Tag Archives: amazon

‘1984’ sales soar after Trump claims, ‘alternative facts’

After incorrect or unprovable statements made by Republican President Donald Trump and some White House aides, one truth is undeniable: Sales of George Orwell’s 1984 are soaring.

First published in 1949, Orwell’s classic dystopian tale of a society in which facts are distorted and suppressed in a cloud of “newspeak” topped the best-seller list of Amazon.com as of Jan. 24.

The sales bump comes after the Trump administration’s assertions his inauguration had record attendance and his unfounded allegation that millions of illegal votes were cast against him last fall.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway coined an instant catchphrase when she called his claims about crowd size “alternative facts,” bringing comparisons on social media to 1984.

Orwell’s book isn’t the only cautionary tale on the Amazon list.

Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 novel about the election of an authoritarian president, It Can’t Happen Here, was at No. 46. Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was at No. 71.

Sales also were up for Hannah Arendt’s seminal nonfiction analysis The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Binge watching on Netflix no longer requires internet access

Netflix subscribers can now binge on many of their favorite shows and movies even when they don’t have an internet connection.

The long-awaited offline option announced this week gives Netflix’s 87 million subscribers offline access to videos for the first time in the streaming service’s decade-long history.

Netflix is matching a downloading feature that one of its biggest rivals, Amazon.com, has been offering to its video subscribers for the past year. It’s something that also has been available on YouTube’s popular video site, though a subscription is required in the U.S. and other countries where the site sells its “Red” premium service.

The new feature puts Netflix a step ahead of two other major rivals. Offline options aren’t available on HBO’s internet-only package, HBO Now, or Hulu, although that service has publicly said it hopes to introduce a downloading feature.

Netflix subscribers wishing to download a video on their smartphone or tablet need to update the app on their Apple or Android device.

Not all of the selections in Netflix’s video library can be downloaded, although several of the service’s most popular shows, including “Orange Is The New Black,” “House of Cards,” and “Stranger Things,” are now available to watch offline.

Downloadable movies include “Spotlight,” this year’s Oscar winner for best film. Notably missing from the downloadable menu are movies and TV shows made by Walt Disney Co. Those still require an internet connection to watch on Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California, company is promising to continue to adding more titles to its offline roster.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings had long resisted calls for an offline-viewing option, much to the frustration of customers who wanted flexibility to use their subscriptions to watch a show or movie when traveling on a train, plane or car where internet connections are spotty or completely unavailable.

Earlier this year, Hastings finally indicated he might relent and introduce downloading.

The change of heart coincided with Netflix’s expansion into more than 130 countries, including many areas with shoddy or expensive internet connections that make the ability to watch video offline even more appealing.

Netflix ended September with 39 million subscribers outside of the U.S.

The offline option may accelerate the decline of Netflix’s steadily shrinking DVD-by-mail service, which offers the ability to watch video without an internet connection. Netflix’s DVD side still has one distinct advantage — access to recent theatrical releases before they are available for streaming.

Netflix’s DVD service ended September with 4.3 million subscribers, a decrease of nearly 10 million customers during the past five years.

Starbucks, Amazon pay less taxes in Austria than sausage stand

Multinationals like coffee chain Starbucks and online retailer Amazon pay fewer taxes in Austria than one of the country’s tiny sausage stands, the republic’s center-left chancellor lamented in a recent interview published.

Chancellor Christian Kern, head of the Social Democrats and of the centrist coalition government, also criticized internet giants Google and Facebook, saying that if they paid more tax subsidies for print media could increase.

“Every Viennese cafe, every sausage stand pays more tax in Austria than a multinational corporation,” Kern was quoted as saying in an interview with newspaper Der Standard, invoking two potent symbols of the Austrian capital’s food culture.

“That goes for Starbucks, Amazon and other companies,” he said, praising the European Commission’s ruling this week that Apple should pay up to 13 billion euros ($14.5 billion) in taxes plus interest to Ireland because a special scheme to route profits through that country was illegal state aid.

Apple has said it will appeal the ruling, which Chief Executive Tim Cook described as “total political crap.” Google, Facebook and other multinational companies say they follow all tax rules.

