Monday, May 27, 2013

Amazon still working on 1-day Grocery deliveries. TV pilots chosen by Amazon. Big Library Read pilot program. Fed'l Judge's preliminary view on DOJ vs Apple, trial June3. Apple's extreme but legal tax avoidance.

Amazon apparently still working on the 1-day grocery delivery program

Geekwire's Todd Bishop report that at the annual meeting of shareholders, Jeff Bezos assured shareholders that "They have made progress on the economics over the last year" and are "making good progress" in this area.

  Bishop writes that there have been a series of clues - most recently the report that Amazon has been installing refrigeration systems at more of its distribution centers across the nation, presumably to support a wider grocery rollout.

  I wonder about the demand for that.  I have Safeway delivery available but used it just twice, preferring to pick out items, lazy as I am.

Catching up on some news
Amazon's TV pilots program
Verge's Chris Welch reports that for Amazon's pilot TV programs tested with Amazon customer reviewers, their final picks included "Alpha House (starring John Goodman) and Betas (centered around a Silicon Valley startup)," the latter "easily our favorite."

  Zombieland won't be among those to be greenlit.   What was interesting was the reaction by Writer/producer Rhett Reese who went on Twitter (@RhettReese) to tweet,

  "I'll never understand the vehement hate the pilot received from die-hard Zombieland fans. You guys successfully hated it out of existence."

  Browsers is another one that didn't make the cut.

Have you heard of Big Library Read?
It's almost over, but Overdrive explains it this way:
' Big Library Read is a pilot program in which libraries worldwide offer a single eBook to their patrons. In addition to creating a global “library book club,” Big Library Read is designed to demonstrate the positive exposure and sales influence library eBook catalogs provide to authors and publishers. It will spotlight one title for a set time period for library patrons around the world to read simultaneously. The program is sponsored by OverDrive, with initial support and participation from Sourcebooks, Inc., a leading US independent publisher. '
  The first one is by Michael Malone and is available on OverDrive Read, Kindle (US only), EPub, and PDF.

  Library partners were invited to participate in the pilot program beginning May 15 - June 1, 2013 and, according to a column by Wright Stat U's libraries, 7,500 libraries around the world were participating on opening day.
  They say their "Lending Model" is "Simultaneous Use for May 15–June 1, 2013 and then one copy/one user following the pilot program" and for the pilot period, "the eBook will be simultaneously available for any and all readers with a library card to browse, sample, and borrow."

  You can read more about how it works at Overdrive's page.  This is a late report I'm adding but there are a (very) few more days, for anyone interested, to try it.  And look toward the next one.

US DOJ lawsuit against Apple (Big 5 Publishers settled) doesn't look promising for Apple
Reader Edward Boyhan alerted us to a Reuters report that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, the federal judge who is set to oversee the trial beginning June 3, gave her tentative, preliminary view on the case during a pretrial hearing Thursday but 'stressed that the view was not final and that she had only so far read some of the evidence,' per Reuters' writeup.  A quote:
' I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that '
An Apple's attorney said, "We strongly disagree with the court's preliminary statements about the case today."

  I imagine Apple will use its plentiful funds to appeal, to the highest court who will hear it, any adverse ebook-pricing lawsuit judgment, since Apple has apparently gone to amazing lengths to avoid what many consider its fair share of U.S. taxes to support what is available in this country to companies and individuals.

  "The Corrosive Effect of Apple's "Tax Avoidance" -
  That's the headline for The New York Times's article by Floyd Norris on May 23, adding another loud voice to reactions country-wide.  His commentary is on the fact that corporations can now choose how much tax they will pay (which loopholes to use), an accepted strategy.
' The news was that Apple had found a way to move a large part of its income to subsidiaries that claimed to not exist anywhere, at least when it came to paying taxes.

Carl Levin, the Michigan Democrat who heads the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, had good reason to call that the holy grail of tax avoidance.

