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1. writing historical fiction without invoking too much history

My current novel-in-progress will fit a loosely defined literary genre of historical fiction.  That is, it will be fiction artistically grounded in a period of American history--an era in the mid-1870s--when an organized labor movement began its contest with the laissez-faire business interests of the period.  The story moves through the violent birth and tragic demise of the Molly Maguires, a secret society of Irish immigrant mine workers who struck back at the railroad magnots who owned the mines and the lives of the mineworkers.  The railroad owners, often called the 'robber-barons' in American history, also owned the justice system of Pennsylvania at the time, a state where the deep underground anthracite coal mines were fueling American industry.  After the robber barons crushed an early attempt by the miners to form a labor union, they embarked on a campaign to exterminate a continued, violent resistance of the Mollies to the desperate wages and deplorable working conditions in the mines.

 The Young Molly Maguires was conceived as a YA novel,  and looks at the lives of several teen-aged boys and a girl, the sons and a daughter of Molly families in a local mine patch of the Pennsylvania mountains.  I'd done a fair amount of reading as a boy about Irish immigrant life, and whatever I could find about the Mollies.  In those days without the internet and its search engines there wasn't much, but enough to whet the appetite of a boy for reading about avengers of impossible causes.  There was even a Sherlock Holmes story that revolved around the existence of the Mollies.  A lot of the early stuff portrayed the Mollies as a totally villainous band of outlaws, and the newspapers of the times described them as worse than the secret society of Thugs in India, robbers and assassins devoted to the goddess, Kali.  Heady stuff, but that sort of press coverage effectively distracted readers from sympathetic concern for the desperate attempts of workers to wrest a living wage from the robber barons.

More objective and factual information about the working conditions and lives of the mineworkers became available from newspaper articles and essays written by labor union leaders following the failed efforts of the earlier union organizers.  By then, the Mollies were finished, and the immigrant waves had shifted to new arrivals from Eastern Europe.  Labor conditions were still very harsh, but they were beginning to improve as union organizing grew nationwide.  The most thorough and engaging documentary book I have read on the time of the Mollies was written by Kevin Kenny, a professor of history, titled, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires, and published in 1998.  For general coal mining lore, I have been a geotechnical engineer and have worked in underground coal mines.  I did some research on the older equipment and techniques, and by 2000, I was ready to begin a first draft of my Mollies novel.

I thought it was an important point for me to keep in mind, relative to all such intriguing old and new data sources, to use only as much historical data as might enhance the 'fictional dream' (as in The Art of Fiction, by John Gardner) for my novel.  There is a recent Writer's Chronicle essay (Sep. 2014) by Debra Spark, Raiding the Larder--Research in Fact-Based Fiction, which addresses the point.  Among the ideas Spark discusses is... when it comes to fiction, information is only interesting because it is part of the story, because it has an emotional or narrative reason for being, and, Indeed all the research for authenticity can get in your way...and not just because it's a time suck.  Colum McCann distinguishes between what is true--or perhaps what is actual--and what is honest in fiction. SimilarlySparks quotes the author Jim Shepard... you're after a "passable illusion," not the truth.  This is fiction, after all.  It's a lie.  You're just trying to make it convincing."  And, discussing author Lily King's use of research for her anthropology-based novel (Euphoria)... the important thing isn't the information but (quoting King) "how you get your imagination to play with all that information."

I have a final draft of my Mollies novel about ready for review.  I've considered the possibility of submitting it through the traditional publishing route, but I'm getting old and do not relish wading through that long and often disparaging process.  Alternately, I had a thoroughly satisfying experience with self-publishing my first YA novel with Amazon, and I might go that route again with this one.  If there are any professional book reviewers (newspapers, YA groups) among readers of this blog who might be interested in providing a no-cost review, with your permission to quote, I would be pleased to hear from you through the 'comments' link below.


