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Old 10-25-2015, 02:00 PM   #1
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Amazon's vertical integration/monopoly

[Split off from http://www.mobileread.com/forums/showthread.php?p=3194110#post3194110 -- moderator]

To be honest - this was my presumption as well. I dont know which discussions are going on in the background - take your time, figure it out. Hopefully.

You all missed another important discussion here already - perhaps, because you are looking so intently at the "service" part - when you are discussing what this community provides -

That amazon now controls

- the format (proprietary nature of kfx (format))
- the distribution (only Amazon can distribute kfx)
and
- production (only Amazon can produce kfx)

really warrants a discussion, that did not take place in here at all. In Germany we have media science professors at the largest political/industry/media summits of the year talking about the new concept of "the industrialisation of distribution formats" - where all cultural aspects are stripped away from what we in the past called media (in this case an eBook).

This hasnt been the topic of discussion on the international level at all.

This is me saying - think about the issues, take your time - but eventually, be productive - because, our societies need this group of people.

Last edited by eschwartz; 10-27-2015 at 09:59 AM.
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Old 10-26-2015, 10:28 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
Also, as this possibly is a first vector into understanding Amazons new proprietary file format - there even is heightened interest from a societal perspective.
Hadn't thought of that. One poster on the thread dedicated to the KFX format has suggested that the format will only be cracked via reverse-engineering the Kindle reader software. So this development is a double effect, and may lead to the cracking of the format. This may ultimately be the crack's greatest consequence.

Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
You all missed another important discussion here already - perhaps, because you are looking so intently at the "service" part - when you are discussing what this community provides -

That amazon now controls

- the format (proprietary nature of kfx (format))
- the distribution (only Amazon can distribute kfx)
and
- production (only Amazon can produce kfx)

really warrants a discussion, that did not take place in here at all. In Germany we have media science professors at the largest political/industry/media summits of the year talking about the new concept of "the industrialisation of distribution formats" - where all cultural aspects are stripped away from what we in the past called media (in this case an eBook).

This hasnt been the topic of discussion on the international level at all.

This is me saying - think about the issues, take your time - but eventually, be productive - because, our societies need this group of people.
And yes, it is a discussion that no one seems to be having (outside of German universities, it seems), and is a subject even being actively suppressed by some when raised.

Last edited by Rizla; 10-26-2015 at 02:26 PM.
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Old 10-26-2015, 11:02 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Rizla View Post
And yes, it is a discussion that no one seems to be having (outside of German universities, it seems), and is a subject even being actively suppressed by some when raised.
Thank you for the feedback - I'll take it at facevalue, because I trust in, lets say, certain universal archetypes..

Let me reflect, that it also is entirely missing from the german mainstream discourse (none of the eBook Blogs is picking it up - even after provoking them), and at the media summit I was referring to Amazon vice presidents of marketing were present - and more extensively featured, than the scientific opinion. Which is especially funny since they talk about their EMEA regions exclusively and extensively in market terms, which even at those conferences strikes one as somewhat misplaced.

Last edited by notimp; 10-26-2015 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 10-26-2015, 12:10 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
- - - -
That amazon now controls

- the format (proprietary nature of kfx (format))
- the distribution (only Amazon can distribute kfx)
and
- production (only Amazon can produce kfx)

really warrants a discussion, that did not take place in here at all.
- - - -
In the USA, that is called a: Vertical Monopoly
Which is not, in itself, illegal.
Only if it can be shown to be anti-competitive is it illegal.

It could certainly be an interesting discussion, but in a thread for that purpose.
So why not someone start one? Threads are cheap here.
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Old 10-26-2015, 12:37 PM   #5
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The question I am more interested in, is - is it compatible with our models of society.

Because it concerns what is "branded" intellectual work (what we write, what we read) - if Amazon already has a strong monopoly with complete control over the three basic pillars of the market (because publishing houses were more interested in percentages, than in the ability to still be able to produce books) - this slowly starts to change important functions within society.

Im willing to contribute to a discussion about it in here - but I dont have any formal "standing" within this community - where someone asking for "product support" gets his/her three responses faster, than I can solicit any educated thought on the state of this industry as a whole.

I will be contributing, but I find it difficult to be the one that is headlining the discussion. It has to come from within this community - and as the issue wont go away anytime soon, at some point - it will.

