Lending e-books should be easier

Laptop computer with books, isolated on whiteI recently finished a book called The Martian a debut novel by Andrew Weir and enjoyed it very much. In fact I told a number of people about it and many of them seemed interested.

Before e-books I would have considered lending my hard copy to any one of my friends who expressed interest. Alas as an e-book that I read on my Amazon Kindle Fire that did not seem possible. While it turned out that I was incorrect in that assumption (you can lend Kindle e-books with some major limitations), the lending of e-books has a long way to go – in my book.

To better illustrate my point here is what Amazon.com writes about the lending of e-books:

You can lend a Kindle book to another reader for up to 14 days. The borrower does not need to own a Fire or Kindle device and can read the book after downloading a free Kindle reading app.

Note: A book can only be loaned one time. Magazines and newspapers are not currently available for lending.

Table of Contents

Loan a Kindle Book from the Product Detail Page

You can loan eligible Kindle books from the product detail page of a book you purchased on Amazon.

During the loan period, you will not be able to read the book that you loaned.

To loan a Kindle book:

  1. Go to the Kindle Store from your computer, and then locate the title you’d

like to loan.

  1. On the product detail page, click Loan this book. You will be sent to

the Loan this book page.

  1. Enter the recipient’s e-mail address and an optional message.

Note: Be sure to send the Kindle book loan notification to your friend’s personal e-mail address and not their Send-to-Kindle e-mail address.

  1. Click Send now.

Easy right? NOT!   14 days is a relatively short time for some of us to read an entire book. And that the clock is ticking from the moment your lending recipient clicks on the book does not enhance the experience.   You can lend a Kindle book to a non-Kindle user but the user has to download the free Kindle app – that’s ok and even smart as it will introduce the platform to non-users.

The practice that you can only lend the book one time is a bad one. Perhaps Amazon is worried that Kindle users might become their own lending libraries robbing Amazon of future revenue opportunities.

With all the technology that Amazon.com has at its disposal how could a reader be confused with a lending library?   If I have a printed book I am able to lend it as many times as I would like – which is normally mitigated by the fact that people don’t necessarily return lent books from one another.

Why wouldn’t Amazon Kindle allow me the e-book ‘owner’ to lend the book as many times as I like?   I feel that it’s acceptable practice (to me) if the e-book owner would then not be able to read the book (as is the case) until the person to whom the book was lent ‘returned’ the book. In this example then one copy moving around but at the e-book owner’s discretion to be lent as many times as desired. It also would follow that the owner of the e-book should have the option of pulling back the book at any time.

Overall I remain an Amazon.com aficionado but as time as passed the bloom is coming off of the rose and what’s left behind is not always so pretty.

Do you agree that lending e-books should be easier and better than it is today?

Posted in Direct marketing, E-books, E-tailing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Just don’t take away my printed Sunday New York Times

n-NY-TIMES-large570As a big fan of digital publishing I read my daily newspapers digitally (The NY Times and Wall Street Journal) – all except for the local newspaper (The Norwalk Hour), which along with a printed New York Times are delivered to my front door each day. I don’t read the printed NY Times during the week but I relish receiving the New York Times on the weekends when I am home. In fact many of the best sections of the Sunday New York Times are delivered to home subscribers – on Saturday.

My partner David likes to talk about media dwell time. How much time an individual spends with any particular media should be considered when crafting marketing messaging. When it comes to the Saturday and Sunday printed New York Times my personal dwell time is probably more than four hours. I fully realize that in many ways this defines me as an ‘older’ if not ‘old’ person.  1010

Printed newspapers are dying and there’s not much argument on that fact. The reasons (outdated information, outdated model of production and delivery), are well documented and I, like many people, have adapted to digital publishing and I do feel I read my digital newspapers for as long as I did the printed version. This does not mean it’s the same experience, but if the point is to consume what I feel is interesting and worthwhile information, then digital newspapers do a good job and are improving.

Recently I’ve found myself spending more time reading through articles delivered to me (with my own preferences included) via the Flipboard app. Articles from all over the United States as well as the world in general are fed to me in a daily ‘newspaper’ which is essentially a curation of choices made for me based upon my behaviors and preferences. If I like a particular publication I can of course subscribe. It’s an interesting and evolving delivery vehicle and I like it a great deal.

So then, the reported closing of the printed and inserted USA Weekend Magazine should not have come as any surprise.   It did not offer much of value aside from obscure stories on celebrities, birthdays of noted personalities, an attempted heartwarming story on some aspect of Americana and a bunch of full-page ads for foods I rarely eat.

