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2017-08-23    来源:FT中文网    【      美国外教 在线口语培训


Ten years ago, as Jeff Bezos launched the Kindle ereader in New York, he declared that “the book is so highly evolved and so suited to its task that it’s very hard to displace”. Amazon’s founder was right: this spring, despite the digital upheaval unleashed by the Kindle, it will open a bookstore in Manhattan.
10年前,杰夫•贝索斯(Jeff Bezos)在纽约推出Kindle电子书阅读器的时候宣称,“图书经过高度的演变,非常适合阅读,它很难被取代”。这位亚马逊(Amazon)的创始人说得对:今年春季,它将会在曼哈顿开一家书店,尽管Kindle掀起了数字阅读风暴。

There are signs of the book’s renaissance all around. Waterstones, the UK book chain, returned to profit last year after suffering six years of losses. Sales of print books in the US rose by 3 per cent, while those of ebooks have fallen. Digital technology has not unleashed the same revolution in publishing that it has for music, television and news; we still like to read books.

The book’s enduring popularity is widely hailed as a heart-warming tale of traditional values triumphing over cold, hard technology. This is not the whole story, however. It can equally be read as the narrative of Amazon’s growth: if you cut prices, people buy more and if you raise prices, they buy less.

Customers enjoy the touch and feel of printed books: Americans read an average of 12 books a year, and most of those are physical. But they also prefer low prices, and do not like the fact that ebooks are comparatively expensive. Take The Whistler, John Grisham’s new blockbuster, which was selling on Amazon this week for $14.47 in hardback and $14.99 on Kindle.
顾客喜欢纸质书的触感:美国人平均每年阅读12本书,其中大部分是纸质书。但他们也青睐低价,不喜欢电子书相对昂贵的事实。以约翰•格里沙姆(John Grisham)的新畅销书《吹口哨的人》(The Whistler)为例,它本周在亚马逊的精装本售价为14.47美元,而Kindle上的售价是14.99美元。

That is the new reality: ebooks from publishers such as Penguin Random House and HarperCollins often cost more than hardbacks as well as paperbacks. Mr Bezos’s efforts a decade ago to promote mass adoption of the Kindle by discounting bestsellers to $9.99 and making ebooks cheaper than books has faded. It is now the other way round: Amazon favours print.
这是新的现实:企鹅兰登书屋(Penguin Random House)和哈珀柯林斯(HarperCollins)等出版商的电子书售价往往超过精装本和简装本。贝索斯不再像10年前那样,为了推广Kindle而将畅销书打折到9.99美元,使电子书比纸质书更便宜。现在正好颠倒了过来:亚马逊青睐纸质书。

We are, in other words, witnessing not a bibliophile revolution against Amazon’s digital hegemony but Mr Bezos changing his tactics. Amazon sold 35m more print books in the US last year than in 2015, according to one analyst, taking even greater market share from its old competitor Barnes & Noble. The 2m rise in sales at independent US book shops was a sideshow.
换言之,我们见证的不是爱书人对亚马逊数字霸权的革命,而是贝索斯改变了其战术。一位分析师表示,亚马逊去年在美国的纸质书销量比2015年多3500万本,从其老对手巴诺(Barnes & Noble)那里夺走了更多的市场份额。美国独立书店销量增长200万只是一个次要数字。

This is puzzling for anyone who witnessed the relentless struggles between Amazon and major publishers in the past decade, with Mr Bezos attempting to revolutionise the industry and publishers trying to restrain him. He even got the US government on his side with its antitrust suit in 2012 against Apple and large publishers for conspiring to fix the prices of ebooks.

But having fought for the right to set ebook prices in the same way as print book prices, Mr Bezos then backed off. Amazon signed fresh deals with publishers two years ago that limited ebook discounting and prices rose soon afterwards. Hardbacks and paperbacks are relatively cheap because Amazon discounts them; ebooks are expensive because it does so less.

The way to view this is as an industry reaching a competitive equilibrium after a decade of disruption, with the main forces — Amazon on one side and the big five publishers on the other — settling on a truce. They cannot formally agree one since it would provoke renewed antitrust action, but that is what it looks like, with the revival of the book as part of their detente.

It makes perfect sense for Amazon. The company invested in launching and developing the Kindle and now dominates the ebook market: B&N has retrenched with the Nook and iPhones are used for other activities than reading ebooks. To the degree that cheap ebooks were needed to promote Kindles, the urgency has passed and some profit-taking is rational.

The book, in digital or printed form, has been more stable than other kinds of media. Music has faced waves of disruption: first piracy, then people listening to single tracks rather than CDs, and finally the shift from buying to subscribing to services such as Spotify. Not so books: “We read books one at a time and each one takes us days,” says Douglas McCabe of Enders Analysis.
无论是数字的还是纸质的,图书一直比其他种类的媒体更加稳定。音乐曾面临好几波扰乱:最初是盗版,随后是人们听单曲而非唱片,最后是人们从购买转向订阅Spotify等提供商的服务。图书不是这样,Enders Research的道格拉斯•麦凯布(Douglas McCabe)表示:“我们看书是一次看一本书,每本书都能让我们看好几天。”

Amazon and others have dabbled with trying to alter consumption patterns, such as turning publishing into a Netflix-type service. Little has changed: Oyster, an ebook subscription service similar to Kindle Unlimited, closed in 2015. Most people still buy books individually and Amazon has no pressing need to demolish this, given that it is the world’s biggest bookseller.
亚马逊和其他公司曾尝试改变消费模式,比如将出版转变为Netflix类型的服务。结果什么都没改变:与Kindle Unlimited类似的电子书订阅服务Oyster在2015年倒闭。大多数人仍然一本一本地买书,鉴于其仍然是全球最大的书商,亚马逊并不急于废除这种模式。

The equilibrium also helps publishers, which profit from ebooks because they can digitise print titles and sell them at higher margins. Since Amazon eased discounts on their ebooks, the pressure has risen: one executive estimates that financing more marketing and discounting themselves could cost US publishers $100m a year.

They should not sit back and enjoy the truce: the big five’s share of the US ebook market fell from 46 per cent in 2012 to 34 per cent in 2015 as independent publishers and self-published authors undercut their prices.

But for now, the book’s renaissance suits Amazon, publishers, and readers. “It turns out people like paper if they are not penalised financially,” says Mike Shatzkin of the consultancy Idea Logical. A decade after the Kindle’s launch, Mr Bezos is rewarding them.
但就现在而言,图书的复兴符合亚马逊、出版商和读者的利益。咨询公司Idea Logical的迈克•沙茨金(Mike Shatzkin)表示:“事实证明,只要人们在经济上不吃亏,他们就会喜欢纸质书。”推出Kindle 10年后的今天,贝索斯正在报答纸质书。

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