Kern criticized EU states with low-tax regimes that have lured multinationals – and come under scrutiny from Brussels.

“What Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg or Malta are doing here lacks solidarity towards the rest of the European economy,” he said.

He stopped short of saying that Facebook and Google would have to pay more tax but underlined their significant sales in Austria, which he estimated at more than 100 million euros each, and their relatively small numbers of employees – a “good dozen” for Google and “allegedly even fewer” for Facebook.

“They massively suck up the advertising volume that comes out of the economy but pay neither corporation tax nor advertising duty in Austria,” said Kern, who became chancellor in May.

($1 = 0.8965 euros)

‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Kimmy Schmidt’ lead spring streaming recommendations

HBO GO

If you’re a subscriber to HBO GO or HBO NOW, you know what’s coming. Winter — I mean Game of Thrones season 6. The April 24 premiere finds Cersei humbled, Sansa on the run, Arya blinded, Dany captured and Jon Snow dead — or, as Billy Crystal might say, “mostly dead.” Which is a step up from every other GoT character you’ve loved and lost.

HBO is hoping, though, that your mind’s not too blown after the premiere to catch the two comedies also premiering April 24. The socially inept techies of Silicon Valley will be launching their third season, in which lead character Richard Hendricks (Thomas Middleditch) fights to regain control of his startup after being forced out as its CEO. Similarly struggling is Veep’s President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who will open the fifth season facing a tie electoral vote that puts her re-election prospects in the hands of byzantine government bureaucracy — exactly what the show’s so good at skewering.

SHOWTIME

Showtime feels like the little brother of the big premium cable networks, always playing second fiddle to HBO. But its partnership with Hulu is a step ahead of HBO’s similar team-up with Amazon Prime. HBO is only releasing its older shows on the streaming library, but Showtime is being featured as a premium add-on for Hulu, so you can watch any show or movie for less than the cost of a stand-alone subscription — $9 a month versus $11.

Showtime has a pretty extensive TV and film library that we won’t get into — other than to say their biggest hits Homeland, Dexter, Shameless and Weeds are all available. In the next few months, two of their more underrated shows will see season premieres.

First is House of Lies (that show you keep mixing up with House of Cards), on April 10. Instead of a scowling Kevin Spacey and a devious Robin Wright, you get a smarmy Don Cheadle and an ambitious Kristin Bell, working as management consultants trying to secure deals at any cost. Then there’s Penny Dreadful, premiering May 1. The Victorian-era horror drama, in the vein of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, features characters from literature’s most terrifying works — Frankenstein, Dracula, The Portrait of Dorian Grey — facing demons and monsters both physical and mental.

NETFLIX

TV has so many antiheroes that an anti-antihero can be an alarmingly refreshing concept. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, arguably the buzziest show launched by Netflix last year, will return to the streaming service April 15 with the same bright, sunshiney energy that made its tale of a former “Mole Woman” escaping her bunker and thriving in New York City so compelling. This season is actually the first that creator Tina Fey has developed for Netflix (the show was originally meant for NBC), but she’s promised that the show and lead actor Ellie Kemper won’t be breaking out the profanity or nudity just because they can.

One strong independent funny woman not enough? All you have to do is hold on until May 20, when comedian Maria Bamford will explode onto your screens in Lady Dynamite. If this semi-fictionalized tale of “a woman who loses — then finds — her s**t” is as weird, unorthodox, in-your-face and wonderful as Bamford’s work in stand-up and on shows like Arrested Development, we’re in for a hell of a ride.

HULU

Hulu has some big TV coups this month, thanks to a landmark deal with Warner Bros. Television. The biggest get? Mid ‘00s teen drama classic The O.C., available on streaming for the first time since it went off the air in 2007 after only four seasons. Also arriving is fellow CW hit Smallville — perhaps the perfect salve to victims of Batman v Superman — as well as more recent shows like Blindspot and Lucifer.

