Archive for the ‘amazon’ Category

Cloudy Computing from Business Week

December 27, 2007

I just finished rereading the Business Week article about Google’s cloud computing initiatives. A few thoughts:

1) As Anil noted last month, Google’s visibly made a strategic PR shift from quietly talking about their successes to trumpeting things in progress, vaporware or no. SOP in the industry, no harm no foul, and if Business Week wants to follow, good for them – but it’s a long way from the clear we’re-done-go-at-it of years past. Open question: will engineers begin to trust Google less as they see more of this?

2) Google’s control over press coverage is surprisingly strong here. If you’re going to write a legitimate article about cloud computing today, you don’t relegate Amazon Web Services to a sidebar. They’re the ones doing this for realsies, it’s not like they’re a scrappy startup without data center investment, and no question that the excitement about AWS cloud services among tech companies is legitimate. (Google search for EC2, an uncommon term otherwise? 995,000 results.) Eric-fu 1, Jeff-fu 0. 

3) Would it have made the article more or less interesting if they’d mentioned Christophe Bisciglia’s criminal record – for breaking into a Port Orchard ISP? (Look, he was crafty then, too!) Hey, BW, it’s the second result when you use that search engine his company makes.


Amazon Kindle, By The Numbers

November 19, 2007

The Amazon Kindle was released today, which much fanfare, including Steven Levy’s Newsweek article on the future of reading (a great example of Jeff’s breathtaking vision and his power to impact the popular wisdom) and his review.

Having held a pre-release Kindle a few months ago and noted its flaws, the Newsweek articles still made me want to rush out and buy one. So let’s use math to justify it.

The current Kindle catalog has 91,000 books, the vast majority of which are $9.99. The Kindle page promises “all NYT Best Sellers and New Releases” and says today that it “offers 100 of 112 books currently found on the New York Times Best Seller list.”

There are at least 2400 books which are more expensive – Amazon’s sort-by-price search stopped working at 2400 – but these seem to be specialty texts. Anecdotal checking showed that Kindle versions were 10%-30% less expensive than hardcover versions.

As of today, the top 24 Hot New Releases in Books (25 was a repeat) and the top 16 NYT Hardcover Fiction average $15.90/book. (This includes three books below $9.99 – Kindle probably will match – and two books I would never buy in electronic form – a PostSecret book and a Star Wars Pop-Up Book.)

Oh, and of course, the Kindle costs $399 ($434.52 if you live in Washington). No startup costs for books just yet.

So that makes the over/under

$399 / ($15.90 – $9.99) = $399 / $5.91 = 67.5 best sellers to pay for the Kindle.

OK, that’s a lot of best sellers, especially when you have two kids and can’t even finish a book a week anymore. One per week, the Kindle pays for itself in 13 months. Let’s keep justifying it.

I don’t get the New York Times daily anymore, but let’s pretend I do, and pretend I don’t read it for free online. Well, then, the daily NYT in print is $25.60 for the first three months, then $51.20. The Kindle version is $13.99/month. So that’s a difference of $11.61 for the first three months and $37.21 after that. (Let’s assume I also don’t serially cancel every three months to restart, because that makes me a bad person.)

Then the first three months, Kindle saves us $11.61 + ($5.91 x 4) = $35.25. (I’m reading a book a week now, good for me.) Future months, $37.21 + ($5.91 x 4) = $60.85. Now the Kindle pays for itself in 8 months.

Add a few magazines and you save $10-15/year here and there (though it’s hard to match up since the prices on the Kindle page don’t match the prices on the per-magazine pages). That’s like free money you can use to get yourself ahead on a few best-sellers, and now all of a sudden you’re at 7 months. Don’t pay for blogs, because c’mon.

So that’s it: with the help of some math, buy a Kindle and pay for it in seven months. Buy me one, you’ll get priceless thank-yous and a photo of me licking the Kindle on this blog page right here. Cuz I want one.

At least I like Parchesi

September 27, 2007

New widget on the Amazon home page, and #32 in why tag clouds are scary:


Well, that’s depressing. Note to self: two-year-old is no longer allowed to search for DVDs.

Vroom!!vroom!!The most desirable posts!

September 23, 2007

My Amazon post was recently featured on the WordPress home page:


The reflexive reaction is, of course, to write more about Amazon, but I was thinking about doing that anyway. It also reminds me to write the post I’ve been bouncing around in my head about net.fame for a while.

But in lieu of having done either of those things, thank you, WordPress overlords!

Amazon’s New Feature and the Old Guard

September 21, 2007

Amazon enables customer video reviews – congrats to my old team for a potentially very interesting new feature. I’ve yet to run into it in the wild but look forward to doing so.

I’ve pointed to the discussion board post for Amazon Reviewers (did you know they had a discussion board?), where the reaction from the existing reviewers is as expected: this is going to be terrible,  there’s no way I’ll ever do that, there’s no way this will ever work, and why did you do this instead of my feature.

This reaction happens each time the Amazon Community team announces a new, non-core-to-writing-text-reviews feature to the reviewers (and sometimes those features too…). Here’s the thread for tags, for example, and while the thread for customer images is gone, the content was the same.

This is a perfectly understandable reaction which points to some other lessons in community building:

1) Almost to a person, the reviewers are reviewers. They aren’t image creators or taggers or discussion board thread members or videologists, they’re reviewers. They also aren’t participating in the “ Community”, despite the attempt to think of them as such. They like writing critical commentary on products, and Amazon gives them a way to do it. Additionally, they like talking to each other about reviewing, and about Amazon, and about anything – their community is the reviewers, not Amazon. Expecting them to be excited over new features that software teams think of in the same “family” is likely to be disappointing.

2) Reviews came first, as did reviewers. They’re the Old Guard of the community. All this other stuff, that’s not reviews. Why is Amazon chasing shiny objects, they reason, before improving the things they care about?

This leaves community management in a tough spot. You have an active, consistent, honest sub-community of a larger “goal” that you believe matters to the future of the business – and they’re your only continually vocal community. (Amazon taggers don’t hang out together.) Do you please your largest and only visible customer group, noting that you’re missing innovations in the market (that might succeed or fail at Amazon), or do you ignore them and deal with the pain and the e-mails to the CEO?

This was a fun thing to worry about for two years, and I sometimes miss it.

(Note to self, made public so I do it: write about the surprising use of some Amazon community features.)