Auckland Kindle Buyers at Dick Smith Beware if You Want to Read Library Books


I have a Kindle, the latest model WiFi 4GB which I bought from Amazon, cheaper than I could buy it locally, which sort of goes to the story I posted this morning about retailers who struggle to cope with change in the way people buy products, i.e. competing with online sales. My wife and I both have iPads, but for reading on long trips or after a day on the computer, I really like the Paperwhite because it isn’t back-lit, so doesn’t cause eye strain.

I am also a happy customer of Auckland Libraries, mostly downloading audio books which I listen to while driving or doing chores like mowing the lawn.

My wife decided after seeing myself and one of our children getting great value from our Kindles, that she would like one too. With the Auckland libraries also having an excellent collection of digital eBooks, I thought this would be a great opportunity for us to get real value, so I went to Dick Smith Electronics in downtown Auckland to see if it was worth buying locally.

Kindle DSEJust inside the door is a Point of Sale unit with a Kindle Paperwhite, same model I own and an old model original Kindle Fire (which I understand was superseded quite a long time ago). I looked at the feature display sheet and it says that Kindles including the Paperwhite will allow you to read public library books. Now that isn’t strictly wrong because I know someone who reads them, but they are from Australian libraries. I wanted to confirm whether I could download eBooks from the Auckland libraries onto a Paperwhite. The salesman couldn’t tell me, he was going to check for me, but couldn’t confirm anything and ended up with another client while I went on my iPad to look it up. I asked him to check it out for me. Obviously it was confusing because their POS clearly said I could read library books. When he couldn’t give me an answer, I asked who could. He said that the merchandisers were the people who dealt with the POS so I asked if I could talk to them. That wasn’t possible, so I asked who the distributor was that they worked for. He said they are actually Dick Smith Electronics staff!

Here’s what I found on the Auckland Libraries website. Auckland LibrarySo, given that I wanted to buy a Kindle for my wife, I asked the sales person, when he eventually returned to me to let me see a Kindle Fire to find out whether it would be better on the eye that the iPad, because I didn’t want to buy the Paperwhite at $179 if it couldn’t download the library eBooks.

The sales person said he was sorry, but he couldn’t show me a Kindle Fire because they didn’t have one out of the box; and he couldn’t open a new one because then it wouldn’t be new. I told him in that case he had lost a sale because I wasn’t going to buy one if I couldn’t try it out and see if it was fit for purpose. It’s hard to be a customer at Dick Smith Electronics. I left the store without a purchase. I tweeted that they had lost a sale.

In hindsight I could have bought one because under the Sale of Goods Act, if it wasn’t fit for the purpose I had described to the sales person, I could have brought it back for a full refund. He could have even suggested that, but he didn’t. I also live about 12km from the store and it would be a real hassle if I had to take it back. I hate to think what the customer service level would be for a return after that experience. So my wife still doesn’t have a Kindle.

DSEI subsequently got a Twitter message from Dick Smith Customer Service saying that someone would give me a ring within 2 working days. As you can see, that was just over 2 weeks ago. I haven’t had a call or a message (in case I missed one) since.

So I’m probably going to buy another Paper-white Kindle from Amazon for US119 rather than NZ$179 or $199 depending on where you look, locally from Dick Smith and accept that we can’t download library books. We can buy books on one Kindle and share them with the other and Amazon also have subscription services which are pretty cool. I guess ultimately Dick Smith isn’t local anyway, they are Australian owned, I think, well listed anyway.

My real concern is, if you live in Auckland and you bought a Kindle Paperwhite because you read the POS which says you can read library books, you will find yourself disappointed. I have pointed it out to Dick Smith via Twitter, and the photo above saying you can, was taken in their store in downtown Auckland yesterday, so their in-store marketing hasn’t changed since I first brought it too their attention more than 2 weeks ago.

I did eventually talk to a librarian who confirmed that you cannot download and read library books from any Auckland libraries on a Kindle Paperwhite. It appears the reason you can ‘on some Kindle Fire’s’ is in fact because they are Android Tablets.