Last edited by notimp; 10-26-2015 at 03:52 PM.
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Old 10-27-2015, 08:59 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by eschwartz View Post
DRM is per-device, not per-account.
You'll need to get rid of that nasty DRM.

https://apprenticealf.wordpress.com
Hups - a posting went missing. Probably because it was critical about this forum rather engaging in product support on a case by case basis, than to educate their members on any structural issues within the current Amazon distribution system.

And because it was critical about this essentially being self exploitive behavior on part of the users in here, who rather would engage in producing detailed step by step instructions for every case, at any time, in any thread, than to engage others to think about why Amazons distribution system is structured this way. ("We are helping you, with jumping through the hoops, others have designed, for free.")

Also eschwartzs answer isnt correct as far as Amazons point of view is concerned. Amazon would like you to log into their online interface and specify specifically on which device you want to read an eBook that you want to download on any device that isnt registered to Amazon. The document will then be encrypted with a device specific key, before you can download it on your PC.

This discourages the normal user to use any non Amazon controlled environment for obtaining their books. This is also used so eBook management isnt viable locally (and can only be done via Amazons web interface) - once the first eReader you bought isnt your primary device anymore.

Also, eschwartzs answer isnt correct for the current file format Amazon already is mainly distributing - because there is no way to remove DRM from it.

Right now this forum doesnt care to recognize this, because Amazon consideres PCs (the K4PC environment) to be legacy devices - to which they only distribute their old file formats - from which you can still strip the DRM.

Structurally it is impossible that this way of circumventing Amazons lock in can be prolonged in the medium term future - because "understanding the new eBooks" will only be something that a handful of people at Amazon itself will be able to/have to care about - because in the new paradigm, they will be the only ones that still will be able to produce eBooks.

Getting product support, without being educated on the processes, can be done on reddit just as well. Also - it moves this community from being motivated by self interest to be motivated by whatever emotional payoff still is possible for its members solving customer support problems for Amazons customers. Like it already took place in this thread.
-

No one has said, that starting to realize what it means to run a community like this in the age where Amazon also has a monopoly on production and distribution, would consist of a friendly surface discussion. Its going to be rough.

And censorship already is used to remove critical aspects from the discussion, when it cuts into this - first and foremost - being a platform, where people look for personal support from others for free. Regardless of subforum, or topic. And them being helped out in ways - that dont promote a deeper understanding of the structural causes of the problems they are having.

I think this has been a fair assessment.

Last edited by notimp; 10-27-2015 at 09:21 AM.
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Old 10-27-2015, 09:40 AM   #7
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Vertical Integrated Publishing Place in Society

Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp
Hups - a posting went missing. Probably because it was critical about this forum rather engaging in product support on a case by case basis, than to educate their members on any structural issues within the current Amazon distribution system.
More likely reason -
The subject was off-topic for the thread it was posted in.
Not because it was critical of this forum, its members, or the way this forum appears to operate.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
And because it was critical about this essentially being self exploitive behavior on part of the users in here, who rather would engage in producing detailed step by step instructions for every case, at any time, in any thread, than to engage others to think about why Amazons distribution system is structured this way. ("We are helping you, with jumping through the hoops, others have designed, for free.")
I don't agree with that observation either.

This is, after all, a user support forum.
But we also enjoy being critical of just about any e-book, Amazon, or Lab126 related subject here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
Also eschwartzs answer isnt correct as far as Amazons point of view is concerned. Amazon would like you to log into their online interface and specify specifically on which device you want to read an eBook that you want to download on any device that isnt registered to Amazon. The document will then be encrypted with a device specific key, before you can download it on your PC.
No surprises there -
That is just Amazon's continued data-mining of user's habits in the guise of 'market research'.

The legal disclosures in the early Kindles (such as the DX) even disclosed to the user/owner that they would be tracking reading and usage habits.
That disclosure is gone from the newer models, but the data-mining hasn't.

The subject of sending device usage information to Amazon was one of the things which I first joined here to complain about.
And to post ways that the user could control it.
The BBB (Block Big Brother) firewall was, I think, one of the first things I contributed here.

Consider your audience, your preaching to the choir here on this data-mining subject.
But new views are always welcome.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
This discourages the normal user to use any non Amazon controlled environment for obtaining their books. This is also used so eBook management isnt viable locally (and can only be done via Amazons web interface) - once the first eReader you bought isnt your primary device anymore.
The Amazon controlled environment for personal libraries.
Ah, now there is a topic that will be sure to light a few fires here.