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2. Amazon to Give Out Scholarships to Students

Amazon has introduced a scholarship program to help American college students fund their way through school. The Amazon Student Scholarship is a merit-based contribution that will supply 50 undergrads with $5,000 in tuition money and $500 for textbooks.

Applicants must be members of Amazon Student and be enrolled in an accredited, nonprofit two- or four-year university in the U.S. Students can apply for the award now through November 20 for a Fall 2015 scholarship. Follow this link to apply.

Here is more about what the company is looking for: “Finalists will be selected based on GPA, community involvement, and leadership experience, and then invited to complete an essay to advance to the final round. Winners will be notified in April 2015 and the scholarship awarded in July 2015.”

 

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3. Amazon’s eBook Collection Gets a New Book Every 5 Minutes

Feel like your novel is getting lost in a sea of other titles in Amazon’s Kindle store? It’s not surprising, as the store’s inventory is growing at an incredibly  rapid pace.

Just how fast? Author Claude Nougat has pegged it at 12 books an hour or about one new book every five minutes. He watched the collection grow from 3,376,174 results to 3,376,186 in an hour, in order to come to this conclusion. Here is more from his blog:

In 24 hours, the number had climbed to 3,378,960, that’s 2786 more books – let’s say, 2,800 a day, that’s over one million books per year – and probably growing at an exponential rate that I cannot calculate for the moment; I haven’t got the data though Amazon does (I wonder whether they are as scared as I am).

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4. German Authors Unite Against Amazon

German-language writers have joined their English-language counterparts and organized a protest against Amazon.

More than 1,000 authors from Germany, Austria and Switzerland have come together to challenge Amazon for hurting authors in its negotiations with the Bonnier Group. In a letter addressed to readers and Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, writers have accused Amazon of not carrying popular books as a result of dispute. In addition, they claim that Amazon has manipulated recommendation lists at the expense of their books.

“We authors are of the opinion that no book seller hinder or even customers should discourage the purchase of books selling books,” reads the letter (translated in Google). “Amazon has no right,  to take ‘into jail,’ a group of authors, which is not involved in the conflict. On top of that a book seller should not inform its own clients incorrectly or hinder their purchases by artificially extended delivery times.” (Via The New York Times).

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5. Amazon’s Russ Grandinetti Says Only Writers & Readers Are Necessary

Russ Grandinetti, senior vice president at Amazon & head of Kindle, thinks that the publishing industry is experiencing a major shift.

In an interview with The Guardian published over the weekend, the Amazon exec said: ”The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader. Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

This interview was published a week after more than 900 authors ran a letter to Amazon chief Jeff Bezos as a full page ad in The New York Times yesterday. The letter, which included signatures from bestselling authors Stephen KingMalcolm Gladwell and Suzanne Collins, asked Bezos to end the company’s dispute with Hachette. Amazon responded with an email to readers, calling readers to email the president of Hachette and demand lower eBook prices.

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6. Amazon & Purdue University Team on Textbook Selling

Amazon has teamed up with Purdue University in Indiana to sell discounted textbooks to college students.The Purdue Student Store on Amazon will offer textbooks for up to 30 percent off.

students can use the site to rent or  buy new and used print textbooks, as well as to purchase and rent digital textbooks from Kindle. Students can order books online and pick them up at locations on Purdue’s campus. They can also have the books shipped to them directly.

“This relationship is another step in Purdue’s efforts to make a college education more affordable for our students,” explained Mitch Daniels, president of Purdue University, in a statement. “With the pressure on college campuses to reduce costs, this new way of doing business has the potential to change the book-buying landscape for students and their families.”

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7. Orwell’s Executor Calls Amazon Out on Misquoting the Author

Earlier this week, Amazon sent out a letter to Kindle readers defending the low price of its eBooks, quoting George Orwell’s perception of paperbacks in its defense.

However, as The New York Times pointed out, the company took Orwell’s ironic comments out of context and failed to share his true point of view on the subject.

