Kindle Voyage ad: Bezos=Nemo?

Kindle Voyage ad: Bezos=Nemo?

Amazon has posted a new

ad on YouTube

for the

Kindle Voyage (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

their upcoming (in pre-orders now) top of the line EBR (E-Book Reader).

I like the ad: it’s slick, and is all about the product. They don’t type their customers demographically (which they’ve done in the past…early Kindle ads were often filled with young people) or knock down their competition (as they did with the “pool ad”).

It’s what I want an ad for a Kindle to be, in many ways…touting the reading, and what reading does for you, as well as pointing out a few of the technological things.

They show some text from a book in it, and I recognized it: it’s from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne.

Interestingly, that got me thinking.

Some people point to Captain Nemo as a James Bond type super villain…type “megalomaniacal” and “Nemo” into a search engine, and you’ll find several definitions of the character.

However, there is an argument to be made that although Nemo was a brilliant thinker, working outside the box, using new technology…the ardent environmentalist took a wrong turn into violence, but was trying to do good in the world.

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a brilliant thinker working outside the box, using new technology, and I believe, trying to do good in the world.

Has the CEO made that wrong turn into harming others as a means to an end? You’ll certainly find people who think so.

That’s why I found that book an…intriguing choice.

I’m unconvinced, though, that Amazon thinks that carefully about what associations people will make. When they named the Kindle the “Kindle” originally, they appear not to have anticipated the association people would make between “kindling” and burning books…that used to be something I’d see on the internet.

Without spoiling 20,000 Leagues (I think there is no statute of limitations on spoilers…a ten-year old reading it for the first time today deserves the same joy of discovery today as they did a hundred years ago), I want to put a couple of quotations here, and let you consider their possible connection (at least metaphorically) to Amazon.

Here’s one that I think points up how some people see Amazon as a company…the fascination with it:

“In every place of great resort the monster was the fashion. They sang of it in the cafes, ridiculed it in the papers, and represented it on the stage. All kinds of stories were circulated regarding it. There appeared in the papers caricatures of every gigantic and imaginary creature, from the white whale, the terrible ‘Moby Dick’ of sub-arctic regions, to the immense kraken, whose tentacles could entangle a ship of five hundred tons and hurry it into the abyss of the ocean. The legends of ancient times were even revived.”

Legends of ancient times…like the Amazon warriors, perhaps? 😉

As to Jeff, there is this riposte from Captain Nemo…is it that hard to imagine Jeff Bezos reacting similarly if someone in a meeting said, “But real business people don’t do it that way”?

“I’m not what you term a civilized man! I’ve severed all ties with society, for reasons that I alone have the right to appreciate. Therefore I obey none of its regulations, and I insist that you never invoke them in front of me!”

I do think Amazon, while undeniably imperfect, has brought a tremendous amount of good to the world. I’m a former brick and mortar bookstore manager, and a very minor author (although this blog is reasonably popular), and I think the book industry needed to be shaken up. I think that Amazon has made it so more books are available more easily to more people, and that is a good thing.

So, does Bezos=Nemo? Certainly not…but there a few similarities. 😉

What do you think? Am I underplaying Amazon’s negatives? Strikes in Germany, open letters against them by famous authors, complaints from small publishers…are these legitimate responses to ruthless policies? On the other hand, has the way that Amazon has enabled authors to bypass the tradpubs (traditional publishers) and make a living writing been a great benefit to readers? Would you compare Jeff Bezos to some other literary character or historical person? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join hundreds of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.


12 Responses to “Kindle Voyage ad: Bezos=Nemo?”

  1. Edward Boyhan Says:

    History is often written by the victors — so I guess we’ll have to wait and see what history has to say about Bezos and his negatives.

    I would say that there are three living visionaries that pop up on my personal horizon: Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson (it’s merely coincidence — I think — that all three are developing rocketships to take us into space :grin — Branson says “before Christmas”, if you’ve got a couple of hundred thousand lying around … ).

    Looking at past “disrupters” I think of Morse, Edison, and Ford.

    Not as well known, but a personal favorite: Philo T. Farnsworth.

    Due to a forthcoming movie we’ll also be hearing a lot about Alan Turing — certainly seminal in my field.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      I’m looking forward to that Turing movie…and the Stephen Hawking one. Don’t when Grace Hopper might get a movie, though…and what that might say.

      You’ve got me thinking about maybe doing a post on literary disruptors and innovators…we’ll see. 🙂

  2. Karin Says:

    You make this private if you want, if it doesn’t fit in with your article.

    The YA book The Son of Neptune (book 2 of the Heroes of Olympus) by Rick Riordan, describes in his book the heroes going into Seattle to literally find an Amazon (at Amazon’s headquarters). In this story Amazon is run by Amazon Warriors. I actually don’t think Riordan is poking fun at Amazon in a bad way at all. I think he realizes the e-reader has been good for the sale of his books.

