April 15, 2021

Daily Deals Propel Older E-Books to Popularity

The next day, boom: it sold 13,071 copies.

“Gone, Baby, Gone” had been designated as a Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon, and hundreds of thousands of readers had received an e-mail notifying them of a 24-hour price cut, to $1.99 from $6.99. The instant bargain lit a fire under a dormant title.

Flash sales like that one have taken hold in the book business, a concept popularized by the designer fashion site Gilt.com. Consumers accustomed to snapping up instant deals for items like vintage glassware on One Kings Lane or baby clothes on Zulily are now buying books the same way — and helping older books soar from the backlist to the best-seller list.

“It’s the Groupon of books,” said Dominique Raccah, the publisher of Sourcebooks. “For the consumer, it’s new, it’s interesting. It’s a deal and there isn’t much risk. And it works.”

Finding a book used to mean scouring the shelves at a bookstore, asking a bookseller for guidance or relying on recommendations from friends.

But bookstores are dwindling, leaving publishers with a deep worry about the future of the business: with fewer brick-and-mortar options, how will readers discover books?

One-day discounts are part of the answer. Promotions like the Kindle Daily Deal from Amazon and the Nook Daily Find from Barnes Noble have produced extraordinary sales bumps for e-books, the kind that usually happen as a result of glowing book reviews or an author’s prominent television appearances.

Web sites like BookBub.com, founded last year, track and aggregate bargain-basement deals on e-books, alerting consumers about temporary discounts from retailers like Amazon, Apple, Kobo and Barnes Noble.

“It makes it almost irresistible,” said Liz Perl, Simon Schuster’s senior vice president for marketing. “We’re lowering the bar for you to sample somebody new.”

E-books are especially ripe for price experimentation. Without the list price stamped on the flap like their print counterparts, e-books have freed publishers to mix up prices and change them frequently. Some newly released e-books cost $14.99, others $9.99 and still others $1.99.

Consumers are flocking to flash sales, said Russ Grandinetti, Amazon’s vice president for Kindle content, because the deals whittle down the vast number of choices for reading and other forms of entertainment.

“In a world of abundance and lots of choice, how do we help people cut through?” Mr. Grandinetti said. “People are looking for ways to offer their authors a megaphone, and we’re looking to build more megaphones.”

Mr. Grandinetti said one book, “1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die,” was selling, on average, less than one e-book a day on Amazon. After it was listed as a Kindle Daily Deal last year, it sold 10,000 copies in less than 24 hours.

Some titles have tripled that number: on a single day in December, nearly 30,000 people snapped up digital copies of “Under the Dome,” by Stephen King, a novel originally published in 2009 by Scribner. For publishers and authors, having a book chosen by a retailer as a daily deal can be like winning the lottery, an instant windfall of sales and exposure.

In February, a crime novel by the little-known author Lorena McCourtney, released by the Christian publishing imprint Revell, was selected as a Nook Daily Find. The sales from that promotion alone were enough to propel it onto The New York Times best-seller list.

At HarperCollins, executives said they have seen books designated as daily deals go from 11 copies sold in one day, to 11,000 copies the next.

Not all of them take off, though. One publisher said some books fizzle out quickly, attracting only several hundred downloads in a day. Another publisher said he is hesitant to discount that steeply, fearing that consumers will eventually resist paying more than a few dollars for a book.

But part of the allure of flash sales is what can happen afterward: a ripple effect that increases sales on an author’s other work.

If one book in a series is offered in a one-day promotion, readers who liked it will often buy others in the series.

“We’ve found that one of the key opportunities with it is the halo effect,” said David Steinberger, the chief executive of Perseus Books Group. “It’s hard for it to be highly successful economically at these very low prices, even if the volume goes up for a single day. But if you create awareness for the book, it can make a lot of sense for the author.”

The book that is discounted often sells at a higher level after the daily deal than it did before, even though it has returned to the regular price.

“Food Inc.,” the companion book to the documentary film, sold hundreds of copies each month before a one-day promotion on Amazon. On the day of the promotion, it sold thousands of copies; afterward, the book sold steadily at twice the level before the promotion, Mr. Steinberger said.