Bill Hamilton, the literary executor for the Orwell estate, responded to the story with a letter to the editor published in The New York Times. Check it out:

I’m both appalled and wryly amused that Amazon’s tactics should come straight out of Orwell’s own nightmare dystopia, “1984.” It doesn’t say much for Amazon’s regard for truth, or its powers of literary understanding. Or perhaps Amazon just doesn’t care about the authors it is selling. If that’s the case, why should we listen to a word it says about the value of books?

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8. Can 3 Sentences Make a Difference?

 Hello

 

Before we go into answering the question in the title,I’d like to inform you of an opportunity to download some of my books for FREE!

Rhyming Books for Kids

Over the next 3 weeks, you can download one of the 3 books listed below. Below is the schedule:

 

If You See a Doctor - Aug 11th – 15th
I Love Baby Animals - Aug 18th – 21st
Billy and Monster’s New Neighbor Has a Secret - Aug 25th – 29th

 

You can go ahead and download If You See a Doctor today and
until Friday. It’s my first children’s book and was written to help young
children who are starting to learn how to read. It has fun rhymes and
can open up that discussion of what they want to be when they grow up.

 

I Love Baby Animals is my most successful children’s book and has more than 150 reviews on Amazon.Baby Animals Books for Kids
It’s one of the kids that I find the most fun reading and sharing with kids when I go into schools to do readings. It’s a simple book with fun illustrations and real life photos of adult and baby animals.
It introduces children to the names of baby animals and also includes a fun fact about them. For instance, do you know what a baby Illama is called? If you don’t, then you’ll need to grab your copy next week or right now if you can’t wait till then.

 

Billy and Monster’s New Neighbor Has a Secret is the fourth book in the Billy and Monster series and introduces us to Billy’s New Neighbor, Sally, whose just moved into the neighbourhood. Billy learns a lesson about sharing and discovers that Sally has a fun secret too. The next Billy book will be released at Christmas and my illustrator will begin work on it soon.Remember to set a reminder for yourself to download a copy in two weeks.

 

Okay, now you maybe wondering why I’m sharing my books for free.Funny book for Kids The answer is simple. I’m giving away these books and asking for three sentences in return. Three sentences that could just influence someone to grab a copy themselves.

 

It’d really mean a lot to me if you could leave a review after reading the books. Reviews help with book sales and exposing a book to new readers.

 

After you’ve finished reading each book, would you be so kind to pop
back to Amazon and leave a 2-3 sentence review. It’d mean the world to me.

Please help me spread the word by sharing with your family and friends and colleagues.

Thanks for all your support. It’s much appreciated.
Dream BIG!!!

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9. Amazon Misinterprets George Orwell in Push Against Hachette

In response to an author campaign against Amazon in the Hachette battle, the online giant sent out a letter to Kindle readers defending the low price of eBooks. In the letter, the Seattle-based company talks about how the literary establishment has a history of not supporting new formats.

“The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if ‘publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.’ Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion,” reads the letter, which challenges publishers on eBook price collusion and defends low eBook prices.

However, as The New York Times points out, this Orwell quote was taken out of context. Check it out:

When Orwell wrote that line, he was celebrating paperbacks published by Penguin, not urging suppression or collusion. Here is what the writer actually said in The New English Weekly on March 5, 1936: “The Penguin Books are splendid value for sixpence, so splendid that if the other publishers had any sense they would combine against them and suppress them.”

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10. Kensington Publishing Spent 1.5 Years Negotiating 1 Year Amazon Contract

Hachette and Amazon have spent months trying to negotiate a deal, which still seems to be miles away. How long will the negotiations be going on? It could be a while yet.

The Wall Street Journal revealed that the small publishing house Kensington Publishing spent 18 months battling Amazon to forge a one-year deal.

