Tag Archives: amazon

Amazon packaging – the environment is overrated

Amazon packaging with tiny productStraight up – let me tell you – I love Amazon Prime. I’ve been a customer for years and the convenience that £50 a year or so gives you is phenomenal – next day delivery on EVERYTHING they sell themselves. Amazing.

And often I’ve been impressed at the ‘limited wrapping’ options available on some products – where they’ll tape a USB key to the inside of an envelope or something before they post it to you. Great stuff there, guys.

But something went wrong this weekend. I ordered a ‘food umbrella’ – one of those things you put over the fruit bowl when the weather gets warmer to keep the flies out. At £2.25, it was not an expensive purchase, and as a folded up piece of lace doily, essentially, it wasn’t heavy or bulky.

So I was a little surprised at the box (pictured). Not sure what in Amazon’s P&P system went wrong there but  we were couriered a box that you could probably have squeezed about 100 of the umbrellas into – in which sat a single, solitary, lonely food umbrella.

D’oh! I’m suddenly curious as to whether this was an automated error or if someone actually went to the time and trouble to package that in there. I think I’ll ask Amazon UK on Twitter and will keep you posted! I’ve also submitted the picture via Amazon’s packaging feedback website – hopefully help make the service that little bit better!

Internet killed the traditional book store. And the record shop. And the…

There’s a lot of talk amongst our client base of the new business models and innovation possible thanks to the power of the Internet. There’s also a signficant amount of chat about what it means for the pre-web business models – particularly in the media sector.

Look at Waterstone’s, sold last week for a relative pittance. And the share price of the HMV Group – on a persistent downward spiral over the last 12 months – demonstrates how poorly that business has adapted to the Internet age. Contrast that with Amazon or even B&N and you’ll see that real innovation is needed to translate some of those legacy business models to the new delivery platforms we have for media. Amazon is selling more Kindle books than print books – absolutely astonishing. Who would have guessed that things would move this quickly?

B&N, worth around $1bn, as Tom pointed out on Twitter the other day, has managed maintain its valuation where Waterstones et al haven’t. The analysis points out that it has tried to keep on the edge of things with an innovative eBook portfolio in the US. Tom sums it up neatly:

If that’s not an advert for why old media businesses have to aggressively investing in digital platforms, I don’t know what is.

Waterstones’ e-commerce ventures were hopelessly bumbling – first a partnership with Amazon, then its own webstore, and then perhaps a slightly misjudged ebook strategy which I still don’t fully understand today.

I guess, though – that at least they tried. And establishing what insights are needed to drive appropriate customer-centric innovation requires an understanding of customers that goes beyond what they themselves think they need – three years ago when I first got an e-reader, virtually no-one I spoke to was willing to give up the feel of a rustling paperback. We would never have guessed that so many people would be reading everything on Kindle [apps] this soon – but here we are.

The worse thing anyone can do about the Internet is bury your head in the stand. It’s a rolling force for change, whether we like it or not, and is having a dramatic impact on virtually every business I come across – nowhere more dramatically than in the media sector.

My brother talked about the need for smart, digital people in the film and TV industry over on Screen Daily and the apparent dearth of them in his industry. As someone passionate about the media sector here’s hoping that the digital people find their way out of the woodwork and help with the industry in the evolution of its more traditional business models… so there’s not only aggressive investment, but sensible investment in the development of new business models…

Why do we pay VAT on eBooks but not on print books?

There’s no VAT charged on books – it’s one of a number of exempt products and services that the HMRC sets to be zero rated (For the full list – click here).

…but there is on eBooks. I’ve been searching for an answer as to why (and indeed, why print books are zero rated). I can only assume that – as books broadly speaking ‘better’ or are needed for civilized society, a view was taken that they should be zero rated and that’s been maintained over the years.

As to why eBooks aren’t zero rated? The suggestions I’ve read online indicate that legislators haven’t quite caught up with the concept. Would they be taxing a digital download/service, or a ‘book’ in the traditional sense? In the case of Kindle, you aren’t buying the book but the right to access it from Amazon – so how is that classified by the bean counters?

Irrespective of the logistics of it and whether they should be zero rated or not, this is why the pricing on eBooks is so broken. It is almost inevitably cheaper for me to buy a hardback on Amazon than the Kindle equivalent (given Amazon’s extensive discounting of new mass-market hardback novels). Frustrating, but I’m still paying the digital tax – the convenience of e-reading – not to mention the enormous amounts of shelf space it’ll save me in the long run – is immense.

Kindle blogstore… ish

I made good use of the Kindle app over the sabbatical – I read my way through most of Joe Abercrombie’s back catalogue, including the First Law trilogy, amongst others, via the iPad and iPhone, whilst feeding Emily and when on planes, trains and boats.

So it was with some excitement that I realised that I could add my blog to the Kindle store and make it available to my adoring public via another channel. I’ve done so, and you can subscribe here… if you live in the US and have a full-on Kindle device. I’ve no idea why it’s not available in the UK… Can anyone educate me?

As to why is it that Amazon hasn’t provided similar features on the iPhone/iPad that it has going on its own device…? Again, not sure. Presumably to force sales of the Kindle to people that want to read blogs, newspaper etc., and make some money from the hardware sales… But you’d think that they make most of their money from the book sales rather than from the physical hardware??

I want to read my e-reader…

So despite the fact that the prevailing opinion from my Twitter contacts and friends alike was that I should wait for the Kindle to grace the shores of the UK, the holiday in Denmark with three bulky paperbacks squeezed into a too-cramped rucksack and the impending implosion of my bookshelves into some minor singularity broke me, and I picked up a Sony PRS 505 from Play.com about two weeks ago. I’d seen my friend Rob with one and had a pretty good idea it would be decent, which its proving to be, and I had a feeling that the Kindle would be some time coming…

Here’s what’s good about it:

1) It stores lots of book in a sleek, elegant casing. I’ve shoved a 1GB SD card (at a cost of a not so princely £4) in there, which will cover me for at least 1000 books but potentially as many as 3000 – which is probably more than I’ll need on there

2) It works well with the open source Calibre, even under Windows7 RC1 64bit, which is something of a relief (as I gather the Sony software is its usual bag of decaying tripe)

3) The screen is amazing. E-Ink works like an etch-a-sketch, so reads well in any light. It also makes for…

4) …awesome battery life. Due to the etch-a-sketch nature of the device, it only draws power when turning pages. So one charge (by USB cable), will give you room for about 4000 page turns

5) You can get books. Waterstones has many, even if Amazon is probably banking on the arrival of the Kindle in the UK at some stage.

The not-so-good

1) I’ve already mentioned Sony’s software… the navigation on the device itself is not brilliant, no way to go directly to a page (that I’ve found as yet), not until you’ve made bookmarks (although it remembers what page you were last reading), and there’s no search functionality, ability to make notes etc. I’m also having some fiddling with page alignment (page numbers in middle of page, NBSPs, etc)

2) There’s no wireless connectivity – hence awesome battery life, but hey, if I want wireless, well, that’s what the iPhone I’m planning on getting will do…

3) The page-turning is not that speedy, although its not terrible

All in all, it’s up there with my Netbook in all-time useful purchases. I carry it around daily, have got through two novels on it in two weeks and will probably maintain close to that rate, saving valuable bookshelf real-estate, holiday packing and being stuck on the bus in between books…

Here’s a quick video demo from some dude on Youtube:

Cross posted on Chivalry House.