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Can two idealistic souls finding their way in a less than perfect world? Rogue Wave: A Small Town Beach Romance (Haven Island Series) by Isabel Jolie

Tavish can’t explain why he disappeared on Kelsey for seven years…. Tavish: A Time Travel Romance (Dunskey Castle Book 1) by Jane Stain. Free today! Get the rest of the series for only 99 cents each!

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The mind is a strange beast: extraordinary, unpredictable, protective. Penny Osborn’s mind is no exception… Inside Voices by Sarah Davis

If you enjoy mafia style romances with bad boy Doms and plenty of wicked heat, then you’ll love… CLAIMED: A Dark Mafia Romance Trilogy by Em Brown

Forensic science meets literary fiction in this captivating police procedural… The Comfort of Distance: A Sebastien Grey Novel by Ryburn Dobbs

Each new contract the bounty hunter takes on could lead him to untold riches… or to the ambush meant to finally put him down: Contracts & Terminations Complete Series Boxed Set by Jason Anspach and Nick Cole

What is to be the fate of the Holy Grail and those who seek it? Stealing The Holy Grail by S.M. Perlow

Yara loves her beautiful rainforest! Will she be able to save it? Yara’s Tawari Tree by Yossi Lapid

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This powerful novel brilliantly captures a young girl’s yearning and her adventurous journey to discover her true home… Bird With the Heart of a Mountain by Barbara Mariconda

Julia’s frantic attempts to discover the identity of the killer and make a name for herself only lead to more dead bodies… Night Moves by DJ Steele

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Will Amazon Continue to Surge Toward Global Domination?

Amazon has scheduled its quarterly earnings announcement after the markets close one week from today, January 29, 2013, with the usual conference call to discuss financial results at 2:00 p.m. PT/5:00 p.m. ET that day. The conference call will be webcast live, and the audio and associated slides will be available for at least three months thereafter at www.amazon.com/ir.

AMZN, AAPL, and BKS price against NASDAX Composite, last 6 months
AMZN, AAPL, and BKS price against NASDAX Composite, last 6 months

It will be interesting to see if the company is able to continue its recent surge in share price, which has been fueled not only by the Kindle revolution but also huge growth in the company’s overall global retail market share, its Amazon Web Services cloud infrastructure, and the disruptive nature of its customer-centric business model and aggressive pricing on the market share of Apple and Barnes & Noble. Not only has Amazon’s share price jumped about 50% over the past year, but it has gained over 20% during the last six months (double the Nasdaq composite index) while both Apple and Barnes & Noble have seen their shares fall by about 10% each during that period.

It scarcely makes sense any more to think of Amazon as the single company that Jeff Bezos started in his garage 17 years ago. First, of course, there’s the global presence:

Equally impressive is the astonishing diversity of the company, whose website currently l

And then there’s Amazon Publishing, which has grown to six pretty serious imprints so far:

  • AmazonEncore. Amazon Publishing’s flagship imprint, AmazonEncore helps unearth exceptional books and emerging authors for more readers to enjoy, using customer feedback and sales information from Amazon’s sites.
  • AmazonCrossingAmazonCrossing introduces readers to authors from around the world with translations of foreign language books, making award-winning and best-selling books accessible to many readers for the first time.
  • Thomas & MercerThomas & Mercer, named for streets that flank Amazon headquarters in Seattle, focuses on mystery and thrillers, an exceptionally popular genre among Amazon customers.
  • Montlake Romance. Amazon.com customers rave about romance. Montlake Romance is designed to connect outstanding romance novels with more readers.  
  • 47North.  47North offers a wide array of new novels and cult favorites, from urban fantasies to space operas, alternate histories to gothic and supernatural horror.  
  • Amazon Children’s PublishingAmazon Children’s Publishing provides quality books for young readers of all ages, from award-winning picture books, chapter books, and middle-grade books to compelling novels for teens.

Wow. Plenty here to sustain a continued surge, or not. But want to know what’s really impressive?

Jeff Bezos says he sleeps very well at night. That’s impressive.

Amazon May Already Have Reached 50% Market Share of the U.S. Fiction Book Market Across All Formats

By Steve Windwalker
Editor, Kindle Nation Daily

Amazon's website 1.0, Aug. 1995
Amazon’s website 1.0, Aug. 1995

It will come as no surprise to long-time readers that, fairly consistently over the past two years, I have been saying something shocking and outrageous. My crazy notion first started cropping up in a Kindle Nation Daily post back on February 3, 2011.

The big story is that in just three years Amazon has positioned itself to triple its overall share of the U.S. book business for all formats. Before the end of 2012, Amazon could own more than half of the U.S. book business across all formats.

How stunning a development would that be? Prior to the launch of the Kindle in 2007, Amazon was widely considered to account, at most, for somewhere around 15 percent of all U.S. book sales in all formats by all retailers.

There were plenty of people who were willing then to tell me I was nuts, or that it didn’t matter anyway because Amazon’s pricing was going to continue to drive the company toward, or right into,  red ink. (Indeed, that red-ink thing happened in Amazon’s last quarterly financial report, and the company says it could lose as much as nearly another half-billion dollars in its own guidance for the 2012 4th quarter on which its will report later this month.) And apparently my critics talked some sense into me, because more recently I have been projecting that Amazon was more likely to reach that 50% market share threshold in late 2013 or 2014.

So, it has probably not happened yet, and let’s give or take a year or so, please. After all, what would be amazing about this kind of development would have nothing to do with it being predicted (by me or anyone else), and nothing to do with it happening in any given specific month. (But since we all like to keep score, if it does happen by early 2014 I’d like to apply futurist Ray Kurzweil’s rule and call this prediction “essentially correct.”)

The amazing thing would be that, in three waves of about half a dozen years each, Amazon would have  completed a total transformation of the U.S. publishing and bookselling business. (Only the third wave, of course, has been strictly about ebooks.) And for better or worse, that transformation is a game-changer in every sector of publishing and bookselling activity including, of course, the activities of authors and readers.

The enthusiasm with which publishing industry pundits seek out data suggesting that “ebook sales growth is slowing down” make it unlikely that we will hear any announcement from within the industry when Amazon reaches that 50% threshold, but one of the smartest and most articulate inside observers of the publishing industry — consultant, author and blogger Mike Shatzkin — shared some data this week from which it is interesting to make some extrapolations, even with the caveat that Shatzkin’s information is anecdotal, based on “an exercise” that he tried earlier this month “of asking a few agents for their impressions of the evolving ebook marketplace.”