Check it out: “Steven Zacharius, president and chief executive of Kensington, said the deal took so long to resolve partly because ‘each person got entrenched and didn’t want to budge. But at a certain point there has to be compromise.’ Both sides gradually made concessions, he said, enabling them to reach agreement. Mr. Zacharius declined to discuss specifics of why it took so long to negotiate a new pact. Such contracts typically include the size of the discount that the publisher allows the retailer off its list prices, payment terms, and promotional funding. However, he characterized the final agreement as ‘a fair deal for both parties.’”

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11. Amazon Defends eBook Pricing in Hachette Fight

Amazon has come out and defended its eBook pricing model arguing that a $14.99 or $19.99 is “unjustifiably high for an e-book.”

In a post on the Amazon Forums, the company argues that since eBooks don’t require printing, warehousing or  transportation costs, they should be less expensive than print books. Here is more from the post:

It’s also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We’ve quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

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12. The Onion Parodies The Kindle


New Kindle Helps Readers Show Off By Shouting Title Of Book Loudly And Repeatedly

The Onion has created a video report about a fake new Kindle that supposedly shouts out the name of the book that you are reading so that you can brag about your reading list to those around you.

“With one click downloads, you can see a title you want online, press a button and within minutes let everyone around you know that you are reading that big fancy book by Joan Didion,” explains an executive in the video.

We’ve embedded the video above for you to enjoy.

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13. ‘Annedroids’ Creator J.J. Johnson on Developing Amazon’s Latest Original Series

"Annedroids" creator J.J. Johnson talks to Cartoon Brew about science-based kids programming, the challenges of making live-action/animation hybrids, and why not understanding the animation process can work to a producer's benefit.

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14. Alloy Entertainment Launches New Digital Imprint

Alloy Entertainment, a division of Warner Bros. Television Group, has partnered with Amazon Publishing to launch a digital-first imprint that will publish young adult and new adult novels, as well as commercial fiction.

The new imprint is called Alloy Entertainment. The imprint launches with three new titles: YA title Imitation by Heather Hildenbrand; coming-of-age story Every Ugly Word by Aimee Salter and sci-fi fantasy adventure Rebel Wing by Tracy Banghart.

Alloy Entertainment will be part of Amazon Publishing’s Powered by Amazon program, meaning that it will use Amazon’s marketing and distribution tools to reach readers.

 

 

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15. Amazon Picks 100 Children’s Books to Read in a Lifetime

Looking for books to read to your kids? Amazon editors have put together a children’s book edition of its series of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime lists.

The list includes classics such as Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon, Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs & Ham and Crockett Johnson’s Harold and the Purple Crayon. The list also includes modern favorites such as Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

We’ve embedded the entire list after the jump for you to explore. (more…)

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16. Book Marketing - Better Check Your Amazon Book Categories

Social media is such a useful tool - if you don't get carried away with it and waste too much precious time. Why it's useful is you can find fresh content at your finger tips from those you follow, connect with, or like. That's how I found a must-read post, "Big Changes on Amazon Categories" from Author Marketing Experts. I found it at GooglePlus. It seems Amazon made changes to its book

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17. Amazon Makes Author-Friendly Offer to Hachette

Amazon has made a controversial new offer to Hachette in its ongoing battle with the publisher. The retailer says that it will restock Hachette’s books and pay writers all revenues from the digital sales of their books.

However, there is a catch for the publisher. The Washington Post has the scoop:

“If Hachette agrees, for as long as this dispute lasts, Hachette authors would get 100 percent of the sales price of every Hachette e-book we sell,” Amazon said in a letter sent to authors and literary agents. “Both Amazon and Hachette would forego all revenue and profit from the sale of every e-book until an agreement is reached.”

Hachette has not agreed to this offer. The author-friendly proposal comes after Amazon has faced a huge backlash from authors and readers, including the “I Didn’t Buy It on Amazon” campaign launched by Hachette author Stephen Colbert.