There’s some nice original programming too, to sweeten the deal. Aaron Paul-vehicle The Path, about members of a religious cult in New Hampshire, has already premiered (to mixed reviews, admittedly, but those critics who liked it are fittingly fanatical). April also marks the return of The Mindy Project after a long winter hiatus. Mindy Kaling’s sitcom got increasingly realistic after making the jump from Fox to Hulu, and the midseason premiere will double down on that shift, with OB/GYN Mindy Lahiri and her son Leo on their own after she leaves her fiancé Danny Castellano.

AMAZON PRIME

If you haven’t joined Clone Club, sweet Jesus please join Clone Club. This year’s secular Easter miracle was the release of Orphan Black’s third season (FINALLY) on March 27. The new season of this edgy, grounded sci-fi series about women who discover they’re clones caught up in a global conspiracy shows up on BBC America April 14, so if cord-cutters can catch up before then, they’ll have a few days to enjoy knowing as much as their snooty cable-owning friends.

Prefer your bundles of joy not carbon copies created in a lab and studied as part of an ongoing experiment? Then you might like the second season of Catastrophe, the Rob Delaney/Sharon Hogan Anglophile romcom about a bi-continental couple whose one-night stand leads to an impromptu relationship. The comedy of Season 1 came from Rob and Sharon trying to date while pregnant; Season 2 jumps ahead in time to find Sharon pregnant again and the two as dysfunctional as ever.

Wisconsin-set ‘Making a Murderer’ tops winter streaming recommendations

Steven Avery.

It’s a name you might not have known a few weeks ago, but one that’s now almost inescapable thanks to Making a Murderer, Netflix’s answer to viral true crime sensations such as the podcast Serial and the HBO series The Jinx. Released in full on Dec. 18, the 10-episode documentary, rated “binge-worthy” by Time magazine, has captivated streaming audiences everywhere and is perhaps one of the most-watched original series released by the streaming service in an already-strong year.

Perhaps nowhere is the show more polarizing than here in Wisconsin. Avery, who’s from Manitowoc County, served 18 years in prison beginning in 1985 after being convicted of sexually assaulting a Manitowoc woman. He was ultimately exonerated of the charge, thanks to the efforts of the Wisconsin Innocence Project and DNA testing, and released in 2003. But a few years later, Avery was arrested again and charged with the death of photographer Teresa Halbach — a crime for which he’s currently serving a life sentence. Making a Murderer suggests the sheriff’s department and prosecutors mishandled the case at best and, at worst, could have framed him for it.

The response to that suggestion has been varied and often visceral. Two separate Internet petitions calling for the pardoning of Avery (and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, who was also convicted for the crime) have already amassed at least 160,000 signatures. A petition directed at the White House has the 100,000 signatures necessary to require President Obama to respond.  Prosecutors maligned by the documentary have come out harshly against it, with Manitowoc County Sheriff Robert Hermann telling Appleton’s The Post-Crescent that the series skews evidence, takes it out of context, and should be considered a “movie” rather than a documentary.

Make up your own mind. Netflix and its competitors both in streaming and traditional TV may be flooding the market with a glut of quality fictional programing, but even with its veracity challenged by those it condemns, Making a Murderer stands out as a vibrant examination of real life, raising real questions about the inner workings of our criminal justice system.

Some of the other top offerings from streaming services to watch for this winter are:

NETFLIX

Making a Murderer is going to dominate the conversation about Netflix for the next few months, but by March 4 the streaming service is poised to shift into campaign mode. That’s when its first success story House of Cards returns, with now-President Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) embarking on a re-election campaign that’s sure to be as cutthroat as his original path to the White House.

This winter will also see the long-delayed arrival of the final season of Parks and Recreation on Jan. 13 (although it’s been on Hulu since airing), Chelsea Handler’s four-part documentary series Chelsea Does on Jan. 23, and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny, the delayed sequel to the 2000 martial arts film, on Feb. 26.

Netflix’s reboot of Full House also shows up on Feb. 26, but the more we hear about Fuller House, the more we want to tell everyone involved to “Cut It Out.”