I won’t revisit here the various equations that I used in early 2011 to reach the conclusion that Amazon was on its way to reaching a 50% market share in the book business/all formats, other than to say that I relied heavily then on information reported by Publisher’s Weekly, Publisher’s Marketplace, and Amazon, and that actual events since then have served to confirm the conclusion. But let’s look at some of Shatzkin’s data points and where they lead.

He starts by saying that “sales of ebooks for fiction more often than not top 50% of the total sales,” and then says of total book sales that “only about 35% of it is selling as print in stores (because 25-30 percent of the print sale is online).” 

So, to make the process of extrapolation as straightforward as possible, let’s say that the entire universe of fiction book sales consists of 100 books sold. It’s generally accepted that Amazon owns  an ebook market share of about two-thirds as well as a market share of about 85% of online print book sales, so here’s where Shatzkin’s data points lead for fiction book sales:

  • 100 books sold, all formats
  • 51 ebooks sold, including 34 Kindle books
  • 3 audiobooks sold, including 2 Audible.com (Amazon) audiobooks
  • 46 print books sold, including 14 copies online, and 12 of those 14 by Amazon

That’s a total of 48 out of the 100 books sold by Amazon, or 48% market share based on units sold. Since all of this is anecdotal and the extrapolations themselves are based on assumptions, Nate Silver would probably tell us that it’s fair to say that Amazon’s actual fiction market share for the period we’re discussing was somewhere between 43 and 53%.

It doesn’t mean 48% of all retail book revenues; it’s just units. It doesn’t mean all books; it’s just fiction books. And it’s anecdotal.

But it is worth pointing out, as well, that this anecdotal information shared with Shatzkin by literary agents is not a snapshot of where things stand today in January 2013. Instead, as Shatzkin points out “the data presentation which most shapes the agents’ impressions is provided in royalty reports. This past year, and especially this past season, have not yet been delivered in the data they study most intensively.”

When you take that “lagging report” factor into consideration, combined with recent reports that January 2013 ebook sales are up 10 to 15% over January 2012 ebook sales, it’s even possible that Amazon may have already reached a 50% market share for fiction.

Maybe, maybe not. It’s only fiction, not all book sales. But the nature of tipping points in the book business has several likely consequences for this discussion:

  • The reported 2:1 ratio between ebook market share for fiction and ebook market share for immersive nonfiction (in Mike’s felicitous phrase) is likely to narrow, because fiction will almost surely serve as a wedge driving readers’ behavior in terms of platform comfort and library storage choices.
  • Shatzkin points out the 35% share for print books in physical stores is down from about 90% ten years ago and 80% five years ago. You can call that a pattern; I call it an avalanche. Print book distribution channels are drying up at an alarming rate, and taken together all of the patterns that are part of this conversation will only accelerate that process, which in turn will accelerate the process of Amazon growing its market share across all platforms.

One other likelihood is that we won’t have any absolutely certain data that makes all this clear — for 50%, 60%, 70% or any other market share threshold — until months or even a year after it has happened. And while it is interesting to think about the market share thresholds themselves, it is probably far more important for us all to think about what any of those Amazon market share thresholds will mean for everyone associated with the book business:

  • readers
  • authors
  • agents
  • big publishers
  • small publishers
  • indie bookstores
  • used book sellers
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Amazon’s other retailer competitors
  • Amazon’s ebook competitors
  • Amazon
  • and last but not least, the Department of Justice

In our February 2011 piece raising the 50% market share possibility for the first time, I quoted Amazon executive Russ Grandinetti as saying: “However fast you think this change is happening, its probably happening faster than you think.”

That’s all we’re really saying. And in the next few days we’ll try to focus on what these developments could mean — in terms of ebook pricing, royalties, profitability, and in some cases life or death — for the players listed above.

Originally posted Feb. 3, 2011, and not *exactly* right:

The Real Story Behind Those Single-Digit Kindle Margins:

Amazon Has Positioned Itself for a 50% Overall Market Share

in the U.S. Book Business

(Editor’s Note: I originally published this post on February 3, 2011. The bottom-line prediction that “before the end of 2012, Amazon could own more than half of the U.S. book business across all formats,” isn’t quite right. But there seems to be increasing evidence that, to borrow a phrase from futurist Ray Kurzweil, it could soon prove to be “essentially correct.” What’s your take? -S.W.)
By Steve Windwalker
Editor, Kindle Nation Daily

Amazon’s (AMZN) report of quarterly earnings last Thursday was greeted widely as an indication that the company can’t generate sufficient margins with Kindle devices and content. That interpretation has been reasonably straightforward, with strong echoes of sentiments that characterized critics’ views of Amazon during its early pre-profitability years in the late 1990s and into the 21st century.

“Despite rapid growth in Kindle hardware and content sales,” so this thinking goes, “the combination of competition and Amazon’s penchant for pursuing loss-leader strategies to capture market share have forced Kindle-associated margins so low that, as the Kindle portion of Amazon’s overall business grows, it will lead inevitably to erosion of profits.”

Due in part to this interpretation, Amazon’s share price, which closed Thursday within 3 percent of its all-time trading high, dipped dramatically in after-hours trading that day and has gained back only a fraction of those losses since.

But the low-margins interpretation misses another, much more dramatic story. The big story is that in just three years Amazon has positioned itself to triple its overall share of the U.S. book business for all formats. Before the end of 2012, Amazon could own more than half of the U.S. book business across all formats.

How stunning a development would that be? Prior to the launch of the Kindle in 2007, Amazon was widely considered to account, at most, for somewhere around 15 percent of all U.S. book sales in all formats by all retailers.

Amazon has not reached 50 per cent yet, and is still far from that range where all titles are concerned. But one of the most reliable crystal balls for determining future bookselling trends is to examine and parse developments as they play out with individual bestsellers in the overall book marketplace, when numbers are available.

Last week both Amazon and one of its most consistent publishing business critics, paid subscription site Publishers’ Marketplace, shined their respective spotlights on sale trends that have been playing out with a single bestselling novel, Emma Donoghue’s Room. The hardcover, discounted by Amazon to $14.41 (20 percent higher than the Kindle edition), is #43 in the main Amazon store. It is #13 among far fewer available bestsellers listed in the Apple (AAPL) iBooks store, and #35 on the Barnes & Noble (BKS) Nook. Importantly for these discussions, the book has also been on the IndieBound bestseller list for independent brick-and-mortar booksellers for the past 20 weeks, and currently stands at #4.)