Senator Levin, and the ranking Republican on the subcommittee, John McCain, tried to make the point, again and again, about how unfair the current system is to domestic companies, which cannot hide profits overseas, and to ordinary taxpayers, whose income is derived from salaries and investments that are automatically reported to the Internal Revenue Service. '
  You can read a lot more at the NY Times article

  Boston Herald's Marie Szaniszio reports on the assertion by Citizens for Tax Justice's that in shipping "$102 billion in profits offshore into non-existent companies in Ireland," Apple has avoided paying $35 billion in taxes.

 We understand the use of loopholes -- but using "non-existent companies" in another country to avoid paying taxes to your home country that provides the opportunity to make that income?  The main problems are in the tax code and the reality that most individuals cannot access these benefits and as a result will wind up paying more of the taxes lost to those loopholes.

  The Guardian writes that "Apple chief executive Tim Cook warned Congress that he would refuse to repatriate a total of $100bn stashed offshore unless it acted to slash the 35% US rate." The report added that
' Cook's testimony to a Senate sub-committee investigating multinational tax practices largely confirmed its findings that Apple had taken tax avoidance to a new extreme by structuring these companies so they did not incur tax liabilities anywhere. '
  There are over 800 comments to the article.

If interested, see more available stories and general reaction.

Current Kindle Models, worldwide for reference, plus free-ebook search links.
Updated Kindle Fire 2 Basic  7" tablet - $159
Kindle Fire HD 7" 16/32GB - $199/$229
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 16/32GB - $269/$299
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" 4G 32/64GB - $399/$499
Kindle NoTouch ("Kindle") - $69/$89
Kindle Touch WiFi - $99
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi - $119/$139
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi+3G - $179/$199
Kindle Keybd 3G - $139/$159, Free slow web
Kindle DX - $379 $299 Discontinued
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - £69
Kindle Touch WiFi , UK - ~£89 Refurb'd
Kindle Keyboard 3G, UK - £149
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi
Kindle Paperwhite 3G, UK
Kindle Fire 2, UK
Kindle Fire HD 7" 16/32GB, UK
Canada - Kindlestore, CDN-$
Kindle Basic, NoTouch - $79
Kindle Paperwhite, WiFi - $129
Kindle Paperwhite, 3G - $199
Kindle Fire HD 7" - 214.00
Kindle Fire HD 8.9" - 284.00

*OTHER Int'l pages*
Kindle NoTouch Basic - $89
Kindle Keybd 3G - $189
  Keybd: w/ Free, slow 3G WEB
Paperwhite WiFi $139, 3G/Wifi $199
KFire HD - 7" $214,  8.9" $284

France Boutique Kindle
Deutschland - Kindle Store
Italia - Kindle Store
Spain - Tienda Kindle
Brazil - Amazon Brazil
China - Amazon China [?]
Japan - Amazon Japan

Check often: Temporarily-free recently published Kindle books
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.  Liked-books under $1
UK-Only: recently published free books, bestsellers, or £5 Max ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers.

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  1. I find I’m reading your blog less and less; I just wanted to let you know that. The reason: I don’t know if it’s intentional, or maybe it’s just me, but I get a very anti-Apple tone from much of what you write. Just to give you a reference point: I have two iPads and an iPhone. I also have a Kindle 1, two Kindle 2s, a Kindle Fire, and a Kindle Fire HD. I do have a Mac Mini but I also have an HP desktop and an HP laptop both running Windows 7, and two other PCs, one running CentOS Linux and the other running Oracle Solaris 10 Unix. And I have Kindle Reader Software everywhere I can.

