It’s an Amazon roundup! Here are some Amazon stories from the last few days that might not deserve full pieces by themselves, but are nonetheless interesting tidbits.
Wired reports Amazon has released a firmware update for the Paperwhite that will allow readers to enlarge panes in manga novels—undoubtedly aimed mainly at the Japanese market, but potentially useful over here, too, for translated manga. And perhaps also for those single-issue DC comics, if DC decides to allow reading them on black and white devices after all. It also fixes some issues with novels that only filled half the screen, and improves handling of a number of fonts.
According to Reuters (found via Ars Technica), Amazon is entering into a deal to place banks of its delivery lockers at Staples office supply stores. Details are sparse—all the information we really have is that a Staples spokeswoman said it’s agreed to install lockers in its US stores—but if this means they’re going to come to all Staples stores, this could be seriously big news for Amazon customers.
Including, not too put too fine a point on it, me. I don’t currently have a safe, reliable, and convenient way to receive Amazon packages in my neighborhood, which kind of takes some of the convenience out of being a Prime subscriber—but there’s a Staples only half a mile or so from where I work. Let them put a locker in Staples and I will so be there.
Speaking of Amazon Prime, Amazon is testing a new pricing option for its no-added-cost 2-day shipping/streaming video/e-book lending library service: rather than $79 a year, pay $7.99 a month. That adds up to more per year, of course, but it will also open Prime access to users who don’t have a $79 lump sum to drop but could afford $8 easily—after all, if they make several orders over that month, the service pays for itself in savings. And some users may just want to try it for a month or so, now and then, at times when they know they’ll be doing a lot of shopping like around the holiday season, but let it lapse the rest of the year. On the streaming video side of things, it gives Amazon a similar pricing structure to its competitors Hulu+ and Netflix.
Finally, last week the Los Angeles Times posted a story that Amazon is apparently no longer allowing writers to post reviews for other writers’ books, because they have “a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product.” This came to light when Amazon refused to post a review one author wrote of a friend’s novel, and may have been caused by the scandal a couple of months back over writer R.J. Ellory and his “sock-puppet” Amazon reviews of his own and others’ works. Writer J.A. Konrath has noticed more than fifty of his reviews disappear, apparently removed by a new automated system designed to put this policy into effect. (Found via Salon Magazine.)
Of course, Amazon is free to come up with whatever criteria it wants to allow or disallow reviews. And it’s not clear just how Amazon decides if a given book “competes directly” against another. But it’s a bit disheartening that becoming a published author removes your right to express your opinion about other writers—and ironic given the way publishers seek blurbs from other authors to put onto their books at publication.