Helpfully, it turns out that we know a lot about Room sales, thanks to Amazon and Publisher’s Marketplace.

Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice-president for Kindle Content,told a Digital Book World conference last week that, for Room, “total Kindle sales are equal to 85 percent of Nielsen BookScan’s print sales number.” Publisher’s Marketplace then performed some very helpful extrapolations and further calculations arriving here:

If the BookScan number is 80 percent of the print sales total, then Kindle sales here would 68 percent of all print. More importantly, though, to calculate what percentage of the book’s total sale was on Kindle, you need to add Kindle + BookScan + that other 20 percent together and look at Kindle as a percentage of that sum. So it’s 68 over 168, meaning that Kindle sales were 40 percent of the total sale in all formats for Room.

But it doesn’t end there. Grandinetti and other Amazon spokespersons said repeatedly last week that Kindle editions were currently outselling Amazon sales of their hardcover counterparts by a 3-to-1 margin, which means that Amazon hardcovers equal about 25 per cent of combined sales for these titles. Even if hardcover sales of Room fell short of this and constituted only 20 percent of Amazon’s combined, this would mean that total Amazon sales of Room constitutes about 50 percent of the title’s total sales in all formats.

It’s just one title, but what we’ve been seeing quite often with Amazon and the Kindle over the past few years is that what happens first with one title happens subsequently with more titles and then, ultimately, with most titles. It was a big deal in 2009 when Kindle sales of The Lost Symbol outstripped Amazon’s hardcover sales right from the drop, and a little over a year later Amazon announced that all Kindle editions were outselling hardcover units for the same titles, across the board.

But there are other forces at play, and I’m not just talking about the fact that Room is one of the strongest sellers over the past five months for indie booksellers. Back on January 5 when USA Today reported that 19 of the top 50 titles on its bestseller list had sold more ebook than print copies for the previous week, publishing industry insiders blamed Santa Claus and downplayed the significance.

“What’s most interesting is what happens next week or over the next month. About 3 million to 5 million e-readers were activated last week. Will the people who got them keep downloading e-books, and at what rate?” asked Publisher’s Marketplace founder Michael Cader. Bowker’s Kelly Gallagher, too often a cheerleader for the status quo in publishing, was quoted saying that the surge in e-book sales “is not a sustainable trend.”

Right. Well, that was January 5. Now it’s February 2, and that trend, far from declining, has actually become stronger. On USA Today‘s most recent bestseller list, for the week ended January 23, the number of titles with greater ebook sales than print sales had grown from the 18-19 range for the first three weeks after Christmas to 23 of the top 50.

There is a wide range of factors that are likely to push the velocity of change even faster for ebook sales specifically and Amazon’s share of the overall bookselling market in general, but the fact that brick and mortar bookstores are closing at a faster rate than ever, from local indies to chains, is bound to contribute to a snowballing effect. The imminent bankruptcy of the Borders (BGP) chain is this week’s headline, but it’s just the headline. And despite the recent fuss about the new partnership for ebook sales between Google (GOOG) and the American Booksellers Association, it is inevitable that as ebook sales rise, brick-and-mortar stores will decline and publishers will gradually lessen their investment both in the bookstore-based physical distribution network and in print editions.

Finally, there’s Amazon’s not-so-secret weapon for building retail market share for its Kindle and print content sales: Direct publishing, Amazon exclusives, and indie authors. Recent developments in this area deserve a post all their own, but for now we’ll just note that 36 of the top 100 bestselling ebooks in the Kindle Store are published either by indie, direct-to-Kindle authors or by Amazon publishing subsidiary programs such as AmazonEncore, AmazonCrossing, or Kindle Singles. The vast majority of these titles are either not listed or not selling at any appreciable level on any other retail venue, and they are not yet included on any bestseller lists other than Amazon’s own, although their sales would in many cases justify such inclusion. But the sales are there, the profits are there, and once again Amazon has positioned itself to dominate the market share for this, the fastest growing sector of the fastest growing sector in bookselling.

Which brings us back to Amazon executive Grandinetti, and his summary point in last week’s discussions: “However fast you think this change is happening, its probably happening faster than you think.”

Whatever the rate of change, and whatever the velocity of change, most of the other players in the book business and many of Amazon’s market analysts and investors may be missing the point as to exactly where this change leads. AMZN is not a day-traders’ stock, but for investors who take a long view it may have just moved into a new and very positive category.

If Amazon has decided to accept single-digit margins during this Kindle “investment phase,” and the result is that the company has set itself up to own a 50 per cent market share of the entire U.S. book business by the end of 2012, there will be no shortage of happy investors — and devastated competitors — at that point in the relatively near future.

Disruption Ahead for iTunes, Google Play? Updated Amazon Cloud Player Includes New Scan and Match Technology, Free Audio Quality Upgrades, and More

Over the past five years much of the battle to sell digital content (ebooks, music, video and apps) has been about devices (Kindle, iPod, iPad, etc.), and what has not been about devices has been about platforms.
clouds
But the next phase will be every bit as much about whose cloud we’re on, so it is no surprise that Amazon is taking giant steps to make it as inviting as possible for us to use its cloud (rather than Apple’s, Google’s, or somebody else’s) to enjoy the content we have purchased in the past, anywhere and on any device, no matter what device we may have been using when we acquired the content.

Among the exciting new features:

Amazon scans customers’ iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries and matches the songs on their computers to Amazon’s 20 million song catalog. All matched songs – even music purchased from iTunes or ripped from CDs – are instantly made available in Cloud Player and are upgraded for free to high-quality 256 Kbps audio. Music that customers have already uploaded to Cloud Player also will be upgraded.

Here’s the guts of the press release from Amazon today – please read carefully, because this is very likely to make for big — and positive — changes in the way you use your Kindle Fire and/or other devices to enjoy music, video, apps, and ebooks:

 

Amazon announces licenses from Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and more than 150 independent distributors, aggregators and music publishers

 

 

Coming soon, Roku and Sonosfollowing the recent addition of iPhone and iPod Touch, Roku and Sonos will join the list of Cloud Player compatible devices

 

 

 

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jul. 31, 2012– (NASDAQ: AMZN) – Amazon.com, Inc. today announced Cloud Player licensing agreements that bring significant updates to Amazon Cloud Player. The agreements are with Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, and more than 150 independent distributors, aggregators and music publishers. Amazon’s scan and match technology gives customers a fast and easy way to get all of their music from their computers to the cloud. Cloud Player customers can then enjoy their music on their favorite devices, including Kindle Fire, iPhone, iPod Touch, Android devices and any web browser, and soon, Roku streaming players and Sonos home entertainment systems.