So what do you think. Does it help clarify why I sometimes buy things offshore instead of in local stores? Sometimes it’s actually easier.

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Authors Complain About Amazon Kindle Unlimited Service


Authors are complaining that the new ‘all you can eat’ service that people can subscribe to for $9.99 a month, gaining access to over 700,000 books on your Kindle device or app according to this article in the NY Times. Kindle

I think the article is very thorough and recommend it if you are interested in ePublishing, an author or just interested in changing business models.

Buying a HouseI’m a Kindle author myself and have also written White Papers and articles about eBooks for many years. I therefore have an interest except that I am more interested in people benefiting from my knowledge than making money out of it. My most recent book is about the use of Location Based Services in Buying a House.

There are a lot of changes in the way people are writing and publishing. Some people are churning out series of books, targeting a youth audience around SciFi, Zombies and Vampires and doing formula writing. They put a lot of energy into the first book, which is often given away for free, finishing like a TV series with a cliff hanger at the end. If you liked the story, you will possibly pay for ongoing series.

Kindle also offers the ability to make offers like Countdown Deals where you can run promotional deals. I’m running one for a week on the above book starting on 30 December when you can buy it for only $0.99, it then goes up by a dollar a day back to full price on the 6th of January 2015. You might like to grab a copy for yourself or someone you know who is thinking about buying a house in the near future. It could save them hundreds of thousands of dollars or a lot of grief.

Anyway, the reason for this blog was to get people thinking about how they market their books and themselves and how they make money. The article compared the royalties from the Kindle all you can eat service to music services like Spotify (which I also subscribe to) and the fact that the songwriters and artists get minute royalties from these services. I doubt that authors get much from libraries either. I didn’t. I listen to eBooks from my local library whenever I’m in the car alone, many are best sellers and I enjoy them for free.

Smart bands and gigging artists today use any tools they can to get their music heard, whether its downloads, radio, streaming, services like Spotify, iTunes, CD’s or whatever method so that their music gets heard. They build up a fan base. The real money comes from selling merchandise and from live performances. Look at the money even old bands like the Eagles or the Rolling Stones can make from concerts. It’s BIG money!

There are some smart writers like Scott Sigler who exemplify how this is done. He is on every social media you can think of. He does book signings, you can order autographed copies of books. He has merch including shirts, hats, artwork in an online shop. He offers his books for free in episodes as podcasts and hopes that if you enjoy them, you will buy the audio book so that you don’t have to wait a week for the next episode. He goes to conventions, networks and engages with his readers. Despite giving away product, he is a New York Times best seller. He understands that he is competing on a world market and it is not just a matter of write it and they will buy.

The article implies that writers think they can just write and sit back and watch the money roll in, give up their day jobs and if they don’t get rich, its someone else’s fault. The reality is that the business is tough and always has been, but today making good money through self publishing is possible if you are prepared to do the hard yards, but you need to innovate.

It certainly helps to be a consistently good writer and to provide the form that your audience wants to read. But even a great writer still needs to market themselves and recognise that their fans are individual people. Stephen King is another great example. He totally understands that he is writing to his ‘Dear Reader’ and constantly reinvents the way he publishes his books. He also does merchandise, if you liked his latest novel Revival, you can go to his merch store and buy a I Climbed Skytop T-Shirt. He even has an online forum on his site. He even runs competitions from his site (I wasn’t impressed that it was for US residents only though, that was pretty stingy). The point being, he is one of the great big sellers of the last 20 years, but he works as hard above the line as he does on his writing. It’s a case of the harder you work, the luckier you get.

Having just written all this, I’ve just convinced myself that the $9.99 is great value and I’m probably going to sign up once I’ve read all the Kindle books I have already bought. I paid US$15 for Revival so that’s a month and a half’s subscription on its own. Oh and don’t worry Stephen, I will buy a hardcover for my collection as well, because despite being an eBook evangelist from way back (Fictionwise on my Palm Pilot), I also collect books of particular authors that I like. I’ve given over half of my books away, but still have around 2,000 in my music room.