    I agree with you that Bezos has done more good than bad for the book industry, and I truly think people are reading more because of it, which can only be helping authors.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karin!

      Oh, it fits in…and believe me, a comment being a non sequitur is not an automatic disqualification, as they say on Chopped. 😉

      I suppose one could argue that e-books would have risen without Amazon and the Kindle, but I think it would have been much, much slower. They’d been tried for a while (there were more than ten EBRs ((E-Book Readers)) in the US market when the first Kindle was launched), and hadn’t had much of an impact. Amazon could afford to take the risk (and it was a big risk…their first hardware product), and really saw how to make them appeal to just readers, as opposed to techies.

  3. hsextant Says:

    It is a nice ad. I agree with your sentiments, but the ad still has the deceiving battery life claims of weeks. Perhaps not a lie but what’s the old saw about figures don’t lie, but liars can figure? Six weeks (per the web page) sounds impressive until you read the fine print and discover that at 30 minutes a day usage, the battery life works out to 6 week X 7 days per week X .5 hours per day = 21 hours. Still much better than the other devices but none the less not quite as eye grabbing especially when laid out on a hokey bar graph (not the YouTube ad, but the web page at Amazon). What is the Voyage’s blue bar scaled to? If the longest black bar represents 13 hours, shouldn’t the Voyage’s bar only be slightly less than twice as long? If one is really claiming 6 weeks then the blue bar should be 77 times as long. The blue bar is approximately 15 times the length of the longest black bar. So what does that equate to?

    On the whole I think Amazon is a well run company and I think Bezos like most human beings has his strengths and weaknesses. But for the most part, I am a little uncomfortable with lionizing Bezos or any other captain of industry. I can’t help but to wonder what is he up to. It seems like at the end of the day, all we really own is a bunch of licenses and a contraption that Amazon can turn into a brick at a moments notice. I can’t help but having an uncomfortable wonderment about when the other shoe is going to fall. I think my sentiments are fairly summed up as follows:

    “In this way, particularly with the addition of Mayday, a costly service to run, these tablets are embodiments of one of Amazon’s defining traits: the undercurrent of anxiety you experience with every dollar you save and every convenience you exploit. You sense that all the discounts and features are leading up to a moment in some not so distant future when, after Amazon has slowly forced every competitor out of business, it will hike prices so that it can finally make real profits. Or as Slate’s economics correspondent Matthew Yglesias put it, ‘Wall Street has essentially granted Bezos the right to operate an extremely forward-looking charitable venture on the theory that at some future point it will acquire monopoly pricing power and start screwing us all.’ ”

    Quoted from:

    After all the smoke clears, we readers want to read good quality books at a reasonable price. In order for that to happen everyone has to make a buck. I hope Amazon corrects the excesses of the publishing world…not kill it.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, hsextant!

      Well, I would bet that Amazon has statistics showing that half an hour of reading a day on a Kindle is average. You and I might find that remarkably low, but there are certainly people who only read on their Kindles on the weekend…and others that go weeks without reading (shudder).

      I haven’t measured the bars, but that one that goes from 4 – 13 certainly doesn’t seem to be a third longer than the one that goes from 5 – 10. Let’s assume instead that those represent the middle of the high range…that would make it 6.5 versus 7.5…rendered on a zero-start scale, that looks more like it to me.

      In that case, you would be looking at 21 versus 7.5…that would be more like 35% than the 15% you are suggesting…hm, if we go with the minimum, then we get 4 versus 21. That comes out to about 19%, which is closer. That can’t be right, though, because the tablet minimum is below the laptop and SmartPhone minimums…it’s a mystery. 🙂

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to compare what one manufacturer states for use time to what they state…some devices give you standby length, which might be a fairer comparison, but something which probably doesn’t interest most people in a practical sense. They want to know how long it will last with their typical use cases. If half an hour a day is average for a Kindle, this is arguably a reasonable comparison (even if, as you point out, the bar graph may be a bit off).

      I don’t know if you are a regular reader, but I often admit what many might consider a malady…I’m an optimist. 😉 I can’t see how Amazon logically gains monopoly power, and then hikes book prices to $100 (to use an extreme example), without Department of Justice involvement or the rise of a competitor (or a million small competitors, selling directly through social media).

      I also don’t quite see how Amazon can brick (make inert) my Kindle. If I simply don’t connect to wi-fi (which some people choose to do now), what do they do to it? Yes, they can sever my relationship with them, which would be a very bad thing, but the device still works and could be used with books from other sources (like Project Gutenberg).