    I’ve had Amazon Prime since they started it. I buy lots of stuff from Amazon – probably too much stuff. I would like to say that I have purchased most of my digital books from Amazon but I haven’t. Most of the digital books I have purchased are technical computer books where I have actually purchased the physical book first (from Amazon) and then I have purchased the ebook from the publisher (O’Reilly media). The reason being that it’s simply cheaper: Frequently I can get the physical and digital versions of the same book for not much more than the digital version alone. O’Reilly only charges $4.99 for the ebook of O’Reilly and Microsoft Press books when you have first purchased the physical book. Also, O’Reilly supports all the major ebook readers and doesn’t use DRM. I’m not bashing Amazon, it’s just what works for me. But I will say that all the fiction ebooks I have purchased have come from Amazon. I have never purchased an ebook from iTunes.

    Music: For years now, all the music I listen to has come from Amazon. For years I have bought CDs only from – except for the ones I got from I get the CDs and rip them myself to digital files to place on my devices. I thought it was terrific when Amazon went the route of letting me get the digital files direct from them for the CDs I have purchased. Again, I have never purchased a single song from iTunes.

    Movies: DVDs and BluRay disks – all from (except for the ones I have from and a few from I used to get some from CostCo, but Amazon usually beats even them on price. I have some free videos from iTunes, but I haven’t purchased anything there.

    I point all this out to let you know, I’m not some Apple “Fan Boy” that’s going to say everything they do is fantastic. But I do not think Apple must fail in order for Amazon to succeed. I also don’t think Amazon must fail in order for Apple to succeed. I think Amazon is great, I think the same of Apple.

  2. However, there are a lot of legitimate complaints that I think you can throw at Apple. The whole ebook price fixing thing is one. I’m not a judge or a lawyer, but it really does seem to me that they conspired with the book publishers to fix and artificially inflate the price of ebooks. That was wrong. However, I doubt anyone will see any refunds. These sorts of cases always seem to end with the defendants agreeing to stop and not do it again and that’s about all. Look at the settlements the DoJ made with the publishers – that’s about it. I really don’t understand Apple spending so much money defending this suit. They will likely loose but the penalties will be minimal – why bother. To be honest, I blame the publishers in this; they’re being just like the music and movie industries. Technology has changed the world and how their market works but instead of changing their business model to continue to thrive, they grasp at any method they can to squeeze every consumer dime they can out of their no longer functional business approach.

    Another legitimate complaint against Apple is repairability. Go check out They gave the iPad 4 only a 2 out of 10 on repairability. The Kindle Fire HD got a 7 out of 10. The original Kindle Fire got an 8 out of 10. The Microsoft Surface Pro only got a 1 out of 10. Of course, I recognize that as devices become smaller and more complex the repairability frequently becomes more difficult as manufacturers try to reduce the cost of manufacturing. But still…

    Okay, so what’s my complaint here: Your comments about the latest Congressional dog and pony show where our elected representatives try to convince us they are doing their jobs for us when, in fact, they are only… putting on a dog and pony show. Okay, I’ll admit that sounds a little biased against the members of Congress. It is. And to be honest and fair to you, you’re only repeating the half-truths and out-right falsehoods published elsewhere, but it sort of seems to me that, maybe, if it were someone else other than Apple getting bashed, you might do a little more research.

    Your comment “most individuals cannot access these benefits” simply isn’t true. If you are in the same situation, yes you can, quite easily actually. See, it works like this – you do not have to pay US Federal income tax on money you earn outside of the United States. I work for a company that happens to send a lot of Tech-Reps around the world. The salary they earn, from a US company, while working abroad isn’t subject to US Federal Income Tax. It’s just that simple. That’s the way the US Tax law is written.

    Apple contracts with foreign companies to manufacturer most of their devices outside the United States. Those devices are then sold by non-US subsidiaries in foreign markets. The profits from those sales are not subject to US Federal Corporate taxes. That’s the way the law works. And guess what, Amazon does the same thing with the Kindle. Amazon manufactures Kindles off-shore (the back of my Kindle Fire HD says assembled in China) and sells them off-shore, and Amazon doesn’t pay taxes on those profits.