AMAZON PRIME

The final months of 2015 were big ones for Amazon’s original programming. Transparent, the company’s first breakout success, turned in another exemplary set of 10 episodes in December, taking the story of transgender family matriarch Maura (Jeffrey Tambor) and her family in fascinating new directions that explored the family’s past tragedies and attempts to heal themselves in the present. Amazon Prime got another boost from The Man in the High Castle. Based on Philip K. Dick’s alternate historical novel of the same name, it explores what happens when Germany and Japan occupy and divide the United States after winning World War II. The series’ pilot was the most-watched in the history of Amazon Prime’s original programming when it premiered last January, and the full 10 episodes subsequently became the company’s most-streamed original series.

The second season of the classical-musicians-behaving-badly dramedy Mozart in the Jungle dropped on Dec. 30 and continues into 2016. Come for the resoundingly attractive Gael García Bernal, stay for national treasure Bernadette Peters.

HULU

Hulu’s value still resides primarily in the content it gets from other providers — with next-day streaming available for most network TV shows and an increasingly large library of Hollywood’s most popular films. 

But this winter marks the premiere of one of the service’s few original programs to date: 11.22.63. Based on a Stephen King novel, the nine-hour limited series follows a schoolteacher (played by James Franco) who travels back in time to prevent the assassination of JFK but finds his mission more complicated than he expected. The J.J. Abrams-produced series will start airing weekly episodes on (when else?) Presidents’ Day, Feb. 15.

HBO GO

If you’re a parent with an HBO subscription, this is the month you get to brag to all the other parents at daycare about how your munchkins have already seen the latest episodes of Sesame Street, premiering on the cable station and its streaming component HBO GO on Jan. 16 (don’t worry, the episodes will still air on PBS after a nine-month exclusivity window). After the kids go to bed, you can tag team episodes of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and new ’70s music industry drama Vinyl starting Feb. 14, or wait a week to start half-hour comedies Girls and Togetherness Feb. 21.

See also: Netflix documentary stirs national debate over prosecutorial misconduct in famed Wisconsin murder case

2015 market winners, losers: Tech soars, old guard stumbles

In a flat year overall for stocks, there was still plenty of excitement to be enjoyed — or endured — by 2015’s biggest winners and losers.

It was a year to make old guard companies shudder.

New media companies like Netflix, which rose 142 percent to notch the biggest gain in the S&P 500, became more valuable than established media companies like CBS. Amazon eviscerated traditional retailers like Macy’s and Walmart. And energy and materials companies were flattened by weak demand at a time of abundant supplies. The biggest loser was Chesapeake Energy, down almost 80 percent in 2015.

The Dow Jones industrial average, dominated by long-established companies in traditional industries, was down 1.2 percent for the year through Dec. 23. The Nasdaq composite, with its heavy concentration of technology companies, is up a respectable 6.5 percent.

Here are the stories behind some of the stock markets biggest winners and losers for 2015.

ANOTHER STAR TURN FOR NETFLIX

Netflix has enjoyed top billing before: it was the biggest gainer in the S&P 500 in 2010 and 2013, and it more than tripled in value both years.

But another big year in 2015 pushed the company’s value past established media rivals like CBS and made it about the same as Time Warner. The streaming entertainment service had 69 million subscribers at the end of the third quarter, and almost a quarter of those signed up in the last year. Netflix also continued to win fans for shows like “Orange is the New Black” and “Narcos.” The company says its service will be available in 200 countries by the end of the year.

AMAZONIAN PROPORTIONS

E-commerce giant Amazon celebrated its 20th anniversary with results that sent investors into a buying frenzy. Amazon was the second biggest gainer in the S&P 500 for the year, up 114 percent through Wednesday. The company is on track to report more than $100 billion in revenue in 2015 and it has started to turn in higher profits more frequently despite a loss in the first quarter.

Its stock surge pushed the company’s market value past that of longtime competitor Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart stock fell 29 percent in 2015, which made this Wal-Mart’s worst year since 1974, when it had fewer than 100 stores. Wal-Mart was the Dow’s biggest loser.

“This year seemed to mark an inflection point for Amazon,” wrote Christine Short, an analyst at Estimize, who said Amazon was “almost solely responsible for the downfall of big box giant Wal-Mart.”

Macy’s and Staples also were among the 20 biggest losers as fewer shoppers trekked to stores and bought more goods online instead.