Tim Lavalli, a writer in Berkeley, Calif., said he reads at least two books a week, receiving almost all his recommendations from BookBub or Ereader News Today, another daily-deal aggregator.

It takes little time — and hardly any money — to download e-books when they are on sale, Mr. Lavalli said, making it easier to give up on a book if it does not keep his interest.

“You can read the first few chapters and say, this guy can’t write,” he said. “Then you throw it away.”

Jim Hilt, the vice president for e-books at Barnes Noble’s Nook unit, said sales generally peak on Wednesday and Thursday, when customers start planning for the weekend and thinking about which books they are going to read.

“Those are really good days to get the right piece of content in front of someone,” he said.

Ms. McCourtney, based in southern Oregon, said she was shocked to learn from her publisher in February that her most recent book, “Dying to Read,” was a best seller.

Ms. McCourtney, who has published 42 novels, said it was a career first.

“I had never made The New York Times best-seller list before, so I was delighted,” she said. “It certainly felt good.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/27/business/media/daily-deals-propel-older-e-books-to-popularity.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Independent Booksellers Sue Amazon and Publishers Over E-Books

Three independent, brick-and-mortar bookstores have filed a lawsuit against Amazon and the big six publishers, claiming that they are violating antitrust laws by collaborating to keep small sellers out of the e-book market.

In a lawsuit filed on Friday in Federal District Court for the Southern District of New York, the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza and Posman Books, both based in New York, and Fiction Addiction, based in South Carolina, alleged that they and other small bookstores were being deliberately forced out of the digital market as a result of agreements between the big publishers and Amazon.

“The contracts entered into between Amazon and the Big Six,” the complaint said, constitute “a series of contracts and/or combinations among and between the defendants which unreasonably restrain trade and commerce in the market of e-books sold within the United States.”

At the heart of the lawsuit is the idea that the top publishers signed secret contracts with Amazon that allowed them to code their e-books in such a way that the books could only be read on an Amazon Kindle device or a device with a Kindle app. The booksellers are pushing for open-source coding that would allow readers to buy e-books from any source and download them on any device.

They argue that the proprietary coding compels consumers who own Kindles or tablets with Kindle apps to buy e-books only from Amazon. The lawsuit states that the publishers have no similar contracts with independent booksellers. It also notes that Apple once used similar exclusive coding, known as DRM, in the music business, but that after a series of legal challenges, all music available on iTunes was made DRM-free.

The booksellers are seeking an immediate injunction to the practice, as well as damages.

The six publishers named were Random House, Penguin, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon Schuster and Hachette. The plaintiffs said their claim was a class action on behalf of other independent booksellers as well.

In a statement, Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon Schuster said, ““We believe the case is without merit or any basis in the law and intend to vigorously contest it. Furthermore, we believe the plaintiff retailers will be better served by working with us to grow their business rather than litigating.” Amazon said it would not comment on ongoing litigation. The other publishers declined comment or did not immediately return phone calls.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/independent-booksellers-sue-amazon-and-publishers-over-e-books/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: The Breakfast Meeting: The Tech Industry Looks to Online Gambling and Business Insider Appoints an Executive Editor

Developers across the technology industry are focusing on online gambling as their next billion-dollar business, David Streitfeld reports. Online poker and sports betting are certainly nothing new, but developers from giants like Zynga to specialists like Betable are creating more casual games on which users can bet, from casino staples like slots and roulette to considerably more creative diversions. Developers are currently aiming their products at foreign markets while trying to make inroads in the United States, where online gambling is still largely illegal. Legislation to legalize the practice is slow, facing headwinds from brick-and-mortar casinos and traditional antigambling factions.

Business Insider, the nearly six-year-old online news site, has named Joe Weisenthal, the site’s lead financial blogger, as its executive editor. Mr. Weisenthal, who begins his day at 4 a.m. and maintains a frenetic Twitter presence, was an obvious choice for the position because of his nervous energy and obvious love of his subject matter, Brian Stelter writes. Henry Blodget, who founded the site and remains its editor in chief, said the Business Insider will turn a meaningful profit during this quarter.

