Posts filed under “Really, really bad calls”

Amazon Apologizes to Michael Lewis Over Kindle Flap

On Wednesday, I posted my disgust with the kindle fanboys trashing of Michael Lewis’ new book, The Big Short.

I was surprised to hear from a number of literary agents who wrote to thank me for that. They have apparently been having all manner of issues with Amazon reviewers over the years, and the kindle kooks have ignited a small firestorm. I even heard from someone who works with Lewis who informed me that Amazon called him (Lewis) to apologize over the fanboy rage against the book.

That, however, does not address the underlying conflicts between the three distinct roles Amazon.com plays. They are:

1) Book seller;
2) Publisher of book reviews;
3) Designer/manufacturer of a new book reading technology.

It is in this last capacity that Amazon has the greatest conflict (let’s hold the debate as to whether they as a bookseller have a bias towards better, pro-book reviews for another time).

The delay in selling the kindle version is a situation of Amazon’s own making.

Why? The mandatory kindle book pricing scheme.

If you want to know why the kindle version is not available immediately, it is because the publisher wants to charge full boat for their newest hardcover books. They consider that their “theatrical release,” with the kindle being the equivalent of the HBO version and the paperback the DVD. This is their decision, and while I may not necessarily agree with it, it is the publishers’, and not my choice.

The rampant 1 star fan boy reviews are nothing more than collective bullying. Give me your lunch money (kindle version), or I will beat you up during recess (give you one star reviews).

These release dates are a function of the mandatory Amazon price point. Bezos has foisted upon the publishers a price scheme which they don’t care for. The wounded publishing industry needs to max out their revs, and they believe selling kindle versions during the first few months of the hard cover hurts sales. Again, you and I may not agree with that belief system, but it is not our place — or Amazon’s — to dictate release terms and prices to publishers.

Two other factors worth considering:

1) Amazon’s super useful crowd sourced reviews were a great innovation. From their own selfish perspective, AMZN should be more protective of that. They should carefully consider how Yahoo allowed their comment streams (for just about every property) to become polluted with touts and spam and trolls and haters to the point where it is no longer useful. Then Bezos might want to notice the long slider in YHOO’s stock price over the same period. Coincidence? I doubt it.

If Amazon is going to allow a major asset of theirs to become devalued, it could hurt the actual value of the company.

2) I have no plans for getting the Apple iPad, but Apple’s willingness to let publishers set their own price is a very interesting development. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Apple iPad version of books released BEFORE the kindle version due to this pricing scheme.  (note: this is my own wild speculation, and I haven’t heard anything from my Apple contacts).

Amazon.com, you have been warned!

Bottom line: This is a problem that is more or less of Amazon’s own making. Their allowance of this book review abuse has the appearance of impropriety. It looks especially self-serving. I have been a huge Amazon fan over the years, and I expect better from Bezos & Co. I was hoping they wouldn’t turn out to be just another collection of corporate douche bags intent on profit regardless of how they have to screw over their suppliers and consumers.

There is still time for them to avoid this fate — but its their call. Take a page from Google’s While”Don’t Be Evil” mantra and do the right thing.

>

Previously:
Hey Bezos! Fix Your eejit Pro-kindle Anti-Author Book Reviews!
http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/03/hey-bezos-fix-your-eejit-pro-kindle-anti-author-book-reviewers/

Category: Really, really bad calls, Web/Tech

SEC: Regulatory Capture Hard at Work

The WSJ is reporting that back in 2003, the SEC tried to remove the restrictions on compromised security analysts that tried to prevent them from whoring out recommendations for banking business. Similar to the prostitution of the ratings agencies, the SEC somehow thought it was okay for iBanks to fuck their stock buying investors, just…Read More

Category: Legal, Really, really bad calls, Regulation

Smackdown! Tavakoli Calls Lewis a GirlieMan

I mentioned earlier how much I liked the 60 Minutes piece with Michael Lewis. Janet Tavakoli called foul this morning on Lewis assertions, pointing to a Bloomberg column he wrote in 2007, titled “Davos Is for Wimps, Ninnies, Pointless Skeptics.” Tavakoli specifically points to this paragraph: “None of them seemed to understand that when you…Read More

Category: Derivatives, Really, really bad calls, Television

Reaching, Once Again, For Yield

“People are starving for yield because rates are at zero. They’re taking more risk than they think.” -Paul Tramontano, Constellation Wealth Advisors, > One of the factors that caused the great credit crisis to spread far and wide was the “reach for yield.” This is one of the most expensive ways a fixed income investor…Read More

Category: Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Really, really bad calls

As previously noted, Verizon has been very obnoxiously spraying unwanted services and icons on my Blackberry desktop.

I am sure somewhere in the unreadable fine print we gave permission for this garbage, but that doesn’t make this any less obnoxious, and it doesn’t make Verizon any less of a giant telecom douchebag for doing this.

At the time we last mentioned this, the solution was to hide the icon. A better solution would be to leave Verizon, but for some of us (NYC), the alternatives are not better.

There seems to be a better solution, found by Ned — simply follow these steps:

1. Go to Options (the wrench on my BlackBerry)
2. Advanced options
3. Service Book
4. Select Bing or Slacker Radio, or whatever
5. Left Click (Blackberry button)
6. Delete

Your phone is now yours — until the next Verizon hijack . . .

Read More

Category: Really, really bad calls, Technology

Revisiting “The Obama Economy”

The rhetoric you use to make your point says a lot about a) the strength of your argument; 2) you personally. There is no better example of this then some of the OpEds about the current and past Presidents. They are rife with bad logic, political animus, and sheer partisanship. I don’t care id they…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Weblogs

CNBC Shoutfest

Its as if Charlie Gasparino never left: Be sure to see the discussion — more of a yelling match — of Predatory Lending on CNBC. My issue isn’t the opinions of the various parties, its the unchecked ignorance that takes arrogant pride in ignoring facts. Its borderline unwatchable. Kudos to Janet Tavakoli for politely explaining…Read More

Category: Financial Press, Really, really bad calls, Television

Harry Markopolos, the Madoff whistleblower whose new book, No One Would Listen is out tomorrow, had a brief interview in the Sunday NYT magazine. This quote leapt out at me: > Q: Where did you learn about finance? A: You don’t learn much in grad school. Half the formulas they teach you are false. It’s…Read More

Category: Really, really bad calls

Treasury Looks to Mandate Foreclosure Abatements, Mortgage Mods

One of the most disappointing policy initiatives of the Administration to date has been the expensive and ineffective attempts to fight foreclosures at all costs. The net impact of this is to artificially prop up home prices and reduce the number of real estate transactions. In the high foreclosures regions (California, South Florida, Arizona, Las…Read More

Category: Credit, Legal, Politics, Really, really bad calls

Deficit Hawks Want New (or double dip) Recession

One of the oddest things to come out of the entire credit crisis, recession and muddling recovery has been the sudden re-emergence of deficit hawks. While a few honest deficit hawks are out there — the Peterson Institute is a good example of a group looking at long term structural issues, not immediate fiscal concerns…Read More

Category: Economy, Really, really bad calls, Taxes and Policy