Amazon is now in a battle with the other high-flying stock of 2015: Amazon and Netflix are rivals in creating original entertainment for subscribers. This year the two snagged almost 50 Primetime Emmy nominations between them. Netflix shows received far more nominations but Amazon’s shows won five Emmys to Netflix’s four.

WARCRAFT GETS A CANDY CRUSH

The third biggest gainer in the S&P 500 was Activision Blizzard, the video game maker behind “Call of Duty” and “World of Warcraft.” It rose 93 percent as it moved to expand into the sweeter side of games. In November the company agreed to buy King Entertainment, the maker of the smartphone hit “Candy Crush Saga,” to strengthen its mobile games business. It is also working on a “World of Warcraft” movie and a TV show adapted from its kid-focused “Skylanders” game.

The rest of the top ten winners in the index were a mix of companies representing several industries, including the video graphics chip maker NVIDIA, the payments processor Total System Services, the website domain name company VeriSign, and Spam maker Hormel Foods. First Solar also made the top 10, getting a major boost when Congress extended tax breaks for solar installations in December. 

THE BIGGEST LOSERS

Six of the 10 biggest losers in the S&P 500 were energy companies, led by Chesapeake Energy, Southwestern Energy and Consol Energy. All three are dependent on the price of natural gas and all fell between 75 percent and 80 percent this year.  Nine energy companies in the index lost at least half their value.

A big reason: Mother Nature. An extraordinarily warm fall and early winter in the U.S. is slashing demand for heating, and half the nation uses natural gas to heat their homes. Natural gas supplies were already high coming into the winter. That combined with low demand pushed natural gas prices to their lowest levels since 1999 in mid-December.

The rout in crude oil prices that began in mid-2014 deepened in 2015, pulling down the value of oil company shares and the performance of the overall stock market.

All this pain for energy companies is good for consumers, who are now enjoying low prices for gasoline and shrinking heating bills.

There were four non-energy losers in the S&P’s bottom 10.

• Mining company Freeport-McMoRan fell 68 percent, hurt by slowing economic growth in China that reduced demand for raw materials.

• Watchmaker Fossil Group lost nearly two-thirds of its value as fitness trackers grew more popular and the Apple Watch was launched.

• Chipmaker Micron Technology fell 59 percent as consumers continued to turn away from personal computers.

• Casino operator Wynn Resorts fell 54 percent because a corruption crackdown in China has dampened the enthusiasm of high-rolling gamblers in Macau, an important location for Wynn. 

Who’s Who in music streaming: Tidal, Spotify, Pandora & more

Since Apple shook up the music world with iTunes a little more than a decade ago, online music has exploded and become the central way many people enjoy and discover music. Internet services such as Pandora and Spotify have millions of users. Now, several high-profile musicians are behind what’s being billed as the first artist-owned music-streaming service.

Tidal isn’t new, but it’s getting a reboot from rapper Jay-Z, who bought the Scandinavian company behind it, Aspiro. Madonna, Rihanna and Beyonce are among the co-owners. That’s notable because many artists complain about how little payment they get from other music services, such as Spotify. As owners, artists could insist on better deals.

There are now three main ways to get music, and many services offer a blend:

• Pay per song. Apple’s iTunes has made it easy to buy singles or albums. Many artists release new albums early through iTunes. Google and Amazon now compete, but the premise remains the same: Buy songs or albums to own forever.

• Unlimited listening. For a monthly subscription of about $10, you can listen to as many songs as you want on a variety of personal computers, phones, tablets and other devices. Many also let you download songs for offline playback. Once you stop paying, though, you lose all your songs, even ones you’ve already downloaded. Some offer free versions with ads and other restrictions, such as song selection only on PCs.

• Internet radio. You can’t choose specific songs or artists, as you can with the unlimited-listening services. But you can fine-tune your Internet stations by specifying a song, artist, genre or playlist. The station will then stream songs similar to your choices. You can personalize stations further by giving thumbs up or thumbs down to songs you hear.