      I would guess that more people are like you…they choose to expect things to be worse in the future. That may, in fact, be a strategy that works on an individual basis. I would suggest that, as a whole, the world has gotten better over the past hundred years, and that trend is likely to continue. Let’s jump back to 1914, then 1814, then 1714. How many “good quality books at a reasonable price” would have been available to you? How many are available now? How many free books are available now to you? What is there that makes it a reasonable projection that in 2114, there won’t be even more?

      The smoke only clears when whatever is generating the smoke stops. In this case, the smoke is coming in part from explosions of creativity and innovation…and I don’t expect that to stop in my lifetime. 🙂

      You comment is thoughtful and well-written, and I look forward to more from you! Whoops, there’s that optimism again. 😉

      • Edward Boyhan Says:

        A few weeks back you referred to the excellent:
        Since then I’ve been thinking a bit about the relevant stakeholders in a modern business. I remember from a fairly long time ago in “The New Industrial State” that JK Galbraith opined that shareholders (the nominal owners) really had little sway over corporations — that management held the whip hand. I think that has changed a bit since then, and shareholders are far more active in attempting to realize the “value” of their investment — they are more interested in dividends, buybacks, and spin-offs — more so than in any interest in actually running what they own in that regard Galbraith still has some relevance.

        To my mind the stakeholders in the Amazon puzzle are: shareholders (many of whom are senior employees), management, employees, suppliers (including authors :grin), and (perhaps most importantly) customers. I don’t think you can please all of these divergent groups, nor even treat them all in an even-handed manner.

        I suspect that shareholders are pretty far down Bezos’ list, and customers are far higher on it than at any other company I’m aware off (the nearest parallel to the Amazon business model I can come up with is the pre-divestiture AT&T where their net income was regulated as a strict % of revenue — so AT&T took the “real” cash flow and plowed it all back into Bell Labs much of whom’s work had little to do with Telephony — Unix anyone e.g. ?).

        I think the above referenced article has it about right as to Bezos’ ultimate objectives which I suspect have more to do with the fun involved in exploring how far he can push his unconventional model. Monopolist alarums are to my mind way overblown — at least as long as Bezos is in charge — innovators/disrupters just don’t think the way the more pessimistic among us do (:grin).

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Edward!

        I think your point about “fun” is important. I think that’s one of the differences between many tech “disruptors” and the monopolists of old. It isn’t about acquiring as much wealth as possible, or even “winning” a competition. It’s about changing the world…and changing it for the better is worth more points.

  4. hsextant Says:

    Doing quick (and crude) measurements on the web sales page for the Kindle (4 weeks), the Voyage (6 weeks), and the Paperwhite (8 weeks), the bar lengths were all the same. With a ruler on the screen, it appears that all three use the same exact image. Regardless of what the first three bar lengths indicate (I suspect if real, the mode of the sample data in mm), the fact that the 8 week bar is the same length as the 4 week bar indicates to me that the bar graph is an artistic rendition rather than scaled to the data and hence my judgement of it being hokey is justified. If the bar length of the first three bars on the graph are the mode of the sampled units in mm, then the Voyage bar should be 21 mm long if considering actual battery life or over a meter (1008mm) if considering 6 weeks. They should have put a squiggly break in the bar to indicate it is not scaled.

    Anyhow I have a neighbor with a 20 year old Lincoln Town Car who gets better fuel duration than another neighbor with a new Prius. The retired guy with the Town Car goes food shopping once a week. The guy with the Prius has a daily commute of over 50 miles. There could be data out there that indicate that 1994 Town Cars (often being owned by older retired people) are getting far better gallons per month than the 2014 Prius owners.

    Admittedly no one is going to accuse me of being a Pollyanna, but if we are going to consider whether things are better, I don’t believe that we have to go all the way back to 1914, why not 2004? Could I do the things in 2004 that I can do today? No! But then again if one were to ask independent book shop owners or Border employees, how things are going, they may have a different opinion. No, I am not lamenting that carriage manufacturers have been screwed by Henry Ford, but I do recognize that the joy is not uniform across society.

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-Kindle, anti-Amazon, or anti-Bezos. I have three Kindles and over 600 Kindle books. I own more damned Kindle books than I probably have life left to read them. But at the same time, I am not sporting any Amazon smile tattoos (like the guy with the Apple tattoo in the cell phone brawl commercial). Bezos may be having a lot of fun, but I think there are plenty of people who would say that dealing with Bezos is something less than fun.

    Will we ever get to the $100 best seller? I doubt it. But could we get to the point that books that have value (for instance science or history books) but not the profit margins, get priced out of the range of the typical buyer? I hope not.