I and others here agree in principle.

I and others here have provided add-ins that would allow the owner/user to choose their own cloud service on which to keep their electronic libraries.
From the feedback received by those postings, we haven't (yet) hit on a mechanism that was popular with the users here.
I.E: Mostly silence.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post

Also, eschwartzs answer isnt correct for the current file format Amazon already is mainly distributing - because there is no way to remove DRM from it.
I was shopping in the Amazon store last night for some (no dollar charge) books to test with,
I did see mentions everywhere Amazon could work them into the text about how they intend to reprocess their e-book offerings to "enable the e-reader features".
Which is true, as far as it goes.
They did not point out that processing will also put the e-books into their (currently) opaque e-book format.

But Amazon can't claim to have invented the self-serving, marketing, statement.

That was probably done by the first used cave, sales person.
(I would have written 'first used wheel sales person' but I imagine that self-serving marketing statements have been around longer than the wheel.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
Right now this forum doesn't care to recognize this, because Amazon considered PCs (the K4PC environment) to be legacy devices - to which they only distribute their old file formats - from which you can still strip the DRM.
I can not agree with that.

I think better said would be:
"because no one bothered to start a thread on the subject"

This site even has a forum for such troll bait, see "the lounge" forum.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
Structurally it is impossible that this way of circumventing Amazons lock in can be prolonged in the medium term future - because "understanding the new eBooks" will only be something that a handful of people at Amazon itself will be able to/have to care about - because in the new paradigm, they will be the only ones that still will be able to produce eBooks.
I have to disagree again.

I think that is forming conclusions before having the discussion.

I also think it is an incorrect conclusion from a technical point of view.
So far, Amazon has only made it difficult and time consuming.

The SoC that they have been using has hardware to support 'impossible' to crack, not just 'difficult' or 'impractical' to crack and they are not using it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post

Getting product support, without being educated on the processes, can be done on reddit just as well. Also - it moves this community from being motivated by self interest to be motivated by whatever emotional payoff still is possible for its members solving customer support problems for Amazons customers. Like it already took place in this thread.
Once again, this is primarily a support forum.
It should not be a surprise that we concentrate on user support here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
No one has said, that starting to realize what it means to run a community like this in the age where Amazon also has a monopoly on production and distribution, would consist of a friendly surface discussion. Its going to be rough.
Threads are cheap here, push the button and start any topic you care to.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
And censorship already is used to remove critical aspects from the discussion, when it cuts into this - first and foremost - being a platform, where people look for personal support from others for free. Regardless of subforum, or topic. And them being helped out in ways - that dont promote a deeper understanding of the structural causes of the problems they are having.
It isn't censorship - it is just trying to keep a widely subscribed to thread on-topic.
Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post

I think this has been a fair assessment.
Well, at least no more one-sided than Amazon's position.

Last edited by knc1; 10-27-2015 at 10:31 AM.
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Old 10-27-2015, 10:03 AM   #8
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And now this subtopic has received it's own home in it's own thread, instead of in the thread focused on the jailbreak.

The post that involved lecturing another user about his support dream is not being restored though.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:05 AM   #9
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Hi

Thanks for this new thread. I just bought a PW3 mainly for using it with Koreader once jailbreaked and I really don't know this amazing "Amazon world".

I would like to use an example (in French). Here is a quite interesting offer for some ebooks which received recent literary prices. I do not know if it applies for Premium customers or average ones. The question is about formats.

This is the offer for you to peruse:

The ebooks are said tersely to be available in "Kindle formats". What's that?
If I own an old Kindle, I can read Mobi files. A more modern Kindle will be able to read azw3 format - or kf8 to be clear . My brand new PW3 seems designed for the mysterious and brand new kfx.

Could some knowledgeable person explain me how it works? Could I receive different formats if I order them from my Kindle or from a PC application (which I do not have because I am a Linux user).

How Amazon intends to deal with possible incompatible formats?

Last edited by roger64; 10-27-2015 at 11:18 AM. Reason: typos
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:24 AM   #10
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They know which device you are downloading from or for, and send you a file it is capable of reading.
Your best bet is to avoid downloading on a KFX-enabled E-Ink Kindle, by using Kindle For PC.