Every Saturday the square color newspaper insert into my local newspaper was stacked with other inserts such as coupons and perhaps an old-fashioned free-standing insert. The odd thing is – I read it.   Every week. Maybe somehow I knew its days were numbered.   Alan Mutter – founder of Fast Company magazine and who writes an interesting blog – Reflections of a Newsosaur, wrote that  with the closing of USA Weekend (once limited to the weekend edition of USA Today but then distributed in local newspapers around the country, only Parade magazine is left in the Sunday Newspaper insert business.

I’ve said for a long time that ultimately printed newspapers will be reduced to being one of the three national dailies – The NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and that’s about it.   Weekly local newspapers will soldier on for a while longer but it’s hard for me to see many left five years from now.

For those people that want that old-fashioned printed newspaper experience (because it IS old-fashioned), I believe there will be an opportunity to enjoy that experience – at a substantial premium. The audience will be smaller – perhaps one-tenth the size of today, and it will pay through the nose for it. $20 for one issue of the Sunday New York Times? $30? There will be people that will gladly pay for what will be a nostalgic experience.

And I will be one of them.   How about you?

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Is Amazon too big to care?

amazon_retail_store1The NY Times on Tuesday published an article on Amazon.com and the idea that the company works on ‘disrupting itself’. Scott Galloway of L2 is extensively quoted in the article ‘arguing’ that Amazon does not want to own a piece of retail but ALL of retail.

Also of interest in the article is that Amazon is readying the opening of its first brick and mortar store. Right here in Manhattan in fact across from the Empire State Building only a few short blocks away from my office. I wonder what kinds of things Amazon will feature in the store which is slated to open ‘in time for the holidays’ – whatever that means.

Amazon is now nearly 20 years old. With the recent settling of the Hachette dispute Amazon has lost some fans if not some credibility. Since I am somewhat of an aspiring writer I watched the Hachette proceedings with great interest. However I am also an inveterate reader and the idea of Amazon beating up writers and publishers to offer books at lower prices by holding down royalties ends up being a double-edged sword. If you have followed recording artist Taylor Swift’s recent tiff with Spotify.com you know that business disruption is the standard these days independent of industry.

So is Amazon now too big to care? I don’t think so but it sure can appear to be that way.   Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post last year and to date there is not an indelible Amazon mark on the venerated publisher. At least not yet.   There are some signs that Amazon is too big to care – lack of response to customer complaints and/or suggestions are mentioned in the article which while not surprising are disappointing from a company that likes to think of itself as making things better. We should expect more from Amazon.

The Kindle Fire tablet is improving (I still have the original Kindle Fire which is just an ok tablet at best); the Fire Phone has been a sales disappointment. It does seem apparent that Amazon wants to touch any and every part of your life in some way, shape, or form. A bit insidious but no cause for alarm, right?

Mr. Galloway suggests that Amazon will be opening ‘dark’ stores – places where customers can pick up items, although an Amazon spokeswoman said in a statement that the 470,000 square foot (!!!) building was “primarily” corporate office space.

If more Amazon brick and mortar stores are to be opened in the coming years perhaps existing locations of struggling retailer Radio Shack might be a nice fit. There are times that people would welcome the opportunity to return an item or have a physical store with real people working there handle an inquiry.   In turn that just might show that Amazon is not really too big to care.

Of course I could be completely wrong. What do you think? Is Amazon too big to care?


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Another college shooting hits closer to home

AP_FSU_SHOOTING_141120_DG_16x9_992I was planning to write about Facebook and why people ‘like’ brands.  But when I woke up this morning I learned of another round of shootings on a U.S. college campus – Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.  Here in the United States this has become sort of a regular occurrence and most shockingly it’s no longer a shocking thing to hear about a campus shooting.  But this one was different.  Our precious daughter is a senior at Florida State.

Immediately upon looking at my phone I saw the texts, emails, and calls, all with well wishes and a desire to know if our daughter was ok.  She was indeed although my initial thought was that it would be highly unlikely for her to be in the library at 12:30 AM.  After all it’s not something I ever did back in my college days.  I came to find out that I was completely mistaken and in fact at times our daughter has been in the library at 2AM – just not last night.  Then I felt sick.

Once we knew she was out of harm’s way (for the moment) the question was ‘did she know the shooter who was shot and killed by fast responding Tallahassee police, or either of the three students that were shot?’  She did not.

