When you run the world’s largest online marketplace with millions upon millions of items, tasteless, even brashly offensive merchandise is bound to make its way onto the site. For Amazon, this means an endless game of whack-a-mole.
The latest series of problematic apparel is a collection of leggings and hot pants covered with depictions of Hindu deities sold through a third party dealer called Yizzam. Rajan Zed, President of Universal Society of Hinduism, lodged a complaint with Amazon that 11 pairs of Yizzam’s leggings with images of Hindu gods like Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu and Muruga were blatantly disrespectful of Hindu practices.
Details regarding Amazon’s rumored Manhattan retail store remain scarce, but what many don’t know is that Amazon has already made brick-and-mortar partnerships in India and is planning to sell in stores in California as well.
Amazon recently signed a deal with Future Group, India’s largest listed retailer, according to The Economic Times. As per the deal, the group will soon begin selling 45 of their own apparel labels on Amazon. Next, Future Group plans to bring in-house brands of home, electronic and food items to the site.
Tech fanatics might be excited about the brick-and-mortar Amazon store opening on Manhattan’s 34th Street, but if the store decides to stock best-selling novels alongside Fire phones and e-readers, we won’t be able to say the same for New York City’s publishing community.
“New York publishing, for better or for worse, is very cordial,” Tin House editor Rob Spillman told Betabeat. “Amazon is more, ‘We’re going to crush all of you.'”
UPDATE, 10/10: Betabeat spoke to members of New York City’s publishing community, who feel “insulted” by Amazon’s decision to open a brick-and-mortar store.
UPDATE, 10/09: According to the Wall Street Journal‘s sources, Amazon’s brick-and-mortar store will be located at 7 W. 34th Street, across from the Empire State Building.
Betabeat reached out to Amazon requesting further details about the store. “We have made no announcements about a location in Manhattan,” a spokesperson responded.
So we made the voyage down to 7 W. 34th Street, where we spoke with a doorman inside the lobby. “I don’t know anything,” he said, when we asked if Amazon was opening a retail store in the building. The building currently contains offices, as well as Mango and Express retail stores on street level.
We popped into Mango, where a security guard said he’d noticed construction in the 7 W. 34th Street building. “Nobody knows what that’s about,” he said.
Betabeat also called the building manager of 7 W. 34th Street, but the person who answered the phone said the manager wasn’t available. When we asked if he knew anything about the Amazon store, he hung up on us mid-sentence.
Rise of the Drones
Customers are so excited about the iPhone 6, they’re willing to pay people to wait in line at the Apple Store for them. Sadly, we can’t say the same for the enthusiasm surrounding the Amazon Fire Phone, whose price has just been reduced to a measly $0.99.
The phone, which has been on the market for less than two months, has already decreased nearly $200 in price, Time reports. Amazon Devices’ vice president, Ian Freed, described the news in a press release today:
Fire is now 99 cents with a two-year contract, plus customers get one full year of Prime included. With access to all of the Prime content, Mayday, 32GB of memory and free unlimited cloud storage for photos, plus the exclusive Dynamic Perspective and Firefly features, Fire is another example of the value Amazon delivers to customers.
When Amazon announced their plans to deliver orders via drone, the world was hopeful, yet skeptical.
But what we thought were nothing more than Amazon’s wildest fantasies may be coming true. Two sources with knowledge of the project’s development revealed that initial testing for the Prime Air drone delivery service could begin as soon as October, according to India’s The Economic Times.
YouTube Killed the Video Star
Netflix, as you may have heard, is great. A digital economy of scale allows us to pay a ridiculously low price for an ocean of streaming video that we could never hope to watch in all the years we might live, and in return we typically get frustrated by moderate price increases and the recent removal of 24. We keep our subscription through thick and thin, largely because it would be a slight inconvenience to cancel it. Other companies have caught on, and all the big players are trying their hands at movies, TV, music, video games and more. We in the media tend to call this modern incarnation of an old idea “The Netflix of blank.”
It doesn’t stop with entertainment. There are subscriptions for beauty products, clothes, groceries, contraception, razors, and pretty much everything else you could imagine. Even neo-taxis, like Uber and Lyft (which still require you to make a purchasing decision every time you use them) function mainly by banking on the idea that they can become a sort of transportation default, thus avoiding that pesky moment where people check to see if they’re really getting a deal or not. None of this is new (magazine subscriptions, cheese of the month clubs, Costco, etc.), but both digital distribution and the logistical streamlining of the 21st century are supercharging it.
The Internet’s largest players are slowly figuring out that nobody wants to pay for music or movies, no matter how low the cost. So to figure out what’s next, they’re looking a the rising subscription giants like Netflix and Spotify and just, well, copying them.
YouTube is planning to launch a massive music subscription service called YouTube Music Key, Android Police reports. The service has no planned release date, but Google has already bought the domain youtubemusickey.com, and a series of phone screenshots show off the service’s basic features.
Perhaps feeling threatened by copycats, everyone’s favorite addicting game, Flappy Bird, has made a triumphant return — well, sort of.
The game, which was pulled from the app store by creator Dong Nguyen in February, has finally re-emerged, the Verge reports. The catch? It’s for some reason only available on Amazon’s Android App Store, and can only be played on a TV hooked up to Amazon’s Fire TV set-top box. Uh, okay.
Welcome to Freshly Minted, where we examine an overlooked deal or funding announcement in tech from the past week and tell you what you need to know and why it matters.
The deal: Apple acquired book analysis startup Booklamp for an alleged $10 to $15 million, likely to begin work building a book subscription platform, or something much bigger.
Apple is always stark and shady when it comes to their acquisitions. They’ve bought a number of under-the-radar startups, and when asked why, they offer up the same response:
“Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”