Colbert vs. Amazon

If you like books and reading, the Amazon vs. Hachette war of 2014 has probably caught your eye. The shortest version: the two companies (Hachette being the umbrella term for one of the “big five publishers,” which includes imprints like Little, Brown and Company and Grand Central Publishing, among others) are locked in a battle over ebook pricing. While this negotiation is going on, Amazon is throwing its weight around by making upcoming books by Hachette authors difficult to order and receive: originally it was that books would take several weeks to ship, but now Amazon has deemed upcoming releases like Megan Abbott’s very good read The Fever “Currently Unavailable.” (You can buy it here.) The LA Times has a smart and succinct, 13-point summary of the fight, and name authors like Malcolm Gladwell, James Patterson, and John Green have weighed in with their take on business and books. … Read More

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5 Reasons Why Indie Bookstores Are Perfect Models for American Small Businesses

I don’t recall exactly which sky-is-falling installment of the 2008 economic meltdown was in the news on a day when I was working at a nonprofit job that entailed dealing with the children of really rich people in Lower Manhattan, but I remember every mother who came in was in a panic. And for good reason: it felt like we, as a nation, were going to lose everything. If the one percent freak out over a financial crisis, the rest of us can only worry we’re mere days away from living like characters in a Steinbeck novel. Fearing the market-inflicted doom, all I could do was go to a reading in a Brooklyn bookstore and drink the free wine there. The plan to get drunk and not think about my future worked until I was about three or four cups in, when I started wondering how the beloved indie bookstore I was standing in expected to survive when pretty much everything else looked like it was going to hell. … Read More

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What Did You Tweet When They Announced the Amazon Drones Were Coming?

December 1, 2013 will go down in infamy as the night when:

a) Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced his company is working on a drone service to deliver packages more quickly, revolutionizing how your orders get to you; … Read More

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Netflix Streaming Is Killing Off Physical Media — And Film Fans Should Be Worried

A couple of days ago, Buzzfeed put out a charming little video called “Video Stores Explained to Modern Kids.” In it, a soft-voiced narrator patiently explains how, once upon a time, we had to leave our houses to get physical copies of movies, wandering the shelves and picking from their finite selection of movies, which we’d then watch together because “this was before there was a screen in everyone’s pocket,” and then you had to leave your house again to return it. … Read More

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Why You Should Worry About Amazon Buying the Right to Publish Kurt Vonnegut Fan-Fiction

One of the weirder bits of news sailing through the Internet this week is Amazon’s acquisition, from the Vonnegut Trust, of the right to publish fan-fiction based on the, uh, Kurt Vonnegut universe. The Kindle Worlds program, which struck the deal, has in the past limited its acquisition of rights to series like The Vampire Diaries. Vonnegut is a bit of a square peg in that company. Never mind that it seems to vastly overestimate the American public’s engagement with literary fiction. Are any Vonnegut characters household names? Am I missing something? … Read More

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Flavorwire Exclusive: Netflix, Studios Have Very Different Explanations for Widescreen Cropping

This time last week, Flavorwire ran a piece about the cropping of films from their original aspect ratio on the movie streaming service Netflix — in short, they frequently run films shot in the ultra-widescreen “Scope” ratio with the sides chopped off, reducing them to a more standard, widescreen TV-friendly frame. That post, titled “Why is Netflix Secretly Cropping Movies?,” made the possibly premature assumption of nefarious activity at Netflix HQ, and in the flurry of Internet activity that followed, Netflix issued this denial: “We do not crop. We want to offer the best picture and provide the original aspect ratio of any title on Netflix. However, unfortunately our quality controls sometimes fail and we end up offering the wrong version of a title. When we discover this error, we replace that title as soon as possible.” But that explanation may not be the whole story, as we’ve discovered in talking to some of the content providers in question. … Read More

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Is Netflix Having an Identity Crisis?

Wednesday morning,’s front page featured a letter from founder and CEO Jeff Bezos — not an unusual occurrence, and one frequently adopted to announce an exciting new product or perk. The big news: a notable addition to their Instant Video service. “Prime members now have unlimited instant streaming access to the largest subscription library for Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. content online,” went Bezos’s missive. “We have increased by 55% the number of episodes available to top Prime shows for kids like SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Blue’s Clues, iCarly and more of your Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. favorites.” Casual observers might have thought nothing of this news, but for parents, it’s a bombshell — because up until last month, those shows could be found on Amazon Instant Video’s high-profile competitor, Netflix. … Read More

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