Should there be tight security (metal detectors and screening) now in college libraries?  Apparently that’s what we’ve come to here in United States.  It’s no wonder that I hear from my friends and associates in other countries that it must be like living in the Wild West in the United States  I find it hard to argue that point.  We Americans all seem to agree the situation is completely out of hand.  And then we go back to business as usual.  Protecting our somehow inalienable right to carry firearms is somehow foundational to being an American to enough people that the overall situation never changes.  We complain, we complain, we complain, but nothing gets done.

Every time I walk into Grand Central Terminal I think it’s the least safe place to be in New York.  Sure there are what I see as an increasing amount of armed police and National Guardsmen omnipresent.  Yet the other day I had just returned from an out of town trip and was taking the train back to the suburbs and was wearing a big somewhat heavy backpack rolling an overnight back next to me.  If it were not me, that backpack might not have contained a laptop, some papers and cords, a tired banana and lots of pens.  It could have contained something much more dangerous. None of the police or guardsmen thought to give me a second look – perhaps I don’t exactly fit the profile?  Or perhaps at 6PM during the height of rush hour it’s simply too difficult to try to pick out persons of interest?

Here’s where it all could be going – security EVERYWHERE.  Airports and courthouses have thorough screening processes.  Schools from pre-K through university will have to employ these same measures, as will hospitals, commuter trains, arenas, stadiums.  You may need to plan to arrive three hours before any event so that one by one people can run their belongings through a detailed screening process.  It’s already happening in some locations (stadiums and arenas).  Why not movie theaters?  Broadway shows?

‘Just’ another college shooting has become an event closer to my home and heart, and I find it incredible to believe that my fellow Americans could feel the right to carry weapons anywhere they go should outweigh the safety of innocent people.  The rest of the world thinks all Americans walk around packing concealed weapons in the interest of self-protection.  While that’s far from the actual case, it’s hard for me to understand how second amendment protections are benefiting a majority of Americans.

I will write about FB some other time as I am not feeling it today.

What will it take to have things change?

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How did Toyota save the Prius brand?

Toyota PriusRecently Toyota Prius has been advertising on television with some amusing spots from Saatchi & Saatchi including one entitled “Rain’ in which an adolescent waits for the rain to wash the fourteen year old family Prius. Another spot entitled ‘Family Portrait’ depicts how the family has changed in the fourteen years they have owned their Prius.

What came to my mind were the issues with sticking in the accelerator pedal and the concern of unintended acceleration that plagued the Prius, reports of which began to filter in back in 2009. I remember at the time that anytime I was on the road I was on the lookout for any Prius’ to be sure I stayed clear. Right after the news became public I noticed Prius drivers on the road driving verrry slowly. Toyota ended up recalling nearly 2 million of the vehicles.

So how did Toyota manage to avoid what could have been a fatal blow to the brand? After all the EPA rates the Prius as one of the cleanest vehicles sold in the U.S. And the Prius is sold in more than 70 countries and regions and sales actually increased after the sticky accelerator reports.   Today the Prius sells nearly 5 million units worldwide. For me I never looked at the brand the same way again after the issues were reported. Apparently I am in the minority.

Maybe future Prius buyers were impressed that Toyota paid a $1.1 billion fine In December of 2012?   Maybe Prius buyers felt fuel costs were so high two years ago in 2012 that any hybrid was worth it since Toyota had addressed the sticky pedal issues (most car owners are well versed in auto manufacturer recalls these days)?

Of course Toyota maintained that the bulk of ‘unintended acceleration’ cases were due to floor mats that slid underneath accelerators and became trapped and were not the result of electronic defects in the cars’ engine computers. Not exactly standing tall and facing the music and any company that is able to offer a $1.1 billion settlement has to have more cash on hand.

It does not seem as if Toyota went out of their way to re-deliver on the Prius’ brand promise. Nothing special was done and buyers in short order flocked back to the brand making it bigger and more successful than ever before.

I just don’t understand why. Maybe you can help me?


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Marketing intuition – overrated or underrated?

IntuitionMarketing_07SITESmart direct marketers have been doing evidenced-based marketing for a very long time. Yet even with the use of old school matrixes prior to the rise of spreadsheet marketing, a fair amount of experienced based intuition would be employed. What does that mean? That means that sometimes the numbers are ignored and even good marketers go with their gut instinct. I’m here to advise that intuition can be both useful and dangerous.

I came to this conclusion while reading Nobel Prize winner Daniel Khaneman’s very interesting book “ Thinking Fast and Slow’. I won’t get into the aspects of System 1 and System 2 any more than to note that the book’s central thesis is a contrast in two modes of thought: “System 1″ is fast, instinctive and emotional; “System 2″ is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. Spoiler alert – System 1 dominates and as Mr. Khaneman relates that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Is marketing intuition important? I say absolutely. If something feels wrong or right it bears further exploration.   You must test your hypothesis and not simply just act upon it since it seems or looks familiar, or fits neatly into some cubbyhole in your mind. Creative efforts in marketing are born from intuition.   Most successful creative efforts manage to meld that intuition with an empirical understanding of the responsiveness of a particular audience. Breaking the rules can be very effective but it’s always better if you know what the rules are in the first place.