So if you are an author, wanting to make a living from your craft, my suggestion is to allow as much time for marketing as you do for actual writing. If you don’t know what to do, ask someone, ask everyone, look at what people like Scott Sigler and Stephen King do. Don’t just copy them though, think of other ways you can sell your books. Look at creative things that bands do. There are so many cool things you can do, I can think of dozens of merch ideas that people would buy.

Don’t complain. Do something.

209 years from now, what will be in the history books about today?


MilneToday is the anniversary of the opening of the 1st US auto manufacturer Duryea Motor Wagon Company back in 1895.

I wonder what someone is doing today that will be in the history books in 209 years.Of course there won’t be ‘books’ as we know them other than perhaps in museums.Just like kids today ask what those black vinyl things are in the sleeves on shelves or in boxes.

Sometimes we just take things for granted all our lives and suddenly they seem to be meaningless. I took a pile of books over to a family member yesterday, one of her favorite authors and whilst she likes the author “I only read on my Kindle now. I can lie back on the bed, even in the dark and it’s just so convenient.”

I can’t imagine we’ll have cell phones in 200 years. Of course we’ll communicate, but how will it take place? I struggle to imagine. It could be a watch, or glasses, but I doubt it. Perhaps an ear-ring or something fashionable. It probably won’t be an implant for security and other reasons, but I doubt if we saw what they use, they we would recognize what it was. Imagine showing an iPhone to a family a hundred years ago.

8 Technologies that will destroy how we do business


Unleashing the Road Warrior

Unleashing the Road Warrior

I want a 3D Printer and a Filabot. The are two items on my bucket list. I guess that means I’ll be printing plastic, but the Filabot of course means that I can recycle plastic, so that’s a good thing right?

I was reading an article in the July-August edition of my favorite magazine, The Futurist about Tomorrow’s Jobs. If you have followed my various blogs over the years, you will know that I am driven by working smarter rather than harder, so the story about Goldman Sachs prediction about 8 technologies that are forcing businesses to adapt or die obviously caught my eye. The quote was about 3D printing. If you have a look through some of my other blogs you will find stories about 3D printing military clothing, printing human organs, my friend Vik Oliver’s work with Reprap and others.

So I was naturally curious about what Goldman Sachs thought the other 7 were. I was thinking self driving vehicles, eBooks, virtual and augmented reality tourism and education, eGovernment and all those menial jobs that don’t require human understanding and problem solving skills. So in a nutshell to satisfy my curiosity and maybe yours. The other 7 are:

  • eCigarettes. I know a few people who use these and I was semi-tempted as someone who gave up smoking over 20 years ago, to give it a try, but yeah, nah. I do wish they had been around back in the day though. I’m sure these were originally conceived by someone like Jules Verne and if it wasn’t for the power of the tobacco industry, we probably would have been using them years ago.
  • Cancer Immunotherapy. This is something I have read a little about on recent times. Who doesn’t know someone close who has had or has passed away from a form of cancer and we all know that often the treatment is almost as bad or worse than the symptoms. The concept of having your body able to combat cancer cells in the same way as we deal with a virus is compelling and hugely attractive.
  • LED Lighting. Energy savings of up to 85%, a longer lifetime and so many creative ways you can use it from the home to the car to wherever you are. This one has already become huge without us even realizing it. Something that many disruptive industries and technologies are doing. Is there one invading your turf that you haven’t acknowledged sufficiently yet?
  • Alternative funders for insurance such as pension funds that are willing to take a lower return. That’s a very interesting topic in my neck of the woods right now, where insurance companies who were happy to take premiums from the citizens of Christchurch seem to be reluctant to give it back after the earthquakes. Here are some stories from New Zealand’s Campbell Live Show on TV. CHCH
  • Natural Gas Engines for the freight industry. Funny reading this because my very first company car ran on CNG. Goldman Sachs predicts that by 2020 20-30% of hauling fleets will be fueled by natural gas.
  • Software Defined Networking. The cloud gets smarter. This blog is in the cloud and I’m writing it online, it is not stored on my hard drive.
  • Big Data. No surprises here. This is what I was saying earlier about the human element. Until we have a true artificial intelligence, we are still going to be asking the questions, so I’m hoping that problem solving people like me will continue to be able to find exciting and fulfilling work to do. This is not intuitive for many people and the more specialized the workforce becomes, especially in large businesses, the less innovative the companies become. Shareholders increase their expectations of Return on Investment from old products and business concepts, then when it all turns to mush, they wonder what happened. I have to say, it’s not big data, it’s the ability to understand what’s contained in big data and how to apply it. Ask the wrong question and the answer could hasten your demise.