    And any sort of comments about Apple “shipping profits offshore” is just plain wrong – the profits were never on-shore to begin with.

  3. Look, if you want to complain about this subject fine. Personally I think you should put the blame where it belongs, with our elected representatives, the ones who created the tax laws in the first place. But if you’re going to chastise Apple for simply following the law in the manner that limits their tax burden to simply what they legally owe, you should be honest and chastise all the other companies that are doing the exact same thing – like Amazon.

    But this is simply what I perceive is the latest in your bias against Apple. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe you write your blog on an iMac while sipping tea from a cup with an Apple logo on it. I don’t know. But it just seems to me that when talking about Apple and their products you come across as a little anti-Apple, with a little Apple is evil, Apple must fail thrown in.

    Sorry, that’s the way I see it.

    1. Anonymous (not even a nickname?)
      Thanks for all the thought you put into the three sections posted even if you choose not to sign the note for some reason.

      I mainly pass on news normally of interest to people looking for ereaders and tablets, and Apple is very much in there.
      That info is just out there and I also gave a generic Google Search-results link on what ALL their member newspapers are saying on the topic so readers can see this from various angles if interested.

      And I did blame the tax code (and erased, as non-material to the post, the portion that blamed the effect of lobbyists for large monied interests that put pressure on Congress with reps and senators who themselves want to stay 'in power' when corporations have lobbyists can promise future non-support for their re-election.

      I also headlined that what Apple is doing is legal. But I also quoted the articles on a sea change in our atmosphere when a large corporation can dictate to Congress what the tax code SHOULD be before they move any of the $105 billion of profits back to the country which makes it possible for them to make that money.

      Amazon is doing something similar with the UK but not to its home country which allows them the wherewithal to build their company. With regard to the State taxes here, Amazon has supported a standard national state tax law all along, and individual state laws go against a Supreme Court ruling.
      I wrote a long entry on this back in July 2012, at AmznTaxes article and then updated that info with what has been going on in 2013.

      The 'very' anti-Apple tone is in the articles that are mainstream - I didn't include the less-mainstream papers that point out Apple keeps that $105 billion elsewhere, saying they won't put it in the U.S. and make it taxable unless the tax code is changed to suit them WHILE complaining about the lower quality of school education here.

      Since you find it hard to read my Apple news, then you probably don't have a great time with all the ongoing newspaper articles, many now from Apple blogs. It started with a competitive method of using lawsuits to ban Samsung products (they win in the U.S. but tend to lose outside the U.S.) and the e-pricing thing was pretty awful and you will have seen how that's viewed in the court documents. Few knew how damaging Apple's own email communications were.

      Re what you use, I use Windows at home and Macs for the last 6 years of office work but bought a 60GB iPod and love it. I use a Samsung phone and 10" tablet in addition to Kindle devices + a Dell laptop in addition to a slower but great 10" Samsung laptop.
      My main mail is on a Unix server and I handle it there but back it up on my desktop and in GMail. I know what you mean re the technical books. I love going to the library online and using Safari Online access offered us for free -- wrote an article on how great that is. I still buy a lot of physical books too.
      I used a Nookcolor for a year, daily, but now use it only for one magazine.

      Re ebook pricing wars, a recent email shows Apple invited publishers to do a new higher standard of pricing along with them, so the 'blame' would be at -least- shared. Otherwise, I agree with you on the larger publishers, who are mainly trying to survive as a powerful force, keeping a traditional mode of payments and receipts, and worried about loss of control in their own field.

      I like that you try to keep an open mind.
      But if you find the blog irritating and maybe unfair to Apple, then it's natural that you would read it less and less.
      You shouldn't see my posts as "Apple must fail in order for Amazon to succeed" but as relaying some real-world facts that may upset those who prize Apple's products and design capabilities and don't like to read news about its perceived less-quality aspects.

      Thanks for communicating though. That took time, thought and is appreciated.


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