Music services typically have deals with all major recording companies, so they differ mainly in features rather than song selection. That said, Taylor Swift took her music off Spotify last fall in a dispute over fees. All but her most recent album are on Tidal, Rdio and Beats.

Here’s a look at who’s who in music streaming.

SPOTIFY

One of the most popular music services, with 60 million active users worldwide, and a quarter of them paying subscribers. Just this week, Spotify launched an app on Sony’s PlayStation game console. The two companies worked closely to make listening seamless, so music can be heard in the background while playing games, without losing the game’s sound effects, for instance. Spotify offers unlimited listening and Internet radio. It’s free with ads; on mobile devices, users are limited to Internet radio and can’t choose songs. Paying $10 a month gets you an ad-free premium service that offers song selection and offline playback on mobile devices.

PANDORA

Offers Internet radio only. More than 81 million active listeners. Free with ads, or pay $5 a month for an ad-free premium service and higher-quality audio over Web browsers.

TIDAL

Unlimited listening. Among the few services offering high-fidelity songs, which many audiophiles prefer over MP3s and other formats that reduce quality in the compression process. Offers music video and curated playlists from experts. $10 a month for standard sound quality and $20 for high fidelity. There’s no free offering.

APPLE

Pay per song to download and own forever through iTunes. Free Internet radio through iTunes Radio on Apple devices. Also owns Beats Music, which offers unlimited listening for $10 a month, with no free version. Beats touts its playlists and other recommendations curated by experts, not computers.

GOOGLE

Pay per song through Google Play. Google Play Music service offers unlimited listening for $10 a month, with no free option. Google also offers YouTube Music Key for selected music videos, free of ads, for $10. Paying for one gets you the other, too.

AMAZON

Pay-per-song offering. Amazon’s $99-a-year Prime membership comes with unlimited listening, though the song selection isn’t as broad as what rivals offer.

SAMSUNG’S MILK MUSIC

Offers free Internet radio like Pandora and others, but tries to make it easier to find music to match your mood. Instead of typing in songs or artists to find matching stations, you spin an on-screen wheel to go through various genres until you land on something you like. Initially exclusive to Samsung TVs and mobile devices, there’s now a Web player for personal computers.

The big reads in book news in 2014

Like a serial for the digital age, the book world’s most dramatic story of 2014 unfolded in installments, often in real time.

A dispute about e-book revenues between Amazon.com and Hachette Book Group led to Amazon’s removing buy buttons, cutting discounts and reducing orders for works ranging from J.K. Rowling’s latest detective thriller to J.D. Salinger’s “Nine Stories.” The battle lasted for months. Hachette author Stephen Colbert flipped the bird to Amazon, right on camera. Amazon suggested that frustrated customers might try buying books elsewhere.

You could call the resolution happy, and open-ended. The two sides agreed to a multiyear deal in mid-November and Hachette books were back in full for the holiday season. Amazon and Hachette each declared itself satisfied.

But it’s hard to say what has changed. Douglas Preston, a Hachette author who became a leading Amazon critic, expressed a common view among writers when he told The Associated Press recently that the standoff demonstrated that the online retailer is “ruthless and willing to sanction books and hurt authors.” Amazon’s image may have suffered but it still controls some 40 percent of the market, by the estimate of major New York publishers, and still has a hold on those who say they fear it.

James Patterson, a Hachette author who has donated more than $1 million to independent sellers and worried that Amazon might put them out of business, said in a recent interview that he likes to shop at the Classic Bookshop near his home in Palm Beach, Florida.

“And I do a little bit (of shopping) online,” he added.

Amazon?

“I do a little bit online,” he repeated, then said of Amazon.

“I do understand where they’re coming from.”

Here are other highlights from 2014:

• YESTERDAY’S NEWS: Many of the big fiction books of 2014 were not published in 2014: An Oprah Winfrey pick, Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings”; Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Goldfinch,” a Hachette release so in demand that even Amazon left it alone; and a handful of novels helped by movie adaptations — Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl,” John Green’s “The Fault In Our Stars” and Laura Hillenbrand’s “Unbroken.”