 

 

New Cloud Player features include:

 

  • Amazon MP3 purchases — including music that customers purchased in the past — are automatically saved to Cloud Player, which means that customers have a secure backup copy of the music they buy from Amazon, free of charge.
  • Amazon scans customers’ iTunes and Windows Media Player libraries and matches the songs on their computers to Amazon’s 20 million song catalog. All matched songs – even music purchased from iTunes or ripped from CDs – are instantly made available in Cloud Player and are upgraded for free to high-quality 256 Kbps audio. Music that customers have already uploaded to Cloud Player also will be upgraded.
  • Any customer with a Kindle Fire, Android device, iPhone, iPod touch, or any web browser — and soon, a Roku streaming player or Sonos home entertainment system — can play their music anywhere.

 

“We are constantly striving to deliver the best possible customer experience for Cloud Player, and today we are offering our customers a significant set of new features, including scan and match technology and audio quality upgrade,” said Steve Boom, Vice President of Digital Music at Amazon.

 

“We are happy to have such broad industry support in enabling these features for customers.”

 

 

“Music fans are passionate consumers, so making it as easy as possible for them to buy music and enjoy it anywhere, anytime and on any device, is important to us,” stated Rob Wells, President of Global Digital Business at Universal Music Group. “And Amazon’s new service does just that by enabling fans to find, discover and experience more music than ever before. UMG is committed to working with innovative services like Amazon to provide consumers more choice and to expand the marketplace even further for digital music.”

 

 

“Amazon is an important destination for music fans, and we’re pleased to see them creating innovative music services that offer fans the ability to enjoy their music conveniently on all their devices,” said Mark Piibe, Executive Vice President of Global Business Development for EMI Music. “Cloud Player makes it easy for users to have their entire music collection at their fingertips wherever they are, so that they’ll get even more value from the music they buy, and will form an even deeper connection with the artists they love.”

 

 

“Cloud technology is producing a powerful new generation of entertainment experiences, making the discovery of new content easier and offering instant access to music across multiple devices. Amazon’s locker service has an impressive set of capabilities, which expand the value of owning music. It will give fans greater flexibility with their libraries and entice new customers to explore the benefits of a digital collection,” said Stephen Bryan, Executive Vice President, Digital Strategy & Business Development, Recorded Music, Warner Music Group.

 

 

“We are excited to be working with Amazon to offer consumers the ability to enjoy their music anywhere—on any device—with Cloud Player,” said Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business and U.S. Sales, Sony Music Entertainment. “Amazon continues to innovate on behalf of music fans, and we believe our new licensing agreement makes it easier and more convenient than ever for Amazon customers to access, discover and ultimately buy more music.”

 

 

Cloud Player is available in a Free tier and a Premium tier. Cloud Player Free customers can store all MP3 music purchased at Amazon, plus import up to 250 songs from their PC or Mac to Cloud Player, all at no charge. Cloud Player Premium customers can import and store up to 250,000 songs in Cloud Player for an annual fee of $24.99. Amazon-purchased MP3s (including all previous purchases) do not count against the 250 or 250,000-song limits and will be added to both Free and Premium Cloud Player libraries at no charge. Amazon Cloud Player is automatically integrated into Kindle Fire and the new Cloud Player features will be automatically delivered to Kindle Fire users over the next few days.

 

Customers can also visit www.amazon.com/cloudplayer or download the app on iOS or Android.

 

Starting today, Cloud Drive will be used for file storage and Cloud Player will be used for music storage and playback — each service will offer separate subscriptions. Customers can still use Cloud Drive to store any of their files in the cloud and access them from any web browser or by using the Cloud Drive Desktop Apps. Customers can store up to 5GB free and storage plan prices have been lowered to start at $10 per year for 20 GB. To learn how to get started on Cloud Drive visit www.amazon.com/clouddrive/learnmore.

Exclusive: Our own Len Edgerly interviews Amazon’s Jeff Bezos live in the KND Kindle Chronicles Interview

Article of Faith: “If people read more, that is a better world”

(Ed. Note: For any publisher or journalist, there are few things that feel as good as a great “get.” So this week, as we join contributing editor Len Edgerly in celebrating four terrific years of podcast interviews, we congratulate him for this week’s “get” of Amazon and Kindle founder Jeff Bezos, and we congratulate ourselves for our “get” of the highly esteemed Mr. Edgerly. –Steve Windwalker)

By LEN EDGERLY, Contributing Editor
Bezos
I traveled to Seattle this week to sit down on July 26th with Jeff Bezos for an 18-minute conversation about the Kindle. We met in an unadorned conference room at Amazon’s fast-growing campus of nondescript buildings. He’d brought a dish of cottage cheese and a paper cup containing something to drink. As I tested the audio levels on my Olympus LS-10, Bezos offered this disarming advice: “Usually my laugh eventually blows out the microphone, so hopefully you’re set for that.”

In appreciation for this opportunity to better understand how the Kindle looks to the man who leads the team that created it, I am pleased to present the following complete transcript of the interview:

Len Edgerly: It’s been seven years since you did the early design for the Kindle.

Jeff Bezos: Yes.

LE: When you think back to what you saw then, what’s been the biggest surprise in how it’s all unfolded?

JB: The biggest surprise by far is how quickly it has grown. When we did this, we were very optimistic that Kindle would eventually be a success and that it would accelerate the adoption of eBooks. But what has actually happened, happened so much faster than any reasonable person would have expected.

Today eBooks have become a huge fraction of the books sold, and we wouldn’t have anticipated that. That’s a big surprise.

LE: It sold out in like the first hour and a half  [it was actually five and a half hours]. At that point was it evident that this was going to be a faster ride than you thought?

JB: Yeah. We were very surprised right from the beginning. And all throughout that first year actually, we continued to be surprised. So you may remember that not only were we out of stock in our first holiday season, but we were also out of stock in our second holiday selling season. That’s not a good time to be out of stock. And so we continued to be surprised by the adoption rates. That’s a good, high-quality problem, but it’s still something that I look back on and marvel at.