    I have plenty of friends who lament the loss of the local small book seller. I used to be called four lettered names because I bought at B&N and Borders, then I was called four lettered names for dealing with Amazon. Now I am one of those S.O.Bs. with a Kindle. What can I say? I like shopping in my underwear and getting a book delivered in 60 seconds. I like the feel of a 1000 page book weightlessly residing in my Kindle and available at an instant. I love that book smell, so I go over to anyone of the zillion piles of books that I have, open one up to the middle, take a good healthy drag of that wonderful book smell, then return to my Kindle with a huge font and a brightly lit screen. I have yet to get a dinged car door shopping at Amazon. I estimate that I have about 600 to 800 DTBs kicking around the house. I know where about 10% of the are. I have over 600 Kindle books and I know where everyone of them are. So yes I think things are a hell of lot better than what they were in 2004, but I still can’t help but wonder where is all this going?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, hsextant!

      I appreciate you taking the time to do physical measurements! I agree that it looks like, based on what you’ve done, that the bars are not to (any) scale, and that should be indicated if that’s the case…only fair. 🙂

      If the situation you described with the Prius/Lincoln was actually the case, I think an “estimated gas cost per month” going to the Lincoln would be reasonable. If the question was, “How much will the typical Lincoln owner pay for gas a month versus the typical Prius owner,” then it would be accurate in your hypothetical to indicate that the typical Lincoln owner would pay less. It would also be accurate if one were looking at it on impact on gas supplies. That’s a case where an internet abbreviation might be particularly apt, though…YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). 😉

      As to why I go back a century at a time, I think a decade is simply too small a sample…it’s too volatile. On the other hand, I think if you start jumping back a 1,000 years at a time, it gets out of people’s frame of reference too quickly, giving you too few data points. I would guess the average person has some sense of what life was like in 1914, and even some sense of what it was like in 1814. If we compare 2014 to 1014 and then…um…14 😉 , I don’t think there’s a good feeling for what daily life was like.

      Independent bookstores have actually apparently been having a renaissance…not that some haven’t been closing, but that’s always true (it’s a tough business…I’m a former manager). Even some that have been open for a very long time are closing. Here’s one article, though, pointing to the recent up trend for indie bookstores:

      If you ask an indie bookstore employee if the world is trending in a positive direction, I don’t think you’d find the negative outlook much higher than in a control group with other occupations, but I don’t know for sure.

      So, you may be able to reassure your friends. 😉

      As for Borders employees…I would guess most of them have found other employment (or means of income) by now, and may have seen their lives improve. If they haven’t…I think we can securely say that it is better to be unemployed in 2014 than it was in 1914…which was better than 1814.

      I have about 10,000 p-books (paperbooks) in my home, and a few thousand Kindle store licenses. Undeniably, my e-books get a lot more use than my p-books.

      While I like your statement about the 1,000 page book, I think my Significant Other had the best line. Years back (early on in the Kindle Age), someone derisively said to my SO, “I like the feel of a book in my hand.” My SO said, “I like the feel of a hundred in mine.” 😉 My experience has always been that the more you love books, the more you love e-books. I didn’t think I would like them before I got a Kindle…I was wrong. More books are available more easily to more people…to me, that sounds like a good thing.

      Nothing wrong with wondering where things are going…I’m always thinking about all the possibilities. If I have to assign probabilities, the odds go to things getting better…but that’s just my own assessment, and it’s in the aggregate. Horrible things will happen to individuals (both people and organizations)…they will happen today, tomorrow, and next year. As a whole, though? For me, optimism is justified by an examination of the trends.

  5. hsextant Says:

    Ahhh, give me pessimism, or give me death. If I am wrong who cares, great! If I am right, then at least I get the pleasure of being right. A hero dies but one death, I under go several thousand a day…not really but optimism has never served me well.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, hsextant!

      Give me optimism and give me life! 😉 Oh, I’m not saying optimism is better (I’m also quite tolerant of other points of view…something I think encouraged by a lot of reading, but also undoubtedly related to optimism)…I have read that it may be largely genetic, in which case, it’s nothing of which to be proud.

      There is that old thought on pessimism, that the least you can be as future events unfold is satisfied. If things go well, that’s fine. If they go poorly, it matches your paradigm. I think the problem with that is that you really amortize the disappointment up to the point of the event. I have positive feelings every day, whether or not my optimism turns out to have correctly predicted a positive result. I would guess that most pessimists have negative feelings every day…so when something negative does happen, they don’t get a rush of them all at once (as can happen to some disappointed optimists), but they have spread out the effect over a longer period.

      We have a couple of terrier mixes who were strays. One of them in particular has a default reaction of fear to anything new. Get them a new toy, and that one runs outside…until the fear subsides. That seems odd to me, but as a ten-pound (4.5 kg, approx.) animal living on the streets, that was probably a successful survival strategy.

      I suspect it may be that pessimists are more likely to survive, and optimists are more likely to have enjoyed things prior to failing to survive. Those are both reasonable approaches, I think.

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