So there you have it. Interesting isn’t it that fundamentally there is nothing particularly new here. Yet all over the world companies are clinging to dated concepts and wondering why they are imploding. The crazy thing is that what people want and need isn’t changing significantly. People still read books, they still listen to music, they still want to know what’s in the news, they take more photos in a day on mobiles than in the entire history of Kodak film based cameras, yet the traditional businesses that grew fat on those industries are going broke.

What I also find interesting is often the answers are in the exact places that those companies don’t look. They are with the customers, they are with independent consultants, often with little experience in the specific industries. They are not in the traditional spreadsheets and they are not in the typical boardroom (don’t get me started). Business As Usual is a great model for going broke and yet none of the above industries are significantly novel or bleeding edge. They are natural evolutions of what came before. Yet many leading brands don’t get it, or stubbornly don’t want to get it.

So whether you own a business, or whether you are looking for your next job. You had better think very carefully about your future. The answers are closer than you think, but possibly not where you are looking. Do you know where your knowledge base is? Do you know what your greatest asset is? If you’re thinking it’s in your IP, unless you own your people, you might find that very soon the value of your patents will be minimal and that your creative minds have moved on, in many cases with the suggestions and creative ideas you turned away, because you knew better.

Whoops, I have sort of ended up on my soapbox again haven’t I?

If Only You Would Listen


Its soapbox time again, but it won’t take long. This is for myself and for the many business people who talk too much.

I’ve been in a lot of business meetings lately, some of them excellent, many of them way too long. This morning I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts Rock the World With LinkedIn on Webmaster Radio which was an interview with the founder of MBAWriters and Director at BT Consulting, Todd Rhoad. Among other things they were talking about the value and importance of eBooks. This is of course something of a hobby horse for me.

I wrote a treatise called Are eBooks Ready to Come of Age and published it 10 years ago. You can get a free PDF copy here.

Anyway, I’ve seen a few eyes glaze over recently in meetings and presentations. It wasn’t that they were unable to comprehend the topics. It was because they had understood long before. There were a few classic sayings towards the end of the podcast, the things smart parents tell their kids. and the things that sales people are taught, well were taught back in the day when sales was considered a profession. Like:

  • The most successful business people keep their mouths shut. I learned that in my second year of my 3 year Sales & Marketing Diploma. I was selling 2-way radios to a sharp businessman. Halfway through my presentation he asked me for the price. I thought I was dealing with the price objection, so I started in on the problems he had told me about and how the features and benefits of our product would help him with those. He asked again for the price. I stopped, a little confused. He asked me again. I told him and he signed a big fat purchase order on the spot. I learned big time from that and always try to remind other people that you have 2 ears and one mouth for a reason and you should use them in that proportion.
  • As Lori said on the podcast (which I strongly recommend you subscribe to, is that you learn more by listening. All you need to to do to get business is listen to what the customer wants, confirm that what they are saying is in fact what they want, then leg them know if you can solve their problem at a rate that is less painful than the problem they want to solve. Then stop talking and get on with doing the business.
  • Smart people are listening and processing what they are being told. As Todd said “With people who are very quiet, you have to be very eager when they pop up and say something, because they’ve been sitting there thinking about it and its probably going to be pretty intelligent.” The flip side of that is think about what you are going to say, don’t speak as you are thinking. Maybe you can’t wait to hear what you are going to say, but your listener may not be as excited unless you are responding to what they are telling you.
  • Another thing I learned many years ago which is obvious, but sometimes you need to think about the obvious, is that we can think much faster than we listen or read. Let your customer listen and if you have a PowerPoint presentation, don’t read them the presentation, they have already read it and are processing it. Glazed eyes again, perhaps thinking about lunch or their next meeting.

