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Read all about it: News you can wear
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Aug 10, 2014


Over 900 authors join effort to press Amazon on Hachette
New York (AFP) Aug 08, 2014 - More than 900 authors have signed a letter urging US online giant Amazon to end its simmering dispute with publishing group Hachette over book pricing.

The open letter circulated by bestselling author Douglas Preston that blames Amazon for the standoff is also due to appear in a full-page ad in Sunday's New York Times.

The authors said they were "not taking sides" in a contract dispute but that Amazon should not take actions that hurt authors, such as boycotting Hachette authors, slowing delivery or refraining from discounts.

"We call on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without further hurting authors and without blocking or otherwise delaying the sale of books to its customers," said the letter, circulating since July.

Among those signing are top-name authors John Grisham, Stephen King, David Baldacci, Michael Chabon, Suzanne Collins, Michael Lewis, Jeffery Deaver, Anna Quindlen, Nora Roberts and Scott Turow.

Amazon has drawn fire for its tactics, such as discouraging customers from buying books by Hachette authors and suggesting that readers might enjoy a book from another writer instead.

Amazon last month attempted to shift the blame to Hachette, saying the publisher is opposing lower e-book prices.

Amazon said its proposal to Hachette is to give 35 percent of e-book revenue to authors, another 35 percent to the publisher and the keep the remaining 30 percent as its share.

"The way this would actually work is that we would send 70 percent of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author," Amazon said in a blog post.

"We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call."

Amazon has maintained that it is seeking to push prices lower for consumers, and that the standoff with Hachette affects only a small percentage of sales.

Amazon has a reputation for negotiating hard to push down prices for the goods it sells online.

Hachette Book Group is a subsidiary of French company Lagardere.

Even if you don't open a newspaper, turn on a television, log on to a computer or pull out a smartphone, you can get news -- from wearable technology.

As wearables gain traction, news purveyors are eyeing these devices for their potential to deliver headlines and more to people who want to stay up to date.

Some news apps already have the capacity to deliver news notifications, or full articles, to smartwatches or eyewear such as Google Glass.

"We are going full speed on smartwatches," said Gilles Raymond, the San Francisco-based chief executive of News Republic, a mobile app that delivers news to mobile devices from hundreds of outlets.

Raymond told AFP he expects people will find it useful to get not only headlines but full articles on a smartwatch as the wearable trend revs up.

"When the iPhone came out, people were saying that not one would read news on a phone. Now nobody is saying that," said Raymond.

"People will read articles on a watch. They may not read 300 articles, but people adapt quickly to technology."

Raymond founded News Republic in France and has expanded to other European markets as well as North America and China, aggregating news from hundreds of outlets, including AFP, Al-Jazeera, Reuters and The Associated Press.

Roman Karachinsky, CEO of the news aggregation app News360, also sees a future for wearables, but mainly for quick notifications they might not otherwise see.

"We want to change the formula from one where you go and seek information out to a world where information finds you when it's relevant and useful," Karachinsky said.

He said the newly introduced Android Wear platform for Google allows for News360 alerts to be sent to some smartwatches, and to Google Glass.

These alerts fulfill a need of getting information out quickly -- whether it is a sports score, stock market action or breaking news -- in an unobtrusive way.

"Instead of digging around your pocket for your smartphone, now you can just look at your wrist or glance up to your Google Glass," said Karachinsky. "It's a very transformative experience."

- 'Glanceability' -

It remains unclear at the moment how fast wearable technologies will catch on, and how people will use the devices.

While News Republic's Raymond sees a demand for full articles, he differs from News360 on Google Glass.

But he said smartwatches may gain more traction when they become independent of smartphones, allowing people to shed their phones for some of the time.

Roger Kay, analyst at Endpoint Technologies Associates, said news on smartwatches and Google Glass will probably be limited to short items that can be absorbed in a glance.

"The glanceability of it is important," Kay said.

"I don't imagine people squinting at their watches to read articles; they have enough trouble reading on their phones."

Still, Kay noted that "a well-written headline can encapsulate an entire story."

For news organizations struggling with the transition to digital, wearables may offer some help, analysts say.

Ken Doctor of the media research firm Outsell said news organizations may be able to bring in more readers with alerts tailored to their interests, by delivering through wearables.

Doctor said that major news organizations are now delivering millions of email alerts on important news for readers who register, and that this drives more traffic to the websites. The same could be true for alerts on wearables.

"The news alerts business, which has been around for 20 years, is having a huge revival," he said. "This is a technique that works because of mobile and smartphones."

Important in this effort is getting readers to register, to be able to determine the news they want to see -- essentially tracking their habits using the same techniques as retailers like Amazon or services such as Netflix.

"People are expecting alerts for news that is important to them," Doctor said.

"And I would think the ability of wearables to deliver alerts is very good and that it could spur news reading."

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