Phil Klay’s book of contemporary war stories, “Redeployment,” won the National Book Award, but a people’s prize for top literary hardcover of 2014 would likely go to a novel about World War II, Anthony Doerr’s “All the Light We Cannot See,” which has sold more than 180,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks around 80 percent of sales.

• ROCK STARS: Readers have been treating young adult writers like rock stars, which is better than how they’ve been treating rock stars — at least those of a certain age. At 48,000 copies, “One Direction: Who We Are: Our Official Autobiography” was more popular than the combined Nielsen sales for books by Carlos Santana, Joe Perry and Jerry Lee Lewis.

• DIVERSITY: BookCon, a self-styled “pop culture” version of BookExpo America, launched in 2014 and immediately failed by only inviting white authors to speak. In response, a social media campaign was born, and a grassroots movement, We Need Diverse Books, soon followed.

One of We Need Diverse Books’ advisers is Jacqueline Woodson, who won the National Book Award for her young adult book “Brown Girl Dreaming.” She also, quite unintentionally, helped raised a substantial amount of money for the organization. After she won her prize, awards emcee Daniel Handler of “Lemony Snicket” fame made an awkward joke about watermelon that even Handler later acknowledged was racist. He apologized and eventually donated $110,000 to WNDB.

Woodson, a published author for nearly 25 years, sees the industry alternating between cycles of recognition and neglect. Now, she believes, recognition is underway, citing Jason Reynolds and Aisha Saeed as among the promising young adult writers. Meanwhile, Woodson wants to get around to an adult book she’s been meaning to write. “My plan for January is to get quiet again, and write.”

• GETTING PERSONAL (AND POLITICAL): Lena Dunham only begins the story. It was a good year for personal essays, including those that are more than personal, with acclaimed collections from Roxane Gay, Charles D’Ambrosio and Meghan Daum among others. Leslie Jamison, author of the best-selling “The Empathy Exams: Essays,” wrote in a recent email that “readers are becoming increasingly drawn to forms of personal writing that also look outward at the world: that blend the revelations of memoir with the inquiries of journalism and criticism.”

• THE FACTS: With nonfiction still essentially a print market, and with bookstore space far smaller than a decade ago, it’s hard these days to be a historian — unless you’re Bill O’Reilly. The Fox News host’s latest recounting of a famous death, “Killing Patton: The Strange Death of World War II’s Most Audacious General,” has sold more than 700,000 copies, according to Nielsen. That’s far more than the combined Nielsen sales for the most recent books (both published before 2014) by two of the world’s most famous historians: Robert Caro’s “The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson.” and Doris Kearns Goodwin’s “The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism.” O’Reilly’s book, co-written by Martin Dugard, also easily surpassed the combined sales of two of the biggest political books of 2014: Hillary Rodham Clinton’s “Hard Choices” and George W. Bush’s biography of his father, and fellow ex-president, “41.”

• THE CLOUD: Trip Adler is the CEO of Scribd, a leading e-book subscription service, an emerging part of the digital market. He believes e-books are the future, but is admittedly surprised that print is holding up so well.

Asked why he thinks print has endured, he pauses. “I don’t know,” he says. “I can brainstorm a bunch of reasons. Book technology has kind of lagged behind video and music. Even subscription services came to books last. Why weren’t the book services first? I can’t say why.”

For himself, Adler likes e-books and relies on Scribd for suggestions. “I open the Scribd app and whatever books are recommended to me I read,” he said. “I have not read a print book in a long time. I’m kind of the Silicon Valley type.”

Brazil to stop killing of pink dolphins

Brazil will temporarily ban the catch of a type of catfish in an effort to halt the killing of the Amazon pink dolphin, whose flesh is used as bait, the Fishing and Aquaculture Ministry said this week.

Ministry spokesman Ultimo Valadares said the government is working out the details of a five-year moratorium on fishing of the species called piracatinga that is expected to go into effect early next year.

“That should give us enough time to find an alternative bait for the piracatinga,” Valadares said by phone.

Nivia do Campo, president of an environmental activist group in the northern jungle state of Amazonas, welcomed the news because more than 1,500 freshwater dolphins are killed annually in the Mamiraua Reserve where she studies the mammals.