LE: How has the Kindle changed your own personal reading habits?

JB: I think like a lot of our Kindle customers, the biggest thing is that I end up reading more. So, it’s just easier to read more. I can have more books with me. I travel. When I’m traveling I don’t always know exactly what I’m going to be wanting to read from time to time. I can also get new things when I want to, when I hear about them. So if a friend tells me about something, I can get it right away, or if I read about something in a blog somewhere, I can get it right away. I just read more.

LE: I’ve been surprised by how much I read on the Fire, because I was such a lover of the E Ink. What’s your ratio between reading on the Fire versus with reading on the E Ink devices.

JB: Well, I carry both devices, and I really like to read periodicals on the Fire. So magazines and newspapers—I find the Fire experience to be preferable. When I get into a long-form book, reading a novel, I really prefer the E Ink device, I think in part because it weighs less, it’s lighter. It’s easier on my eyes. For extended reading sessions and right before bed, I find I gravitate towards my Kindle, and then for lots of other things I use my Fire.

LE: What do you think will be the same five to seven years or further out about the way we read, never mind how the technology advances?

JB: I think one thing that you can count on is that human nature doesn’t change. The human brain doesn’t change. And so one thing that seems to be very, very fundamental is that we like narrative. We like stories. So I don’t think that any amount of eBook technology is going to change the fact that we humans like narrative. And so I think that linear narrative, where somebody has really put a lot of work into guiding us along in a great story—a great storyteller, that’s what they do. I think that’s going to stay the same.

LE: Do you think that at some point the all-text story will be kind of an historical anomaly because the digital editions, the enhanced audio video and all that will just create a more compelling experience of a story than all text?

JB: I doubt it. We sort of have done that experiment in a way already, because sometimes really good books get made into movies. And even if the movie is a good movie—there’s also the case where they get made into bad movies. But even if they’re good movies, there are things about the book that never get replicated in the movie.
And I think the all-text story, as you put it, is its own medium, and I think that is likely to continue. I don’t think, for example, that audio snippets would make Hemingway better.  I’m not sure multimedia would make Hemingway better. So I think it’s its own thing.

Now will there be new kinds of things invented that take advantage of these new technologies? Yes. Just like movies, moving pictures, was a completely new medium. But you didn’t try to do books with moving pictures—they might be derived from a book. But it’s its own art form, and they had to invent all the things that make movies good—all the different ways from cutting from one scene to the next—and it didn’t displace books. And I think that’s what you’ll see happen here, too.  There’ll be new kinds of multimedia offerings that people can interact with on Kindles, but they won’t displace all-text stories.

LE: When you’re reading an all-text story, your mind is filling in so much, and that’s part of the pleasure.

JB: Exactly. Part of the pleasure is that you’re imagining your version of that story, all the details and all the richness.  And multimedia takes some of that away.

LE: Plus it’s kind of a distraction. There’s a thread that gets broken when you’re tempted to go somewhere.

JB: I totally agree. And I would also say that a lot of what makes long-form books such a good format is there’s a lot of inner dialog that can happen in a book that you can’t really capture in multimedia. It can’t just be a glance at somebody’s face. It has to actually be that whole thread of what’s happening inside their head.

LE: The two core features back in the early days of the design that you emphasized were keyboards for searching books easily and also the automatic 3G, so people wouldn’t have to mess with WiFi. And the two Kindles now don’t have either of those. So what changed there?

JB: The key thing about the keyboard is that the electronic ink display technology finally got fast enough and responsive enough that we could do a reasonable onscreen keyboard. That also ends up making the device lighter. But the big difference, the big change over time is that the electronic ink display technology has gotten faster and more responsive.

We do still offer our 3G version of the Kindle. And that is a very popular choice, in fact people who buy that Kindle are the people who read the most.

LE: Why do you think that is?

JB: I suspect it’s probably some that they are the more serious readers, so they want the very best Kindle. But we also see that their reading increases even more than people who buy the other Kindles. And the reason, I think, for that is that it makes getting books even more frictionless, makes it even easier. You don’t have to look for a WiFi hotspot. You can just get them wherever you happen to be. And it roams globally at no charge, so people can figure that out, too, and get it wherever they are, even if they’re traveling around the world.

LE: It’s amazing how that small of an additional convenience would translate into more sales and reading.

JB: Exactly right, and we see this in everything. Many years ago we did this thing called One-Click Shopping, and tiny, little improvements can drive people to do more of something, just because you’re making it easier. And we’re all busy here in the early 21st Century.

LE: You’ve innovated with steady improvements to the Kindle platform  since the introduction in November of 2007. And, as you’ve said, not every experiment succeeds—otherwise it wouldn’t be an experiment. Which blind alley that you’ve gone down in the last seven years taught you the most about how your customers want to read?

JB: That’s a great question. I would say one example of that would be location numbers. So one of the things that we did early on is we looked very hard at page numbers and how should we deal with electronic books? How should we do page numbers? You have to keep in mind that when you change the font size, everything changes. So you can’t really just count pages or screenfuls. So we came up with location numbers, and location numbers are the same no matter what font size you set your Kindle to. And by the way, being able to change the font size is something customers love about Kindle. That, and looking up words—there are a bunch of little things that people really love. They seem like small things, but they’re actually big features that people use all the time.

So after working with location numbers for many years, we got lots of feedback from customers that there are a lot of use cases where they wished that they had page numbers that matched the page numbers in physical books. So, for example, if you’re having a book club, and some people have the physical book and you have the Kindle book, you still want to be able to refer people to the real page number. You can’t say to your friend, “Turn to Location, you know, 2015.” (Laughs)

And so we used our cloud-computing expertise and our machine-learning expertise, and we actually built a set of algorithms that can look at the scanned pages of physical books and match up the words and find with pretty high confidence when you’re on your Kindle, what is the real page number that you happen to be on? We’ve implemented that for many, many of the books now in the Kindle catalog.

LE: That was good, because even though I can’t feel the pages, to know I’m on page 200—there’s a reference to the way I used to read that’s helpful.

JB: Exactly. Because we’ve all grown up reading physical books, we have kind of an internal clock or something that keeps track in page numbers, and that’s much harder to translate into something like location numbers. Maybe it would be akin to trying to figure out how much something costs in Yen when you’re in Japan. You can eventually figure it out, but it’s not something that you can do with intuition.

LE: Do you think we’ll ever reach a time when 60 seconds just seems like too long to download a book?