As a fellow linux user, I can tell you K4PC works pretty well when running under WINE.
There is also a winetricks verb to install it (which I updated upstream to the latest version).
Just install with
Code:
winetricks --unattended kindle
Alf's tools worked to find K4PC-thru-WINE, last time I tried it.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:38 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by notimp View Post
Hups - a posting went missing. Probably because it was critical about this forum rather engaging in product support on a case by case basis, than to educate their members on any structural issues within the current Amazon distribution system.

And because it was critical about this essentially being self exploitive behavior on part of the users in here, who rather would engage in producing detailed step by step instructions for every case, at any time, in any thread, than to engage others to think about why Amazons distribution system is structured this way. ("We are helping you, with jumping through the hoops, others have designed, for free.")

Also eschwartzs answer isnt correct as far as Amazons point of view is concerned. Amazon would like you to log into their online interface and specify specifically on which device you want to read an eBook that you want to download on any device that isnt registered to Amazon. The document will then be encrypted with a device specific key, before you can download it on your PC.

This discourages the normal user to use any non Amazon controlled environment for obtaining their books. This is also used so eBook management isnt viable locally (and can only be done via Amazons web interface) - once the first eReader you bought isnt your primary device anymore.

Also, eschwartzs answer isnt correct for the current file format Amazon already is mainly distributing - because there is no way to remove DRM from it.

Right now this forum doesnt care to recognize this, because Amazon consideres PCs (the K4PC environment) to be legacy devices - to which they only distribute their old file formats - from which you can still strip the DRM.

Structurally it is impossible that this way of circumventing Amazons lock in can be prolonged in the medium term future - because "understanding the new eBooks" will only be something that a handful of people at Amazon itself will be able to/have to care about - because in the new paradigm, they will be the only ones that still will be able to produce eBooks.

Getting product support, without being educated on the processes, can be done on reddit just as well. Also - it moves this community from being motivated by self interest to be motivated by whatever emotional payoff still is possible for its members solving customer support problems for Amazons customers. Like it already took place in this thread.
-

No one has said, that starting to realize what it means to run a community like this in the age where Amazon also has a monopoly on production and distribution, would consist of a friendly surface discussion. Its going to be rough.

And censorship already is used to remove critical aspects from the discussion, when it cuts into this - first and foremost - being a platform, where people look for personal support from others for free. Regardless of subforum, or topic. And them being helped out in ways - that dont promote a deeper understanding of the structural causes of the problems they are having.

I think this has been a fair assessment.
Mobileread is, to use a quite overworked cliche, a broad church. And, as eschwartz and others have pointed out, the vast majority do not care about DRM or lock-in or the agenda of Amazon and the BPH. A small minority, however, do care, and an appropriate thread here is a good place to discuss such issues. However, I reject any suggestion that I or any other member have a duty to "educate" or badger or hector other users who have simple practical questions to which they just want answers. For those who are interested, there is plenty of material available here and elsewhere for them to educate themselves. Or, of course, they can simply ask in their own threads. Far from being a fair assessment, the quote above seems to focus only on one small function of mobileread which is dismissed pejoratively as people looking for support for free.

Nevertheless, a worthwhile point has been raised, and this is an appropriate thread to discuss the particular issues in the absence of Amazon bashing and scare-mongering. Yes, the fact that .kfx is out there, has not been cracked, and is being used increasingly by Amazon does not fill my heart with joy. It is a real and valid concern. Nevertheless, at the moment, Amazon does allow the download of books in azw3 or in some cases mobi via direct download from its website (If you have a Kindle on your account) or via Kindle4PC. Also, at the moment, Kindles earlier than the Paperwhite 2 do not support the .kfx format. There may well be a problem in the long term, and even possibly in the medium term, but this is not inevitable. We quite simply don't know what Amazon's intentions are, despite what some people claim. Yes, Amazon may intend to phase out other formats. They may or may not release a kfxgen. They may or may not release a Kindle4PC which supports kfx. I am hopeful that kfx will be cracked. If it is not, we will just have to deal with the situation when it arises. There is little to be done now "politically", as no one really cares and all of the unwanted education in the world will not change this.

Vertical integration and monopoly and the like are very undesirable combinations. However, I find it ironic that for many people this extent of power is unacceptable only in the hands of Amazon, who, in a further degree of irony, don't yet have this extent of power, though they are fast gaining it through the sheer ineptness of most of their competition.

