While the launch of an unmanned spacecraft sponsored by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos fizzled recently, two other launches by "the world's new reigning tech freak geek leader" appear to be proceeding as planned.
TechCrunch reported that the redesigned website Amazon is testing will ditch its "iconic blue and orange navigation" options for a new site that "features a much bigger search bar, bigger buttons, and less clutter--all changes that practically scream 'tablet-optimized!' "
The Wall Street Journal noted the new site "emphasizes Amazon's digital goods over its physical ones. On the old site, a column of buttons leads users to both electronic content and physical goods, such as toys, clothing and sporting gear. On the new site, a single row of buttons advertises only digital books, music, video and software."
Amazon spokeswoman Sally Fouts said the company began testing the redesign late last month. "We are continuing to roll out the new design to additional customers, but I can't speculate on when the new design will be live for everyone."
Also launching soon is Amazon's Kindle tablet, which is "not like any Kindle you’ve seen before," according to TechCrunch's Mo Siegler, who saw and used the new device recently. "It displays content in full color. It has a 7-inch capacitive touch screen. And it runs Android.... And I’m happy to report that it’s going to be a big deal. Huge, potentially." Amazon is targeting the end of November to release the $250 7-inch wi-fi version--buyers will also get a free subscription to Amazon Prime--with tentative plans to offer a 10-inch version in the first quarter of 2012.
Siegler noted that "the key for Amazon is just how deeply integrated all of their services are. Amazon’s content store is always just one click away. The book reader is a Kindle app (which looks similar to how it does on Android and iOS now). The music player is Amazon’s Cloud Player. The movie player is Amazon’s Instant Video player. The app store is Amazon’s Android Appstore."
A lawsuit has been filed by former Borders employee Jared Pinsker, who worked at the Ann Arbor, Mich., headquarters until he was laid off in July. The complaint, which was filed in Manhattan's U.S. Bankruptcy Court, seeks to represent a class of about 300 Ann Arbor workers and alleges that the employees received no notice when they were dismissed between July 23 and August 23. Damages are being sought "equal to 60 days' unpaid wages, pension contributions, healthcare and other benefits," Reuters reported
Pinsker said the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires certain companies to give 60 days' notice before conducting mass layoffs of at least 33% of a given facility's workforce. He is also requesting that "recovery take the form of an administrative expense claim, which under federal bankruptcy rules would give it higher-priority status than other unsecured claims," Reuters wrote.
"What will it take for another bookseller to open shop in the Borders/Shaman Drum neighborhood at State and Liberty, and operate a browseable place with content deep and wide?" asked Domenica Trevor in a column for the Ann Arbor Chronicle.
Poet, University of Michigan teacher and veteran local bookseller Keith Taylor responded that "it will take idealism, a lot of 80-hour work weeks, a willingness to be constantly present," as well as a "landlord willing to rent space for less than the going rate."
Karl Pohrt, who owned the former Shaman Drum Bookshop, suggested it may have to be a group effort. The Chronicle noted that "Pohrt has another idea. 'Start with a group of people,' he says. A representative from city government. Someone from the Downtown Development Authority. A person from UM who’s committed to book culture. 'A good lawyer, a good real estate person, a good numbers person,' Pohrt says. 'And somebody who knows the book business--and there are a number of these in Ann Arbor.... you also need people to buy into the idea. And this is a test for the community.' "
Nicola Rooney, owner of Nicola's Books, said she would be willing to work with someone who "wants a hand-hold" while building a downtown business, and would "consider an arrangement with a bookseller in it for the long haul who, perhaps, could master the art and science of bookselling under her tutelage and 'essentially inherit it from me' when that day comes," the Chronicle wrote.
Dorothy Dickerson, owner of Books & More, Albion, Mich, told the Citizen Patriot that the biggest challenge she faces in running a bookstore now is ensuring people know it exists.
"When you're in a small town, you've got to have more than just books," Dickerson said. "Once you get them in the door, once you give them good customer service, you can usually get them to repeat."
Marcus Books, Oakland, Calif., is on the comeback trail. The East Bay Express reported that the owners of the bookstore, which was in foreclosure 20 months ago after falling prey to a Ponzi scheme, "kept the doors open and the store is now making a comeback. The business is emerging from its financial woes, has joined the social media generation, and plans to launch a new website soon. But the Oakland icon still faces major hurdles: Its black customer base is fleeing Oakland at a time when the economy remains mired in recession."
Paul Cobb, publisher of the Oakland Post and a longtime supporter of the shop he calls "a city treasure," said, "The City of Oakland needs to declare that bookstore a historic landmark." Cobb also has plans to encourage local public schools to buy their books by and about African Americans from Marcus Books. He considers the store "an important symbol of literacy for the African-American community." In addition, the Alameda County Small Business Association is helping the bookstore launch its new website and plans to help renovate the storefront and add a cafe.
Life after Harry Potter: Emma Watson "woos bookstore boy" in a new advertisement for Lancome's Tresor Midnight Rose fragrance, Celebuzz reported.
Book trailer of the day: You Deserve Nothing by Alexander Maksik (Tonga Books/Europa Editions). The video was shot entirely in the Paris Metro by a filmmaker friend of the author.
Obituary note: Bob Goben, former owner of Southern Book Service, Miami, Fla., died last Thursday. Jim Barkley of Southeastern Book Travelers wrote, "Bob was a great friend with a big heart who would do anything for anyone. He was a mentor to many young sales reps over the years. He will be missed by all who knew him."
The Perseus Books Group has entered into a joint venture with Faber and Faber to establish Faber Factory Powered by Constellation, which will provide global digital services for independent publishers in the U.K., Ireland and Commonwealth. The partnership will serve all existing Faber Factory clients as well as Faber and Faber itself. Atlantic Books has already signed up.
"Faber Factory was conceived as an ambitious response to the enormous and liberating opportunity for independent publishers in the digital age," said Stephen Page, publisher and CEO of Faber and Faber. He also noted that the "power of Faber partnering with Perseus makes this ambition immediately achievable, globally and long term."
David Steinberger, president and CEO of the Perseus Books Group, said, "We feel privileged to be joining forces with Faber utilizing our Constellation digital platform and their Faber Factory initiative to offer clients the unparalleled benefits of speed to market, global reach and technological innovation."
Caroline Brown has joined Running Press as publicity manager. She formerly senior manager of marketing and publicity at Sterling Publishing and earlier worked in publicity at Rodale.