JB: I can tell you that most of the downloads now take way less than that. So we advertise books in 60 seconds, but actually it’s much faster.

I can also tell you that one of the things that gets me up in the morning is knowing that customer expectations are always rising, and I find that very exciting. You know, this is a team of missionaries, and we like to rise to those kinds of challenges.

LE: You like to be a little bit ahead.

JB: Maybe it should be books in one second. (Laughs.)

LE: Whoah. I’d buy even more.

JB: Exactly. Very good.

LE: Now, Stephen King has been very future-leaning on eBooks. In fact he helped you launch the Kindle 2. I was disappointed, because his upcoming book, Joyland, is coming out in print only, and he was quoted in the press release saying, “folks who want to read it will have to buy the actual book.” Any idea what happened there?

JB: No, I don’t know what that’s about. I can tell you one thing, though. If you’re Stephen King, you can do what you want. (Laughs.) As you pointed out, he’s been a great friend of Kindle. He wrote some exclusive content for us and came to one of our press conferences, and he’s a very good guy.

LE: Compared with the Kindle Fire and the Kindle apps, the E Ink Kindles still maintain their role as kind of the Cadillac of purpose-built reading devices.  There are things you can do on the E Ink Kindles that you can’t do on the Fire. Do you think the appeal of purpose-driven eReaders is likely to diminish as the all-purpose devices get better and better at reading?

JB: No. I think that for serious readers, there will always be a place for a purpose-built reading device, because I think you’ll be able to build a device which is lighter, which matters a lot to people, has better readability if what you’re doing is reading text. You know, as soon as you have to make a device do a bunch of things, it becomes suboptimal for doing the one thing. And so while I think the tablet, LCD devices like Kindle Fire will continue to get better and better and better, I think that purpose-built reading devices, like our electronic ink Kindle will also continue to get better and better and better.

Can you go hiking in tennis shoes? Yes, but if you’re a real hiker you might want hiking boots. And so both things, I think, will continue to coexist.

LE: You’ve said your passions choose you and not the other way around. Can you trace back the passion that led to the creation of the Kindle in your life?

JB:  Well, I have been a lifelong reader. My wife is an author. We started Amazon with books. We are missionaries. All of our products here at Amazon, products and services, are built by missionaries. And I call it missionaries versus mercenaries. Missionaries build better products, because they’re not doing it just for the business results. They’re doing it because the love the product or they love the service.
And it turns out Kindle is a really easy product to attract missionaries, because a lot of people care about reading. A lot of people care about inventing the future of reading. And so it’s super-easy for me personally and for our whole team to be passionate missionaries about Kindle.

LE: Because of that love of reading.

JB: Yeah, absolutely! I think it’s the love of reading personally and it’s also that we on the Kindle team take it as an article of faith that reading is important for civilization. So we feel this powerful mission, and it’s exciting.

LE: Your mission is every book ever published in every language, available in 60 seconds anywhere in the world. How would the world be a better place if you achieve that?

JB: First and foremost, I would take it as an article of faith. I think if people read more, that is a better world. So I would posit that as an article of faith.

But, you know, we humans, we co-evolve with our tools. We change our tools, and then our tools change us. And if you look at the digital era, almost every kind of media as it’s gotten digitized, more people have been able to access it. And most of what has happened with the digitization of text has been on short-form, so it’s things like blog posts. It’s short articles, short newspaper articles and so on.

And really, until Kindle, nothing in the digital era really made it easier to read long-form. People didn’t want to read long-form on their laptop. We tried that actually. We offered eBooks to people to buy as PDFs and other ways. You needed an electron microscope to find sales. Nobody wanted that.

In that sense that we’re co-evolving with our tools, one of the things that Kindle does is make it easier for people to read long-form. I personally believe that that also means that people will have longer attention spans. You know, one of the reasons that people sense that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, a lot of it is because a lot of the digital media are shrinking the scale of the media. So YouTube videos are eight minutes long, and blog posts are two paragraphs long. So it’s not surprising. If that’s what you consume all day, that’s what your brain gets accustomed to consuming. And Kindle helps to push in the other direction.

LE: Which has got to be a good thing just for understanding and knowledge.

JB: That’s exactly what I think.

LE: Last question. When you spoke to the graduates at Princeton, you asked what convictions would enable them not to wilt under criticism. That interested me, and it made me think of your willingness to be misunderstood within the publishing industry. What conviction, personally for you, do you hold onto to avoid wilting under the criticism that comes your way, specifically in the publishing arena?

JB: What I hold onto and what I tell our folks here at Amazon is, if you’re going to invent, if you’re going to do anything at all in a new way there are going to be people who sincerely misunderstand, and there are going to be also self-interested critics who have a reason to misunderstand. You’ll get both types.

But if you can’t weather that misunderstanding for long periods of time, then you just have to hang up your hat as an inventor. It’s part and parcel with invention. Invention is by its very nature disruptive. And if you want to be understood, if it’s so important for you to be understood at all times, then don’t do anything new.

lenKindle Nation Weekender columnist and contributing editor Len Edgerly blogs at The Kindle Chronicles where you can hear his interview with Jeff Bezos in its entirety at 11:45 of this week’s Kindle Chronicles episode 208.  

Amazon Releases Quarterly Financials and Stays the Course: Sacrificing Short-Term Profits in Its Successful Pursuit of Increased Market Share and Astonishing Sales Growth

Amazon.com (AMZN) announced second-quarter financial results today, with net sales increasing 29% to $12.83 billion, compared with $9.91 billion in second quarter 2011. Nothing surprising there, as the company has been on an astonishing tear of sustained sales growth for several years.

The big surprise for many was that, in a strong sign that investors are finally beginning to understand what the company is all about, the stock market did not react negatively to the company’s news that its net operating profit fell 96% to $7 million, from $201 million in the year-ago quarter. Amazon also said it expects to lose money in the third quarter or 2012.

It was not long ago that such a financial report would have sent Amazon’s share price plummeting, even if only for a few hours. As of 7 pm EST today, Amazon shares had risen over $2 to $222.40 in after-hours trading, after closing the regular session up $2.96 to $220.01.

For the last couple of years especially, Amazon has been shaving product prices wherever possible in order to build its customer base and market share, while plowing large investments into product fulfillment centers, physical and virtual distribution channels, and manufacturing infrastructure for its various Kindle and Kindle Fire units.