I’m going to finish with an old Chicago song I used to love and share with you one great tool that I hear women using all the time, which I call active listening. Do you ever have a conversation with someone, usually a woman and she repeats back to you some of the words you have just said?

“The floods and damage from Cyclone Evan were pretty scary….:

“pretty scary”

“I had some friends who were over there on vacation”

“on vacation, I bet they were wishing they had gone somewhere else”

This is an active conversation and the people doing this are totally engaged. Most people are not totally engaged and are in fact focusing on the next thing they are going to say rather than listening to what their customer or prospect is trying to tell them. Active listening is a really good tool to use because it can stop your mind from wandering off and perhaps missing that clue that your customer is offering you as to why they might want your product. It will also help you understand what your customer is really thinking about and wants. It will let you be ready for buying signals and it will also endear you to the customer because you are showing that you are really interested. If you aren’t interested, then you probably don’t want their business.

Next time you meet someone and they ask how you are, say “Thanks, I’m very, how are you?” If they stop and ask “Very what?” They were listening. Chances are they will say something like “That’s nice”.

Listening for most of us is a skill we need to work on. Very few men, including myself at times, are not great listeners. I have found that the times when people really enjoyed a conversation with me, I actually said very little and I have probably learned a lot.

The end of Whitcoulls and Borders in New Zealand


If you have a Borders or Whitcoulls voucher, even if you hate the idea of spending double to be allowed to spend your voucher, I recommend you do it quickly, because within a couple of weeks it will be worthless. It was interesting to see that there is no mention of the current situation on the Borders website which talks about eBooks coming soon, although Whitcoulls have been a bit more responsible with a home page announcement.

The demise of these companies isn’t about eBooks, it is largely around debt as pointed out by Liam Dann in this morning’s Business Section of the NZ Herald.  and the business models. I’m not going to discuss the debt because that doesn’t reflect on the industry itself, it reflects on higher level financial decisions and the economy, not on the book trade.

Book stores and music stores are in industries that are steeped in history of “this is how we’ve done it for the last 50 years and why change it if it aint broke”.

As was mentioned in today’s NZ Herald story by Isaac Davison, “In 2010, 9.67 million books were sold, an increase of 1.2 per cent in volume but 0.1 per cent down in value against 2009. This was despite the mark-up on books in New Zealand, which saw paperbacks sold for as much as $20 more than online, even after shipping costs.”

So much for Amazon (of course there were a huge number of Kiwis including myself who purchased from Amazon as well) being the cause of the demise of our local stores.

I also appreciated the comment in the same story from Jo McColl of Unity Books that many people bought hard copy books as a consequence of having purchased eBooks. I’ve done that too. I read eBooks, listen to Audio Books and still have a personal library of around 2,000 print books. The same with music, I listen to lots of music online but have still purchased at least 10 CD’s so far this year.

I might have to go to a separate blog about how Whitcoulls and Borders business model needed to change in order to stay viable and vibrant (ignoring REDGroup‘s debt which doesn’t reflect on the book trade business model itself) because for these guys its too late unless they get a savvy new owner (who will not purchase the chains’ debt) who is ready to adopt a new business model.

REDGroup have called in Administrators. I don’t care who the administrators are. Their role is a short term one and it isn’t about changing the business model or trading back into profit. It is about the creditors.

They will try to negotiate with the book publishers and wholesalers and other suppliers who are desperate to get paid for their product and worried about their future viability in NZ. Inland Revenue want their taxes and will be first in the queue.