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18. Authors Guild Calls Amazon eBook Offer in Hachette Dispute “Highly Disingenuous”

While Amazon’s latest offer in its ongoing dispute with the Hachette Book Group may look like they are trying to be more friendly towards authors, the Authors Guild isn’t buying it.

Essentially on Tuesday, Amazon told Hachette that they would restock their author’s books if the publishers promised to give the authors 100 percent of the revenues on eBooks sold until the dispute between the companies is resolved.

Richard Russo, novelist and co-Vice President of the Authors Guild, published an open letter to Amazon responding to the offer and calling the offer “highly disingenuous.” (more…)

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19. Thoughts About Buying Manga With Rightstuf

In last month’s “How Do You Purchase Manga Today?” post, I discussed a little bit about the methods I use to purchase manga post-Borders — in short, mostly Amazon. The price and quick shipping (specifically the Amazon Prime program) are what’s kept me coming back to Amazon. On a whim last month I decided to ... Read more

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20. The real solution to Amazon vs. Hachette


Unless you've been living deep in the Amazon (the rainforest, not the retail giant), you have probably heard... and heard... and heard... about Amazon vs. Hachette.

There have been op-eds. Stephen Colbert rants. Letters from angry authors. Counter-letters from angry authors.

You should be rooting for Amazon, says some. No, you should be rooting for Hachette, says others.

At this point, I agree with Evil Wylie:
(But apparently, I do not agree enough to refrain from writing my own blog post about it.)

In case you need a primer, Amazon and Hachette are squaring off over e-book prices. In order to increase their negotiating leverage, Amazon is trying to squeeze Hachette by removing pre-orders for their books and otherwise making them more difficult to procure. This has dragged on for nearly two months, and in order to help quell complaints that it is harming authors, Amazon recently announced a plan to pay authors in full during the dispute, an offer the Authors Guild called "highly disingenuous." (Here's more background from David Streitfeld).

What I find most amazing about this dispute is the extent to which it is a Rorschach Test for your views on the publishing industry writ large. The predictable traditional publishing industry defenders have come out in force against Amazon, and the predictable anti-traditional publishing industry forces (especially certain vocal segments of the self-publishing community) have come out in full-throated Amazonian defense.

Call me crazy, (and yes, I'm not directly affected by this dispute), but I'm not endlessly titillated by the sharp-elbowed negotiations of two massive multinational corporations who are both fighting for their respective financial interests.

Nor do I see it as a referendum on the future of literary culture, which has been on the verge of the apocalypse for the past five hundred years without said apocalypse ever coming to pass.

Instead, I see this as a wakeup call for authors to think about what it is they're actually arguing about.

Here's the thing, authors. Amazon is not your best friend. Amazon is looking out for Amazon.

Hachette is not your best friend, either. Hachette is looking out for Hachette.

Inasmuch as your interests coincide with Amazon and Hachette, they are more than happy to be your friend. And there are great people who work at both companies. But when your interests diverge with theirs and they want to maximize revenue and are able to extract more from you because they've increased their leverage, whose side do you think they're going to choose? Yours or theirs?

Do you endlessly trust Amazon to protect author's interests after they've thoroughly cemented their position as the primary game in town? Are you really happy with the digital royalty traditional publishers are paying?

So where is the for-authors-by-authors publishing option? How about a partnership with the indie bookselling community to create the literary culture we really want instead of hoping that huge corporations are going to come to our rescue? How about instead of picking which intermediary we like better we disintermediate and build a J.K. Rowling-esque option that truly goes directly from author to readers?

Yes yes, easier said than done and someone has to pick up the mantle and do it. I'm, uh, busy with writing and stuff.

But at the very least, count me out of the letters and counter-letters and the flame wars and the bile. Rather than authors fighting it out we should be working together to create something better.

Art: Symposium by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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21. Amazon May Have an eBook Subscription Service in the Works

Amazon may be joining the likes of Scribd and Oyster to offer readers unlimited access to eBooks in exchange for a monthly subscription fee, in the same way that Netflix offers access to movies for paying members.