We’ve been saying here at KND for well over a year that Amazon is positioning itself to capture something very close to an unprecedented 50% retail market share across all formats in the U.S. book trades by the end of 2013. In addition to whatever it is accomplishing across its remarkable and relentlessly expanding array of other product lines, we suspect that that kind of market share will have far more lasting benefits for Amazon and its investors than a few million here and there in 2012 quarterly profits.

Attaining that kind of market share will also mean continued and increasing scrutiny of Amazon by the same folks at the Justice Department who currently have their sights trained on Apple and the agency model publishers. Ironically, it’s the combination of that scrutiny and Amazon’s own corporate commitment to innovation, efficiency and its big-tent, customer-experience business model that provides some basis for optimism that its growing market dominance will actually continue to have positive effects for readers, authors, and consumers.

Here are the guts of Amazon’s press release this afternoon:

Amazon.com Announces Second Quarter Sales up 29% to $12.83 Billion

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jul. 26, 2012– Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) today announced financial results for its second quarter ended June 30, 2012.

Operating cash flow was $3.22 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $3.21 billion for the trailing twelve months ended June 30, 2011. Free cash flow decreased 40% to $1.10 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $1.83 billion for the trailing twelve months ended June 30, 2011.

Common shares outstanding plus shares underlying stock-based awards totaled 468 million on June 30, 2012, consistent with 468 million one year ago.

Net sales increased 29% to $12.83 billion in the second quarter, compared with $9.91 billion in second quarter 2011. Excluding the $272 million unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, net sales would have grown 32% compared with second quarter 2011.

Operating income was $107 million in the second quarter, compared with $201 million in second quarter 2011. The unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter on operating income was $8 million.

Net income decreased 96% to $7 million in the second quarter, or $0.01 per diluted share, compared with net income of $191 million, or $0.41 per diluted share, in second quarter 2011. The second quarter 2012 includes $65 million of estimated net loss related to the acquisition and integration of Kiva Systems, Inc.

“Amazon Prime is now the best bargain in the history of shopping – that is not hyperbole,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com. “We successfully launched Prime seven years ago with free unlimited two-day shipping on one million items. The price of annual membership was $79. Since then, Prime selection has grown to 15 million items. We’ve also added 18,000 movies and TV episodes available for unlimited streaming. And we’ve added the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – borrow 170,000 books for free with no due dates – it even includes all seven Harry Potter books. What hasn’t changed since we launched Prime? The price. It’s still $79. We’re very grateful to our Prime members, and thank them whole-heartedly for the business and for the word-of-mouth that has made this program grow.”

Highlights

  • Kindle Fire remains the #1 bestselling product across the millions of items available on Amazon.com since launch. Over this same period, the top 10 selling items on Amazon.com were digital products – Kindle, Kindle books, and accessories.
  • Kindle Owners’ Lending Library has grown to over 170,000 books available to borrow for free as frequently as a book a month, including many titles exclusive to Amazon. Additionally, customers can now borrow all seven Harry Potter books in English, French, Italian, German and Spanish.
  • During the quarter, 20 of our top 100 bestselling Kindle titles were from Kindle Direct Publishing authors.
  • Amazon expanded its catalog of title offerings for Prime Instant Video to more than 18,000 movies and TV episodes, announcing licensing agreements with Paramount Pictures and MGM, for titles including Braveheart, Forrest Gump, Mean Girls, Nacho Libre, Clueless, Moonstruck, Rain Man, Silence of the Lambs, Species, Stargate and many more.
  • Amazon.com announced that Prime Instant Video is now available on the Xbox 360 console. Customers can now access Amazon video content through Kindle Fire, PlayStation 3, Mac or PC, or on a TV using either a compatible connected device such as a Blu-ray player or a Roku or directly on compatible Smart TVs.
  • Amazon’s LOVEFiLM, the leading European film and TV subscription service, announced new multi-year agreements with Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution and NBCUniversal International Television Distribution, providing LOVEFiLM members in the U.K. exclusive streaming access to movies and TV series from the studios, including Despicable Me, Green Zone, and Robin Hood. The agreements are the latest in a long line of exclusive content deals announced by LOVEFiLM, including agreements with Disney, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros., Entertainment One and STUDIOCANAL.
  • North America segment sales, representing the Company’s U.S. and Canadian sites, were $7.33 billion, up 36% from second quarter 2011.
  • International segment sales, representing the Company’s U.K., German, Japanese, French, Chinese, Italian and Spanish sites, were $5.51 billion, up 22% from second quarter 2011. Excluding the unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, sales grew 28%.
  • Worldwide Media sales grew 13% to $4.12 billion. Excluding the unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, sales grew 15%.
  • Worldwide Electronics and Other General Merchandise sales grew 38% to $8.16 billion. Excluding the unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates throughout the quarter, sales grew 42%.
  • Amazon.com announced that developers can now submit mobile apps for distribution through our upcoming appstore launches this summer on the Company’s U.K., German, French, Italian and Spanish sites. In just over one year, the Amazon Appstore on www.amazon.com has grown to tens of thousands of apps and games. For additional information, visit https://developer.amazon.com/welcome.html.
  • Amazon.com introduced “GameCircle,” an all-new gaming experience for Kindle Fire, and released a series of APIs for developers to add this new experience to their games. GameCircle offers gaming customers a series of features such as achievements, leaderboards, and sync that make gaming even more fun, convenient and social on Kindle Fire. The newly-released GameCircle APIs will help game developers quickly and easily integrate their games with GameCircle, allowing them to grow their business by reaching new customers and keeping them engaged. For additional information, visit http://amazon.com/gamecircle.
  • AWS relaunched AWS Support with the expansion of free support for all AWS customers, a reduction in pricing on premium support plans and adding multiple new features to help customers better interact with and improve their use of AWS, including chat functionality and proactive alerts when opportunities exist to save money, improve system performance, or close security gaps. The price reduction marked the 20th time AWS has lowered prices since its launch in 2006. For additional information, visit http://aws.amazon.com/premiumsupport.
  • Amazon announced the Amazon Career Choice Program, providing employees with a resource for building the job skills needed for today’s most in-demand and well-paying careers. For employees who’ve been with Amazon as little as three years, the program will pre-pay 95% of the cost of courses such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and many other fields.