A group of large publishers have collectively held such power throughout the world for decades and have ruthlessly exploited it. To use the words of the original quote, the large publishers not only had readers locked-in but also controlled production and distribution. It seems to me that even if the worst case scenario feared so much comes about, Amazon will likely prove to be a far kinder master than the BPH. Certainly a smarter one, as they seem to understand that ebooks should be priced to maximise revenue, not protect a fading print book market or a misconceived value of books as "special snowflakes".

It is legitimate and valuable for German and other Academics to discuss the new market and in particular Amazpn's place in it. However, more productive and relevant in European Academia would be a discussion on the King Canute type policies in vogue in much of the EU, betraying consumers in favour of a few very large businesses and booksellers now only remaining viable because of such ill-conceived legislation.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:39 AM   #12
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@eschwartz

Thanks for the Linux tip. I'll try it.


Does the user of the PC application has a say about which format the would like to download?

Last edited by roger64; 10-27-2015 at 11:44 AM.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:43 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roger64 View Post
Could some knowledgeable person explain me how it works? Could I receive different formats if I order them from my Kindle or from a PC application (which I do not have because I am a Linux user).

How Amazon intends to deal with possible incompatible formats?
Is doesn't matter which device you order from. But it does make a difference which device you download to.

Amazon knows which formats can be read by the devices registered to your account. So it will only send compatible files to each device.

Note that sometimes you won't end up with a MOBI, KF8 or even KFX, but you might get a Topaz format.

And on B&W devices, the cover image will probably be converted to greyscale.

I tend to download using Kindle for Mac and then import into calibre for later conversion/archiving (with DRM removed thanks to Alf's plugin). That seems to be the best option at the moment, getting high-res colour cover (if available!) and KF8 most of the time.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:45 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roger64 View Post
Thanks for the Linux tip. I'll try it.


Does the user of the PC application has a say about which format the would like to download?
You never have a say.

KFX > AZW3 > MOBI
Whichever is the "best" one your device or application supports, will be downloaded.
(Kindle for iOS is not relevant to this discussion -- it has its own weird format. And some books are only available in another, special format. Like the Topaz OCR scans, or an AZW4 Print Replica which is a PDF and is usually used for textbooks.)

Currently, K4PC supports AZW3 and MOBI.
If a book has an AZW3 format, it will download AZW3. Otherwise it will download MOBI.
(Books published before AZW3 and never updated, will only be available in MOBI. I get some of those on my Kindle Touch too.)

Last edited by eschwartz; 10-27-2015 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 10-27-2015, 11:48 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roger64 View Post
Hi

Thanks for this new thread. I just bought a PW3 mainly for using it with Koreader once jailbreaked and I really don't know this amazing "Amazon world".

I would like to use an example (in French). Here is a quite interesting offer for some ebooks which received recent literary prices. I do not know if it applies for Premium customers or average ones. The question is about formats.

This is the offer for you to peruse:

The ebooks are said tersely to be available in "Kindle formats". What's that?
If I own an old Kindle, I can read Mobi files. A more modern Kindle will be able to read azw3 format - or kf8 to be clear . My brand new PW3 seems designed for the mysterious and brand new kfx.

Could some knowledgeable person explain me how it works? Could I receive different formats if I order them from my Kindle or from a PC application (which I do not have because I am a Linux user).

How Amazon intends to deal with possible incompatible formats?
The "offer for you to peruse" thingy - - -

Ok - deep breath now:

Home -> Menu -> Settings -> Device Options -> Personalize your Kindle -> Advanced Options -> Disable: Cover View Recommendations

You probably want to disable: Next in Series
at that menu level also.

They did not exactly provide a 'hot key' for those choices.

Privacy concerns, keep tapping:
Whispersync for Books -> Disable

= = =

It depends on where you are reading that "in Kindle formats" phrase.
If in the Amazon store, there should be a drop-down list somewhere on the page.

If you have more than one Kindle, check your "manage devices" account web page -
There you can set the 'default' device (which sets the default format to the most advanced available for that device).

When purchasing from the store, there will be a drop-down box to select a device other than your default.

Note: If you select a DRM protected book, it will be locked to that device.
So you will need to either remove the DRM from the book (details at websites other than here) or set up the "family library" thing in your Amazon account.

= = = =

New Kindles can read old Kindle formats.

= = = =

Use your web browser and your Amazon web page interface.

= = = =

Deal with them where?
On your Kindle?
Incompatible how, where and in what sense?

Last edited by knc1; 10-27-2015 at 11:52 AM.
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