Community members have been discussing the potential service on the Kindle Boards. It is supposedly called Kindle Unlimited and will allow readers to pay $9.99 a month for unlimited access to Prime books. Posters shared links for the new service on the discussion board, but there is no longer any evidence live on these links. However, there appears to be a “KU” feature in the search menu indicating that perhaps this feature will go live soon.

Amazon already gives free access to streaming movies to Amazon Prime members. In addition, Prime members can borrow one book a month through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library to be read on a Kindle device. (Via The Digital Reader.)

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22. Amazon Reveals Kindle Unlimited eBook Subscription Service

After rumors have been flying all week about Amazon getting into the eBook subscription business, the online retail giant has confirmed the service and has revealed the details. Amazon has launched Kindle Unlimited, a new eBook subscription service that operates as a kind of Netflix for eBooks. The service is available on Kindle devices, as well as on Kindle apps.

Kindle Unlimited gives members access to more than 600,000 Kindle books and thousands of Audible audiobooks for $9.99 a month. This is a larger collection than Oyster, an eBook subscription service that has been taking off this year, which offers 500,000 eBooks in its library and don’t have an audiobook offering. Kindle Unlimited subscribers will receive a complimentary three-month Audible membership, which gives Amazon the ability to provide these members with access to audiobook titles.

Amazon is currently offering a free 30-day trial period so that customers can try out the new service.

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23. Stephen Colbert Interviews Hachette Author Edan Lepucki

As part of his battle with Amazon, Stephen Colbert has been promoting the book California by first time novelist Edan Lepucki.

His goal was to help Lepucki land on The New York Times bestsellers list – a rare occurrence for a first time novel – even though the book was not available for sale on Amazon due to fierce negotiations with her publisher Hachette. The push worked and the title has landed the third spot on the list, despite not being available through the nation’s largest online book site.

To celebrate the success, Lepucki was on The Colbert Show last night to discuss her success. On the show, she recommended the debut novel Sweetness No. 9 by Stephan Eirik Clark, another Hachette book that is currently not available on Amazon. We’ve embedded the clip above for you to enjoy.

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24. 7.5% of Book Buyers Are Buying Less From Amazon Due to Hachette Dispute

Amazon’s dispute with Hachette is causing about 7.5 percent of book buyers to buy less from the online retail giant and 1.4 percent of book buyers are buying more, according to figures based on research from Peter Hildick-Smith of the Codex Group.

The research, which includes feedback from about 5,300 buyers, found that slightly more than 39 percent of respondents reported that they are aware of the dispute and among those book buyers. Nineteen percent of these consumers reported buying less books from Amazon, while 4.4 percent of these consumers revealed that they are buying more from the books from the Seattle-based bookseller.

Forbes has more: “The Codex group also found out where those book buyers were going. About half the shifted buying went to Barnes & Noble, independent bookshops, barnesandnoble.com (the online store for Barnes & Noble), used bookshops and Costco, in that order.: (Via Forbes).

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25. Amazon Net Sales Up 23% in Q2

Amazon’s net sales reached $19.34 billion in the second quarter of 2014, up 23 percent from  $15.70 billion which the company reported in the second quarter of 2013.

The company also repaired that its operating loss was $15 million during Q2, as compared to an operating income of $79 million in Q2 2013. In addition, Amazon’s net loss was $126 million in the second quarter as compared with a net loss of $7 million in Q2 2013.

Here is more from the financial release: “Operating cash flow increased 18% to $5.33 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $4.53 billion for the trailing twelve months ended June 30, 2013. Free cash flow increased to $1.04 billion for the trailing twelve months, compared with $265 million for the trailing twelve months ended June 30, 2013. Free cash flow for the trailing twelve months ended June 30, 2013, includes cash outflows for purchases of corporate office space and property in Seattle, Washington, of $1.4 billion.”

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