They will need to negotiate with the 1,000 staff who will have to have new short term contracts and will be justifiably worried about whether they will get paid at all, let alone have a future with the chain, but at the same time, will be essential should they find a new buyer for the chains.

Based on the outcome of their negotiations a decision will need to be made on whether to go into receivership which is next most likely step. If that happens, enjoy the book sale, because there will be many bargains up for grabs.

The shame of it is that (outside of the decisions that got REDGroup into this financial position) the problem in the trade is that the business model needed to change and like the music industry and other industries, the people running them don’t get it. They should have learned from the music industry, which still doesn’t get it. Other industries who don’t get it include banking, telecommunications and consumer electronics to name a few.

What should they have done and what can other retail businesses do in order to not follow Borders and Whitcoulls into the mire? Subscribe to my blog and I’ll give you a few pointers for free. It isn’t rocket science, but it is a fundamental shift in thinking, whilst also remembering the fundamental simple principles of retail and distributon.

We live in a new world, its exciting and there is a lot of money to be made, but the fatal flaw is thinking that if you do the same thing you have always done, that you will get a different result.

There is an RSS feed to this blog. Come back and read some of my ideas on how companies like Whitcoulls and Borders can thrive and prosper.

Here are a few things I would look at:

  • Understanding your business
  • Communication with customers
  • Communication with staff
  • Distribution methods
  • Stock turn and inventory management
  • Engagement
  • In Store Events
  • Proximity based marketing
  • Shelf Management
  • Relationships with community
  • Relationships with education
  • Location Based Business Analytics
  • The Internet
  • Gift Registry

I could and probably will go on. The answers are a mixture of the old and the new, neither of which these chains have effectively managed. Borders started in the right direction in the US, but didn’t continue the evolution. International chains like Borders and WH Smith focussed more on the  era of globalization than evolution of the business model. Something that would have made short term heroes who have probably made their money and moved on, but was only ever going to be short term.

Seth Godin on Kindle


It’s a shame that Seth doesn’t support direct comments on his blog, but maybe that’s because he wants us to read what he writes rather than the huge numbers of people who would want to comment on his blog.

I won’t paraphrase his blog about the Kindle because I think it’s worthy of your time to pop over to his blog and read it for yourself.

I have promoted eBooks for a number of years including writing one myself, Unleashing the Road Warrior, which you can buy from many sites including the new eBook site ReadingIt which I am involved with.

I also wrote a FREE Whitepaper which might add to the story called Are eBooks Ready to Come of Age, which has been used as readings in a number of universities.

The key things that I totally agree with Seth on are:

  1. eBook prices are crazy. Why should you pay a similar price to a hardcopy book? The cost of publishing is tiny in comparison to printing on paper. It is more sustainable as trees don’t need chopping, retailers don’t need huge margins, so someone is being greedy. Readingit.com is a startup founded on the concept that the writer should enjoy the majority of the revenue from their professionally edited book.
  2. The Kindle is easy to use, you don’t need to be a technology buff and with good internet access downloading new books is easy. It’s about reading not about technology.
  3. The Kindle display is more like paper and therefore doesn’t give you the eye strain that I have suffered from on many longhaul flights because of the backlighting, just the same as when you are at your computer too long at a tme.
  4. The Kindle doesn’t give you the same fuctionality that I wrote about in Are eBooks Ready to come of age. In Palm and Windows Mobile devices and others, you can highlight, annotate, bookmark, draw and other features which mean that you can readily access information you want to revisit and you don’t ruin the book with lots of scribbles and ear tagged pages. Like Seth I have several thousand books and it isn’t easy in a hurry to find the book you wanted and which of the many post it flagged pages you wanted.
  5. While this blog is starting to get a good following, I would love to get more readers and encouraging me to keep writing. If you feel that my blog is interesting I would be very grateful if you would vote for me in the category of best blog at the NetGuide Web Awards. Note that the form starts each site with www whereas my blog doesn’t and is of course https://luigicappel.wordpress.com.

    Thanks so much for your support:)