One reporter’s decision to authenticate an amateurish iPhone photo of an exploding manhole in Omaha involved shoe leather, not photo analytics or a careful examination of metadata, David Carr writes. Matthew Hansen, a columnist at the Omaha World-Herald, eventually traced the photo to Stephanie Sands, a graduate student the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and got a column out of it. The story may not be a scoop for the ages, but it does reinforce the point that local newspapers still play an interesting role even in the digital age and that reporters generally benefit from turning off their computers and physically exploring a story.

Winners of the 2012 George Polk Awards uncovered corruption at the highest levels of the Chinese government, exposed abuses at New Jersey’s halfway houses and delved deep into the Syrian civil war, Marc Santora reports. The New York Times won three awards and Bloomberg News won two, and other winners included California Watch, CBS News, Frontline, GlobalPost, The Maine Sunday Telegram, McClatchy Newspapers, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The New Yorker and The Washington Post.

The death of a high-profile character on the season finale of “Downton Abbey” may have left fans of the show angry and mourning, but killing off characters generally fails to alienate audiences, Bill Carter writes. (Fans, have no fear of spoilers — specifics will appear in the interview description below.) Important deaths have played a part in shows from “M*A*S*H” to “Dallas,” but now audiences use social media to protest more vociferously than they could in the past, as the creators of shows like “Lost” and even “Boardwalk Empire” have found. Both shows remained popular despite an outpouring of outrage.

Julian Fellowes, the Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the creator and writer of PBS smash “Downton Abbey,” sat down for a spoiler-laden interview with Dave Itzkoff about the comings and goings on “Abbey” and his own possible departure from the show. (Read no further if you’re catching up.) The deaths of Sybil and Matthew, Mr. Fellowes revealed, were not necessarily his choice — the actors playing those characters decided to leave the show to pursue other opportunities. Mr. Fellowes would say little about the next season, except that one of the main themes will be the rebuilding of Mary. He is working on a possible period drama for NBC called “The Gilded Age” which, if it is picked up, would mean he would leave “Abbey.” As much as Mr. Fellowes would like to end the hit on his own terms, “the business of life is learning that you can’t lay down the terms,” he said.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/the-breakfast-meeting-the-tech-industry-looks-to-online-gambling-and-business-insider-appoints-an-executive-editor/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Campaign Promotes New Bank Service for N.B.A. Fans

9:29 a.m. | Updated BBVA, the official bank of the National Basketball Association, will announce on Friday that it is extending its services from the league to its fans.

BBVA Compass, the American franchise of the Spanish bank, and the N.B.A. will unveil a campaign to promote online consumer checking and savings accounts called NBA Banking. Branded debit cards connected to the accounts will carry the logo of the cardholder’s favorite N.B.A. team.

The effort is meant to help BBVA expand its presence in the United States beyond the 716 brick and mortar locations it has in states like Texas, California and Arizona, while targeting younger, tech savvy basketball fans. Manolo Sanchez, the chief executive of BBVA Compass, said it was important to connect the brand with values like teamwork and fair play.

“These are the things we like about team sports,” Mr. Sanchez said. “They are a metaphor for the things that we believe are important for the company.”

BBVA has been an N.B.A. partner since 2010 and has been aggressive in its pursuit of sports sponsorships both in the United States and in Spain. Its efforts included securing the naming rights to the Houston Dynamo soccer stadium and sponsoring the BBVA League in Spain.

Customers who sign up for a new N.B.A. account will be able to access banking services online and through their mobile phones. Account holders will also be able to access news and game scores when they access their account.

James Harden, a player for the Houston Rockets, and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder, will be featured in ads promoting the BBVA accounts, and in social media campaigns and other promotions for the bank.

Additional promotion will include a microsite on the BBVA Compass Web site encouraging fans to upload photos of themselves. Fans can also post photos to Instagram and Twitter using #RealFan.

The N.B.A. will select photos of fans to use in some of its advertising promoting the BBVA partnership.

This post has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: February 15, 2013

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the professional basketball league involved in the campaign. It is the National Basketball Association, not the National Basketball League.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/15/campaign-promotes-new-bank-service-for-nba-fans/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Drive to Tax Internet Sales Harms Affiliate Marketers

The move certainly seemed to be an odd business decision: it cost $100,000, and the company left behind a $5 million, three-year-old, custom-built office building in Rockton, whose maintenance would continue to cost $30,000 a month until it finds a tenant. But Mr. Storm felt he had to do it for his business to survive.

One of the country’s biggest bargain hunter Web sites, FatWallet publishes coupons and deals from about 1,000 companies that range from small shops like PennyWise.biz to retail giants like Amazon. Since 2005, the company has acted as the middleman in more than $1.2 billion in Internet sales. (It says its own revenue was $12 million in 2010.)

But last March, Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois signed House Bill 3659, a so-called affiliate nexus tax that would require out-of-state retailers that advertise through Illinois-based Internet marketing “affiliates” like FatWallet to collect and remit Illinois sales tax.

Mr. Storm, 43, calculated that he had until last April 15 to move his business or risk losing as much as 40 percent of his revenue when big Internet retailers like Amazon.com and Overstock.com would cut off FatWallet to avoid the expense and irritation of handling Illinois sales tax. “We didn’t really have a choice about relocating the business,” Mr. Storm said. “It was relocate or become irrelevant.”

It is hardly surprising that states are taking it upon themselves to increase their sales tax income. Residents are supposed to declare and pay sales tax on goods they buy from out-of-state retailers, but few do, which deprives states of tax revenue and gives Internet retailers an advantage over physical stores. California hoped to collect some $200 million the first year after passing an affiliate nexus tax, and the large brick-and-mortar retailers that support nexus bills hope that the bills will level the playing field with Internet competitors.

But these laws have collateral damage. Caught in the crossfire of the nationwide fight — New York and other states have also passed nexus laws — are a large but rarely examined part of the Internet economy, affiliate marketers.

These third-party Web sites, which contract with retailers to advertise their wares, come in many forms. There are coupon clearinghouses with multimillion-dollar revenues, like FatWallet and Ebates, which some online shoppers visit religiously to track down daily bargains, and there are tiny mom-and-pop blogs that run affiliate marketing ads related to their content — a pet blog, for example, might carry advertising for pet shops.

The advertisements the affiliates run contain embedded codes indicating which affiliate is sending traffic to the retailer, and when a click leads to a sale, the affiliate receives a commission. According to a report from Forrester Research, spending on affiliate marketing is expected to rise to $4 billion in 2014, from $1.9 billion in 2009. Scot Wingo, chief executive of ChannelAdvisor, a retail consulting firm and software company in Morrisville, N.C., said that about 5 percent of all Internet commerce runs through affiliate marketers.

The field is not without controversy. Some affiliates have been caught rigging the system by posting fake ads or buying Web ads that purport to be directly from the retailers they are advertising. And retailers often wonder if the sales they get from affiliates are sales they would have gotten even without them.

Mr. Wingo notes that his retail clients say that only about 5 percent of affiliate marketers have sites with content that adds value and increases sales. “Many retailers are decreasing the number of affiliates,” Mr. Wingo said. “There’s a lot of fraud. And some create channel conflict. They may buy search terms and compete with you.”

Still, that 5 percent constitutes a hardy industry, and while it is impossible to know exactly how many affiliate marketers and other businesses have been affected by the nexus laws, it is clear that the fight has had an impact.

Year-over-year revenue growth for affiliate marketing at ValueClick, the parent company of Commission Junction, one of the giant middlemen that manage transactions between hundreds of retailers and their affiliates, fell to 9 percent from 17 percent from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2011 in large part because of the California nexus law, according to Colin Sebastian, a stock analyst who covers ValueClick for Robert W. Baird Company.

Thousands of marketers in the affected states have been cut off by Amazon and other retailers. Others, like FatWallet, have had to move.

But the big losers of this battle are small affiliates that cannot afford to move, many of them one- or two-person shops that support a family. Each time a state passes a nexus law, said Scott Allan, vice president for marketing at LinkShare, another of the companies that serve as middlemen between retailers and affiliate marketers, retailers sever relations with thousands of affiliates to avoid having to collect sales tax.

Mr. Wingo of ChannelAdvisor said, “It shows the huge gap behind the government thinking and small-business thinking.”

When Gov. Jerry Brown of California signed nexus tax legislation into law last June, Amazon terminated its relationship with some 10,000 California affiliates. One of them was MyBargainBuddy.com, a 12-year-old affiliate-marketing-based shopping portal based in Murrieta, Calif., owned by Karen Hoxmeier, 38. As a result, more than 60 percent of the 3,000 or so retailers whose products Ms. Hoxmeier advertised decided to drop her, leaving Ms. Hoxmeier to post links only to the small group of retailers with physical stores or other operations in the state. “My sales immediately went down by about 50 percent,” she said.

In Colorado, Invisible Shoes, a two-year-old maker of huarache-style running sandals based in Boulder, lost out two ways in a similar sales tax battle. Because of a Colorado nexus law passed in 2010, Amazon canceled the company’s affiliate account, which meant Invisible Shoes could not run affiliate advertising for the third-party products like books and creams that it sold to its shoe customers. That cost Invisible Shoes several thousand dollars a month, said Steven Sashen, its founder and chief executive. But the law’s larger effect was to stifle the company’s growth plans.

Mr. Sashen, who expects the company to surpass $1 million in sales this year, had created an in-store kiosk that would allow shoppers to custom-design running sandals inside client stores. That way the client stores could offer custom shoes without carrying inventory. But Mr. Sashen’s accountant told him that the kiosk would constitute a nexus that could force Invisible Shoes to collect and pay sales tax in states where it had client stores.

“Given the size of our company, the accounting cost alone makes this prohibitive,” said Mr. Sashen, 49, who shelved the kiosk plans. “It’s not collecting sales tax that’s the hard part; paying taxes in the jurisdictions is an accounting nightmare.”

National legislation could save affiliate marketers and retailers like Mr. Sashen. Twenty-four states have signed on to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, a plan to simplify sales taxes. Congress is currently considering three federal bills that would give states that simplify their sales tax systems the right to make out-of-state retailers collect taxes.

While the national bills are far from becoming law, affiliate marketers are breathing a little easier, at least in California. Since September, when Governor Brown signed a compromise law that gave Internet retailers a one-year reprieve on sales tax collection, Ms. Hoxmeier’s MyBargainBuddy site has bounced back to 2,500 advertisers.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=d97590bb021c342753467f7ee7960d11

DealBook: Barnes & Noble Considers Spinning Off Its Nook Unit

The company sees a bright future for the Nook.David Paul Morris/Bloomberg NewsThe company sees a bright future for the Nook.

Barnes Noble‘s Nook is selling exceptionally well, by the company’s reckoning. So the bookseller is considering spinning off the e-reader unit.

The company said on Thursday that it was beginning “strategic exploratory work” to separate the Nook division, in an effort to help the nascent business grow.

But a spinoff of the unit would raise questions about Barnes Noble’s ultimate fate. While holiday sales tied to the Nook, including both devices and digital content, rose 43 percent from the period a year earlier, the company’s brick-and-mortar sales rose just 2.5 percent.

And Barnes Noble said that it now expected to report a loss of $1.10 to $1.40 a share for this year, sending the company’s shares plunging nearly 30 percent in premarket trading.

Barnes Noble’s stock has fallen 5.2 percent in the last 12 months, closing at $13.55 on Wednesday.

Still, the company forecasts a bright future for the Nook, having endured many quarterly losses while investing heavily in the business. Barnes Noble said it was currently considering reporting Nook-related sales as a separate business segment, and added that it was in talks with potential partners to expand the Nook’s presence abroad.

“We see substantial value in what we’ve built with our Nook business in only two years, and we believe it’s the right time to investigate our options to unlock that value,” William J. Lynch Jr., Barnes Noble’s chief executive, said in a statement.

The Nook’s numbers were not all rosy, however. Barnes Noble acknowledged that it had ordered too many of its black-and-white Nook devices, which fell short of sales expectations.

The potential spinoff is the latest strategic plan that Barnes Noble has explored in the last two years. The company previously shopped itself around, before deciding in August to sell a minority stake to Liberty Media for $204 million.

And it is has put its Sterling Publishing unit up for sale, according to the Media Decoder blog.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=2ad466d6c070426ce123d40d3030e569

You’re the Boss Blog: A Small Retailer Tries to Compete With the Big Boys Online

Site Analysis

What’s wrong with this Web site?

Little Dudes and Divas is a small business with some very big competition. Started seven years ago by Steve and Susan Karasanti, husband and wife, the company has three employees and sells clothes and accessories for infants and toddlers. Ninety percent of the sales come through the Web site, the rest through a newly opened brick-and-mortar store in Rockaway Park, N.Y., where the company is based.

“Our business model is based on keeping things fresh and selling only items which we feel are of the highest quality,” Steve Karasanti said. “If a new bag or print comes out, we want to be the first to have it on our site. You don’t want your customer to tell you that she saw something on another site from a manufacturer you carry.”

Can a company this small go head-to-head with such powerhouses as Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, Babies “R” Us, and Diapers.com? It isn’t easy. “When we first started selling diaper bags and diaper bag accessories online, there was much less competition,” Mr. Karasanti said. “It’s extremely challenging to compete with such well-known Web sites that sell the same items as us. It’s very hard to compete with the bigger online companies on price, but we can compete by giving our customers personal attention.”

For example:

  • “If a customer wants to see a particular bag packed a certain way, we will make a video for them and post it.”
  • “We will spend time answering all your e-mails and sit on the phone with you until you feel comfortable ordering and all your questions have been answered.”
  • “We have customers that call us when they had a bad day and need to talk, but they still manage to pick our brains about that diaper bag they had their eye on.”
  • “We may have a store policy, but we always find a way to make a change to keep our customers happy.”

To get the word out, the Karasantis have increased their e-mail marketing efforts to relay sales and promotions to their customers. They have also invested heavily in search engine optimization. “We did extensive research on S.E.O.,” Mr. Karasanti said. “We only use methods that are considered ethical. Our site is filled with meaningful and unique content.”

The Karasantis say they review their Google Analytics reports constantly. “We started to concentrate more on reports and customer behavior while shopping,” Mr. Karasanti said. “These reports help you understand why a customer may click off a page, or why they abandoned their cart. You can tell things like what page gets the most clicks, what page customers see when they leave the site. If you have a page on the site that gets a lot of clicks, but customers don’t continue to shop and just leave, it’s a good indication that something is wrong. It could be a price error, a missing picture, a bad link, or the page is not loading correctly.”

The Karasantis have also been active in social media, using blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to try to drive more sales. They post frequently and respond quickly to visitor comments. “We use them to keep our customers current and give them reasons to keep coming back,” Mr. Karasanti said.


So why were they interested in having their site reviewed here? “We are hoping to get a different angle on the things that we are doing well and the things that can use improvements,” Mr. Karasanti said. “We are not scared of criticism. We are scared that there might be something that we can do to improve, but we just don’t know about it.”

Please take a look at the site and consider a few questions:

  • Does it provide enough information to make you want to buy anything?
  • Does it make it easy to buy?
  • Does it create a sense of trust?
  • What do you think of how the company is using social media?
  • Do you have specific suggestions about the design, navigation or marketing?
  • Why would you buy from this site instead of one of their bigger competitors?

Next week, in our follow-up, we’ll collect highlights from your comments, and I’ll offer some of my own impressions. And we’ll get Mr. Karasanti’s response, as well.

Would you like to have your business’s Web site or mobile app reviewed? This is an opportunity for companies looking for an honest (and free) appraisal of their online presence and marketing efforts.

To be considered, please tell me about your experiences — why you started your site, what works, what doesn’t and why you would like to have the site reviewed — in an e-mail to youretheboss@bluefountainmedia.com.

Gabriel Shaoolian is the founder and chief executive of Blue Fountain Media, a Web design, development and marketing company based in New York.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=927b30a92444dcc336afda251bfe5344