Financial Guidance

The following forward-looking statements reflect Amazon.com’s expectations as of July 26, 2012. Our results are inherently unpredictable and may be materially affected by many factors, such as fluctuations in foreign exchange rates, changes in global economic conditions and consumer spending, world events, the rate of growth of the Internet and online commerce and the various factors detailed below.

Third Quarter 2012 Guidance

  • Net sales are expected to be between $12.9 billion and $14.3 billion, or to grow between 19% and 31% compared with third quarter 2011.
  • Operating income (loss) is expected to be between $(350) million and $(50) million, down from $79 million in the comparable prior year period.
  • This guidance includes approximately $275 million for stock-based compensation and amortization of intangible assets, and it assumes, among other things, that no additional business acquisitions, investments, or legal settlements are concluded and that there are no further revisions to stock-based compensation estimates.

A conference call will be webcast live today at 2 p.m. PT/5 p.m. ET, and will be available for at least three months at www.amazon.com/ir. This call will contain forward-looking statements and other material information regarding the Company’s financial and operating results.

These forward-looking statements are inherently difficult to predict. Actual results could differ materially for a variety of reasons, including, in addition to the factors discussed above, the amount that Amazon.com invests in new business opportunities and the timing of those investments, the mix of products sold to customers, the mix of net sales derived from products as compared with services, the extent to which we owe income taxes, competition, management of growth, potential fluctuations in operating results, international growth and expansion, the outcomes of legal proceedings and claims, fulfillment center optimization, risks of inventory management, seasonality, the degree to which the Company enters into, maintains and develops commercial agreements, acquisitions and strategic transactions, and risks of fulfillment throughput and productivity. Other risks and uncertainties include, among others, risks related to new products, services and technologies, system interruptions, government regulation and taxation, payments and fraud. In addition, the current global economic climate amplifies many of these risks. More information about factors that potentially could affect Amazon.com’s financial results is included in Amazon.com’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), including its most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and subsequent filings.

Our investor relations website is www.amazon.com/ir and we encourage investors to use it as a way of easily finding information about us. We promptly make available on this website, free of charge, the reports that we file or furnish with the SEC, corporate governance information (including our Code of Business Conduct and Ethics), and select press releases and social media postings.

Amazon Pushes Back Positively on Labor Issues with Innovative New Education Initiative, Paying 95% of Tuition Costs for Employees

Jeff Bezos is no Joe Hill, and his company — along with Apple, Walmart and others — has come under increasingly frequent criticism from labor activists and progressives for being unfriendly to union organizing and, according to some, a tough place to work. Parsing such matters can be a delicate balance for progressives; as we wrote here in April:

While the company certainly has its detractors among competitors, some publishers, some authors, and progressives who decry the company’s labor practices, it is nonetheless an enormously popular company. So progressives like me might wring our hands over the conditions faced by Amazon’s warehouse workers, but at the end of the day Amazon has more progressive titles and more progressive customers than any other bookstore….

Other predictable consequences of Amazon’s dominance not only in the ebook sphere but beyond could create problems for the company if it does not make forward-looking changes in the way it does business. The company is seen by many as a tax-avoiding bogeyman that is destroying not only publishers and wholesalers but independent bookstores in particular and Main Street in general, and while there are major economic forces at work here that would probably lead to the same conclusion without Amazon at the head of march, Amazon has to realize that it should do everything possible to avoid being seen as the online version of Walmart. And while Amazon has escaped much of the kind of negative attention that has surrounded Apple and its FoxConn manufacturing plant in China, there is an emerging campaign among labor activists and progressive journalists to focus a spotlight on poor conditions in Amazon fulfillment centers. As with all of these concerns, there are real issues at play, and Amazon’s best moves would be substantive rather than media-driven.

Our point, of course, was that a company in Amazon’s position might well be too powerful for any among us to force it into what we might consider best labor practices, but Amazon — even if more out of a sense of realpolitik than noblesse oblige or progressive principles — would do best to play a positive, innovative leadership role both in addressing its tax responsibilities as a corporate citizen and in making every nook and cranny of its corporate empire (including any out-of-the-way spots where contract, 1099, or third-party employees might toil) “best in class” as places to work, to prosper, and to grow.

So we don’t want to congratulate a marathoner gratuitously for a strong first mile, but all in all, we see Amazon’s press release this afternoon as a promising step, and we will keep watching.

Amazon Launches Innovative New Education Initiative, Paying 95% of Tuition Costs for Employees to Pursue Their Aspirations – Whether at Amazon, or in Another Industry

SEATTLE–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Jul. 23, 2012– Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced the Amazon Career Choice Program, an innovative new program designed to expand the choices available to its employees in their future careers, whether at Amazon or in another industry. Many fulfillment center employees will choose to build their careers at Amazon. For others, a job at Amazon might be a step towards a career in another field. Amazon wants to make it easier for employees to make that choice and pursue their aspirations.

Jeff Bezos – Photo Credit: James Duncan Davidson

“At Amazon, we like to pioneer, we like to invent, and we’re not willing to do things the normal way if we can figure out a better way,” said Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon.com, in a letter posted on the front page of Amazon. “It can be difficult in this economy to have the flexibility and financial resources to teach yourself new skills. So, for people who’ve been with us as little as three years, we’re offering to pre-pay 95% of the cost of courses such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and many other fields.”

The program is unusual because unlike traditional tuition reimbursement programs, Amazon will exclusively fund education only in areas that are well-paying and in high demand according to sources like the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the company will fund those areas regardless of whether those skills are relevant to a career at Amazon.

“I welcome Amazon’s innovative initiative, which offers a new and exciting way for corporate support of employee education,” said Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire. “I hope that other companies follow Amazon’s lead and I thank them for a creative new approach.”

The Amazon Career Choice Program builds on a series of innovations at Amazon’s fulfillment centers. Amazon’s high productivity allows the company to pay its fulfillment center employees 30% more than traditional physical retail store employees while still offering customers the lowest prices. Amazon’s work on safety practices has been so effective that it’s statistically safer to work in an Amazon fulfillment center than in a traditional department store.

Amazon’s bias for reinvention extends into recruiting programs across its fulfillment network. Amazon’s seasonal recruiting program CamperForce – where RVers combine work with camping – has been very successful and hundreds of campers return every year. Amazon’s military veteran recruiting program effectively helps vets transition into the civilian workforce. Amazon was recently named the #1 Top Military Friendly Employer by G.I. Jobs Magazine.

To learn more about the Amazon Career Choice Program, please visit www.amazon.com/careerchoice.