Every so often, Amazon introduces a product that grabs people’s attention in a big way. Perfect examples? Two leap to mind immediately. The first is the three wolves shirt:
This shirt was just a T-shirt, like any other themed T-shirt, had a couple of reviews, not at all a big seller, when someone planning for Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference (June 2009) sponsored a contest where they’d give away their product to anyone wearing this shirt. Always going for a laugh, and knowing a good product when they spotted one, a few people started posting reviews of the shirt on Amazon. Here’s a typical example:
I bought this shirt, and instantly old girlfriends started calling me again. The shirt has an amazing pattern, and feels so great on my skin. Nothing brings out the man in me like this wolf shirt. Wherever I go; car races, monster truck shows, walmart, the women seem to love my shirt. I will not go anywhere without this shirt on, the wolves are the best thing to happen to me.
Between the contest and the funny reviews, shirt sales took off. I saw at least a hundred of these shirts at WWDC, and Amazon now has 1,558 reviews of the shirt. That is simply crazy.
You may have noticed a reference in one of the very first reviews to Tuscan Whole Milk. This meme started in late 2005 and is the earliest of this genre I’ve found. Here’s a sample review:
I was born without bones. Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz changed that. Just one jug of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz and I now have a skeleton much like any other person, granted I spend my nights feeding on the blood of innocents, but I have bones now.
And then there were three. Personally, I think this one might be the best. The Laptop Steering Wheel Desk. Really. The Laptop Steering Wheel Desk. Stop what you are doing and jet over to this page, check this baby out. A brilliantly designed product that cries out for your own personal brand of judgment. There are only 85 (admittedly hilarious) reviews as of today. Let’s see if we can catch up to Three Wolf Shirt, shall we?
Interesting. Amazon remotely deleted copies of George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm from all of its customer’s Kindles. This action stirred angry debate about the ownership rights of Amazon, Apple, and other electronic media purveyors. Who owns the material on your Kindle and iPod/iPhone?
A Michigan high school student, Justin Gawronski, sued Amazon, claiming that not only did Amazon delete his copy of 1984, but they also took his “copious notes” as well. In effect, his Kindle ate his homework.
Bottom line, Amazon avoided a costly class action lawsuit by settling this case for $150,000. You can read the details of the settlement on Eric Engleman’s Amazon blog.
The Novel Devices Laboratory at the University of Cincinnati is doing some very interesting work on electrowetting, the technology behind electrofluidic displays (EFDs).
In a nutshell, an EFD stores liquid pigment in a tiny reservoir, perhaps 10% or less the size of a single pixel. Apply voltage, the pigment is pulled out of the reservoir and spread over the pixel surface, thus becoming visible. Remove voltage, liquid goes back in the reservoir. You get the idea.
I received a Barnes and Noble gift card for my birthday the other day. I LOVE gift cards. Turns on my unbridled consumer gene, turns me into a kid in a candy store. But this time, not so much.
Now that I have a Kindle, all of the non-tech books I buy are electronic. I either get my tech books from publishers, as review copies, or I buy them as eBooks, usually from the publisher’s web site.
I get my music from iTunes, or as digital downloads from independent artist web sites.
Barnes and Noble does not carry any consumer electronics of note, and a man can only have so many book lights, expensive pens (of which I have, and need, none), and artisan bookmarks.
I was able to find something I liked, and needed, a journal with a cover that appealed to me. I use journals to keep notes in meetings, and am looking forward to filling this one with notes.
But, that said, this experience made me wonder about the future of brick and mortar bookstores. I realize that the eBook is not quite here yet for the masses, but I don’t see that future as more than a few years away. My parents have cell phones. I suspect they’ll have a Kindle-like device in the next few years, even with no action on my part.
I think eBook distribution will become a larger and larger part of the publishing revenue stream. Print is shrinking. Look at the wave of newspaper shutdowns. Print is dying.
This is great! Amazon has released a new Kindle iPhone app. Here’s the link.
The Kindle iPhone app lets you download all your Kindle books on your iPhone and iPod Touch and let’s you read any of those books. Not as elegant a reading experience as you might find on the Kindle itself, but plenty readable. And the Kindle app even takes you to the same page you were on in your Kindle. Very cool!
Here’s my Kindle app in action, reading Michael Palin’s latest, The Monty Python Diaries:
Even better, you don’t even need to own a Kindle to purchase Kindle books. You just need an Amazon account.
I’ve been following all the brouhaha between Amazon and the Authors Guild. In a nutshell, the Amazon ships with a text-to-speech feature that turns any book you buy into a slightly creepy, but free, audio book.
The Authors Guild protested this move as being unfair to authors. I believe the real reason behind this protest was the thought that this free text-to-speech would eat into the sale of audio books. While I don’t think that is true in this version of the Kindle (just try to listen to more than 3 minutes of Kindle’s text-to-speech without driving your car into a tree), the existing free text-to-speech capability sets a precedence that has significant future ramifications. In other words, when the Hugh Jackman text-to-speech Kindle ships, the audio book market might feel just collapse.
Many people have railed against Amazon for caving to the Authors Guild. I think they missed the point. I believe Amazon did exactly the right (and noble) thing by allowing authors to choose whether Kindle is allowed to text-to-speech their work. How could that be wrong? Amazon, as an author, I salute you!
My brother Stu is a big fan of Cory Doctorow, and for good reason. Cory is a bright fellow and has some interesting things to say.
This article explores Cory’s theory that the newspaper industry is near collapse. I get the idea, but think there’s another take. I think the newspaper industry is about to evolve. The newsgathering mechanism is still as valid as ever. It’s the delivery mechanism that is changing. Online advertising, classified advertising, and an emerging new subscription model will replace the existing revenue stream. As eBook readers, like the Amazon Kindle, become more and more part of the mainstream, more and more people will plunk down $13.99 per month for a subscription.
The New York Times also offers an electronic edition, billed as a complete version of the print edition with less paper to recycle. This version can be read on your computer and is $14.99 a month.
I believe the New York Times has their head wrapped around the right model and that they will succeed. Not everyone will, but the new model is here. What do you think, Cory?