Marketing measurement is nothing new. Yet the differences in the ability to measure today are significant compared to ten or twenty years ago (how did we manage without the use of analytics – Google or otherwise?).   To ignore the data staring you in the face is a perilous road to travel – and a likely less successful compared to using the data to bolster marketing intuition.

Over the years I’ve seen numerous instances of marketers ignoring the data. It’s sort of like a friend of mine who years ago moved to Las Vegas to play blackjack for a living. He counted cards (in the days before 8 deck blackjack). He did fine for a while and then deviated from his plan and started to play his hunches combined with his counting strategy. He did not last very long and soon was on his way back to New York. Counting cards in blackjack for a living was a boring and methodical – even tedious. But it works. Until you ignore the data.

In a multi-channel marketing effort there are many times when one particular media channel performs decidedly better than the corresponding ones. Marketing intuition would move you to increase your efforts in that media channel. But the first move should not be to employ the best performing channel to the exclusion of the other media channels that undoubtedly had contributed to the overall success of the campaign and best-performing channel. As we direct marketers always say – test, test, test, and test again.

How do you feel about data-fueled marketing intuition?



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Five reasons a football tailgate is all about social networking

Jet tailgateBecause I am an American I watch football.  Some days I watch too much football.  Well almost.  Yet like most football watching fans I don’t attend many games in person.  There are obvious reasons for that – expense being a big one.  Tickets to football games are very expensive, parking is too.  But I’m here to inform you that not only is it worth your effort to go in person to attend a professional or major college game, YOU HAVE TO TAILGATE!  Why?  Because it’s the greatest thing ever!

Marketing folks like myself talk about brands, audience engagement and one –to-one conversations with clients and prospects (otherwise known as people).  Social network marketing is booming, (just check out Facebook’s latest earnings report).   And today more than ever, the mobile web keeps us up-to-the-second and in touch with our families, friends and co-workers.  (I often wonder what percentage of your FB friends are people you work or worked with and how odd is that?)

So why do I think tailgating is so great?   Here are just five to start with.  There are more.

  1. Attitude – For starters everyone that comes to a pre-game tailgate is there for a good time.  I did not see anyone that was not smiling and happy to be there.  At 9:30AM on a NY Jet 1PM scheduled kickoff Sunday outside MetLife Stadium, the air is already filled with the smell of charcoal and cooked meat.   Footballs in a variety of sizes and colors are already flying through (some are quacking) the air.  The opposition’s fans (as are the Jet fans) are decked out in full regalia.
  2. Camaraderie – The fans share something in common that runs deep – the undying love for their team.   People that might ordinarily despise one another’s politics (if they knew) are high-fiving one another as love for the home team far outweighs love of one’s party.
  3. Egalitarianism – Despite the cost of tickets, parking and whatever else, there are only a limited amount of home games in a football season.  People of extremely varied economic backgrounds all attend the same game, at the same time and tailgate in the parking lot – together.  BMW, Ford F-150, Honda Civic – it doesn’t matter when it comes to sharing food, drink and stories.  Nobody asks what you do for a living.
  4. Passion – Football fans, college or pro, are extremely passionate.  That passion is contagious and palpable.  This past Sunday the Bills plastered the Jets and there was much rejoicing amongst Bills fans and disgust amongst we Jet fans.  But it wasn’t boring.  We Jet fans were mad as hell but unfortunately it appears we will have to take it some more.
  5. Commitment – Just going to football game is a huge time commitment especially when you show up 4 hours prior to kickoff to tailgate.  And then there’s the trip home, which if you leave too soon after the final gun can seem longer than the game itself.

What makes it so vastly different from social networking as practiced via Facebook and Twitter is that so many interactions with fellow fans are anonymous.  As people walk by there are comments that are not tweeted but no less engaging.  High fives with total strangers before and after the game are common.

Tailgating is completely social, completely unmeasured and under-monetized.   And I am very thankful for that.

I think social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, and Snapchat , should take note of people’s behavior while tailgating to help them better understand the way people can share their passion and common experience.

When it comes to tailgating behaviors what do you think we can learn?


Posted in 50+ market, Advertising to Millenials, Community, Consumer Behavior, Sports Marketing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment