The Media Equation
Why Barnes & Noble Is Good for Amazon
By DAVID CARR
Having a bookstore in your neighborhood, as opposed to one that is bookmarked on your browser, is an invitation.
Amazon New Storyteller Tool Turns Scripts Into Storyboards
By Saabira Chaudhuri
Amazon.com Inc.’s original content arm on Friday unveiled a new tool that will help writers and film makers create and distribute their work online, while also strengthening the company’s pool of ideas for potential features or TV shows.
Called Amazon Storyteller, the free online tool turns scripts into storyboards, complete with characters and dialogue that can then be shared with others for feedback.
The tool is currently in beta.
“We’ve found that many writers want to see their story up on its feet in visual form but find it harder than it should be to create a storyboard,” Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios said. “Storyteller provides a digital backlot, acting troupe, prop department and assistant editor–everything you need to bring your story to life.
Storyteller begins by scanning a movie script that has been uploaded to Amazon Studios. It identifies the scenes, locations and characters from scene descriptions, and “casts” them from a library of thousands of characters, props and backgrounds.
Filmmakers can recast or change locations, or they can upload their own images. Amazon said Storyteller places the cast in front of the right background so that filmmakers can focus their time on the emotion and energy of scenes by using pan and zoom, changing the facial expressions and positions of characters, adding vehicles or props or adding captions with descriptions or additional dialogue.
Once completed, the storyboard can be published on Amazon Studios where other users are able to view it and give feedback on the project.
Amazon Studios was launched in 2010 to develop feature films and episodic series. Anyone can upload a script and will then be notified within 45 days if that script is optioned by Amazon.
In October of last year, Amazon optioned the rights to a novel, a first for the company which until then had optioned only movie-script and episodic-series projects submitted to Amazon Studios.
Amazon has been ramping up its original content creation as well as content partnerships as it battles with rival streaming services such as Netflix Inc. (NFLX) to gain an edge in the content streaming space. Both Netflix and Amazon regularly announce new content deals, and Amazon earlier this week announced a multiyear deal with Viacom Inc. (VIA) to stream hundreds of its shows to Amazon customers, just days after many of Viacom’s disappeared from Netflix’s catalog.
Shares rose $1.99 to $269.82 in recent trading. The stock has risen 24% in the past 12 months.
Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at firstname.lastname@example.org
The future of the bookstore
A real cliffhanger
This was the burning questions on everyone's lips at a recent event at Foyles's flagship bookshop on Charing Cross Road in London, where some of Britain's leading literary agents, authors, marketing managers and booksellers gathered to discuss its fate ahead of the bookseller’s move from its current rambling premises to the former home of Central Saint Martin’s art school just up the road.
For a bookstore to remain successful, it must improve “the experience of buying books,” says Alex Lifschutz, an architect whose London-based practice is designing the new Foyles. He suggests an array of approaches: “small, quiet spaces cocooned with books; larger spaces where one can dwell and read; other larger but still intimate spaces where one can hear talks from authors about books, literature, science, travel and cookery." The atmosphere is vital, he adds. Exteriors must buzz with activity, entrances must be full of eye-catching presentations and a bar and café is essential.
The trend for not only incorporating cafés in bookstores but also placing them on the top floor makes good sense. The new Foyles will have one, Mr Lifschutz explains, because this draws shoppers upwards floor-by-floor, which is bound to encourage people to linger longer and spend more. (Top-floor restaurants in department stores abide by similar principles.)
There are plenty of ways to delight the bookstore customer, but few are easily monetised. The consensus is that bookstores need to become cultural destinations where people are prepared to pay good money to hear a concert, see a film or attend a talk. The programming will have to be intelligent and the space comfortable. Given how common it is for shoppers to browse in shops only to buy online later, some wonder whether it makes sense to charge people for the privilege. Victoria Barnsley, head of HarperCollins, thinks it might be a good idea. She cited similar experiments among clothing retailers to charge customers for trying on merchandise. (Only 35% of fiction in Britain is bought in a physical store, says Ms Barnsley.)
But forcing people to pay for the privilege of potentially paying for goods could deter shoppers altogether. A more attractive idea might be a membership scheme like those offered by museums and other cultural venues. Unlike reward cards, which offer discounts and other nominal benefits, a club membership could provide priority access to events (talks, literary workshops, retreats) and a private lounge where members can eat, drink and meet authors before events. Different memberships could tailor to the needs of children and students.
To survive and thrive, bookstores should celebrate the book in all its forms: rare, second-hand, digital, self-printed and so on. Digital and hybrid readers should have the option of buying e-books in-store, and budding authors should have access to self-printing book machines. The latter have been slower to take off in Britain, but in America bookstores are finding them to be an important source of revenue. “The quality is now almost identical to that of a book printed by a major publishing house,” says Bradley Graham, owner of a leading independent bookstore in Washington, DC, called Politics & Prose. His shop leases an Espresso Book Machine and makes it available to customers.
The bookstore of the future will have to work hard. Service will be knowledgeable and personalised, the inventory expertly selected, spaces well-designed and the cultural events enticing. Whether book stores, especially small independents are up to the challenge, is not clear. The fate of these stores is a cliff-hanger.