Jul 21

The news is out that Borders book store is no longer. As I consider this, I wonder if it’s a sign that books are going the way of the 8-track, cassette, LP, and VHS tape. Or is it an indication that book stored were meant to be independent stores, the neighborhood book store that still seems to be out there but in fewer numbers over the decades. I Google “book store” and up pops nearly a dozen local shops, all closer than my Borders location that will close soon. Maybe Boarders closing will give these stores a bit of a second wind, as I’ll probably stop in them a bit more often. There’s a bigger question, however, as Amazon reported sales of eBooks passed sales of physical books not too long ago, are printed books going the way of the dinosaur? Does it matter? Is there more to a book than the words it contains? As the Kindle commercial mocks, is there something about the feel of a book in your hands, the ability to dog-ear a page and perhaps even write in the margins or highlight some text you’d like to review?

On the other hand, is there a benefit that goes beyond paper in being able to hyperlink words in an eBook, to pull up a definition of an obscure word, or to link to an article that goes into greater detail on the topic? An eBook will also let you search for a word or phrase in seconds while the physical book make take a lot of flipping to find the passage you seek.

Garrison Keillor recently wrote an article titled ‘The end of an era in publishing.” It’s not eBooks that bother him, but rather the barrier to entry is gone. He pines not just for the typewriter, but for the days of a publisher that had to read your work and accept it. Today, whether it be a print-on-demand or eBook, anyone can write what they wish and offer their work to the public.

I find myself torn. I’m not ready to cut loose from paper altogether, but I do appreciate the convenience and compactness of the electronic book.
Are you giving up paper? Have you gone 100% electronic or are you still deciding between physical and virtual?

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Jan 04


The book Start Over Finish Rich by David Back, is now available (one day only) as a free ebook download at WalletPop. Note: this is not a pirated copy, I received a mailing from David today announcing this promotion. A good way to start a Monday.

This was good for the one day, I’ve removed the link, hope you enjoyed the free eBook!


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Dec 02

I recently read Trade-Off, Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don’t, by Kevin Maney.


This book surrounds one premise, that for a product to succeed against its competitors, it needs to excel in either Quality (fidelity) or Convenience. In a montage of one example after the next we are given pairs of products as examples of this concept. The fidelity (literally) of MP3 audio is lower that that of a CD, but the convenience is much higher, a dollar or so (assuming you’re not stealing it) and a few seconds download time, and it’s yours. A CD, at best, is a walk or car ride away, or a few days if ordered on line.


The author goes on to discuss how where a product lies on the fidelity/convenience curve will shift over time. Not just to say that it can shift, but that it will. A simple case in point, the iPod. The first models came on the scene as a high priced, high fidelity purchase. Over time, the iTunes store took off but the unique aura surrounding the iPod faded a bit as everyone seemed to have one. As the iPod shifted its position on the curve, Apple introduced the iPhone and gained incredible market acceptance for this new product, again hitting the high point on the fidelity curve as its older products shifted toward convenience.

This book is fast reading, and enjoyable despite its tight focus. Take a read and see if you don’t start to view certain products in a different light.

FTC disclosure – The copy of this book I read was from my public library. No one paid me to read it or write about it. Most links in the sidebars left or right are advertisements, and not personal endorsements.


written by Joe \\ tags: , ,

Oct 13

I recently read a book titled Free, The Future of a Radical Price. In it, the author, Chris Anderson, shares with us a series of anecdotes to get his point across how free can actually be profitable for companies that support it as a business model.

Let’s start with Monty Python. A few years ago, some of the existing members of the group Monty Python found that their video clips were being screened on YouTube. To counter this, Monty Python launched their own YouTube channel and started streaming high-quality video, also for free. What did they gain from this? Three months later sales of their DVDs had climbed to No. 2 on the Amazon movie list with revenue increasing 23,000 percent.

Chris event takes us back a couple generations to when Gillette handed out razor handles as a loss leader to sell blades to happy customers at a profit. In another example of clever marketing strategy, we find that Jell-O wasn’t always the popular dessert treat that it is today. It took some hard work and giving away tens of thousands of Jell-O cookbooks to gain market acceptance. If it weren’t for this marketing genius the Jell-O shots that we enjoyed in college may never have been.

Back to today. We find companies such as Google and Yahoo providing a valuable service but never sending us a bill; both companies basing their business models on advertising revenue. Chris also discusses how some companies may provide a free service as well as a premium service with more options. So long as some fraction of customers to pay for premium service, the company might sustain a profit. While he doesn’t mention it in the book, Evernote is one such company, their free service providing enough value that the founders are comfortable talking publicly about the percentage that sign up for their premium service.

There is also a lengthy discussion of recording artists who accept the fact that their music is pirated on the Internet but their gain in revenue and sales of concert tickets and older CDs makes up for this. I find this hypothesis interesting although I’m not personally comfortable declaring that the ends justifies the means. If a band wishes to choose to distribute their music freely, and make up for it elsewhere, that should be their decision and not a business model to force upon them. Still it’s an interesting discussion to observe how a product with no incremental costs can lead to a different marketing path. Before the price of hard drive memory came down so dramatically, it would make little sense to photocopy every page of a 300-page book. Today that book may very well be available online for the downloading. And the business model of free will struggle with the distinction between the bits and atoms.

Chris offers and interesting insight on this concept and this book deserves a space on your shelf right next to other recent books such as Blink, Freakonomics, and The Tipping Point.

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