She said that since 2000, when fishermen started slaughtering them for bait, the number of dolphins living on the reserve has been dropping by about 10 percent a year. The reserve currently has a population of about 13,000 dolphins.

Poor fishermen are encouraged to use dolphin flesh as bait by merchants from neighboring Colombia, a big market for that species, de Campo said.

Known as the “water vulture” because it thrives on decomposing matter in rivers, the piracatinga is not consumed by people living along the rivers of the Amazon region.

The pink dolphin is under threat, “and if nothing is done to stop the killing it will become extinct,” de Campo added. “That is why the moratorium is excellent news. It will allow us to discover other baits fishermen can and continue earning money selling piracatinga she said.

The moratorium will also help stop the killing of the Amazon caiman, whose flesh is also used as bait to catch piracatinga.

For centuries, the pink dolphins have been revered by locals and protected by myth. According to one tale, the dolphins transform into handsome men and leave the water at night, seducing local women before returning to the river. Many consider it bad luck to kill them.

WiGWIRED: Five great features that the Amazon smartphone is expected to offer

A report this week in The Wall Street Journal that Amazon is planning to release a smartphone has prompted industry analysts and technology blogs to muse about what the device might offer.

Amazon hasn’t confirmed that it has plans for a smartphone. Introducing such a device would be tough in a crowded market dominated by Apple and Samsung. Even so, innovations like the Kindle Fire and Prime membership program demonstrate that the online retailing giant has a knack for using its massive size and marketing budget to capitalize on gaps in the marketplace.

Some unconfirmed reports say the phone could have a 3-D interface and multiple front-facing cameras.

Here’s a look at five features technology experts believe Amazon might include on its smartphone.

1. 3-D shopping

A 3-D interface doesn’t require special glasses could have a lot of uses. For example, when you’re shopping online, you could pull up a 3-D image of sneakers or a jacket and see all of the features easier, suggests Bill Menezes, principal research analyst at Gartner. Another possibility: you could scan your living room to make a 3-D rendering. Then, when you’re out furniture shopping, take a picture and digitally insert the product into the rendering to see if it fits.

“You could see ‘Oh that’s how that purple couch looks in the bedroom, I think I’ll buy it,’ and you avoid buyer’s remorse,” says Ramon Llamas, research manager of research firm IDC’s mobile phones team.

2. Enhanced games

Amazon is rapidly expanding into the gaming arena with its Amazon Game Studio and video game offerings on its new streaming device, Amazon Fire TV.

“A phone could be a way to help them potentially push more on the game front,” says CRT Capital analyst Neil Doshi.

The phone’s purported 3-D interface could be a way to offer a more robust gaming experience.

3. Seamless grocery shopping

Amazon has been testing a Wi-Fi wand called Amazon Dash that simplifies barcode scanning. Such capabilities could be included in the Amazon phone to improve on current barcode scanning apps. Combine that with Amazon’s same-day grocery service Amazon Fresh, currently in testing in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco, and grocery shopping could be drastically simplified. Rather than dragging a shopping cart through aisles —or even scrolling through a list of products online— a quick wave of the phone in your pantry could have all your groceries at your doorstep within hours.

“It’s an opportunity to continue to tie users into the Amazon ecosystem,” Doshi says.

4. Free streaming video

IDC’s Llamas suggests one of the phone’s selling points could be a free ad-supported version of Amazon’s current instant Video service, which is included in the $99-per-year Prime membership. The hypothetical service could be viewed on the phone, a Kindle or on Amazon’s Fire TV but not elsewhere like Xbox or Roku, he says, which could be a selling point for the phone.

5. Competitive pricing

Menezes at Gartner speculates that the phone could be offered on different price tiers. One tier could be a one-time payment for the phone that offers Amazon’s apps and services but a limited number of other features. A higher price tier could feature a monthly bill and a phone with more bells and whistles.

It’s difficult to be competitive on price in the cutthroat phone market. But as Amazon has shown with its tablets, the company is willing to deliver high-quality hardware at a loss in order to undercut competitors like Apple and put its devices in the hands of people who will use them to buy Amazon’s goods and services.