Round up #275: why the Echo will succeed…and why it won’t, Amazon’s Best Books of 2014

Round up #275: why the Echo will succeed…and why it won’t, Amazon’s Best Books of 2014

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Amazon’s 2014 Best Books of the Year

Amazon has announced their

2014 Best Books of the Year: The Top 100 in Kindle Format (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and I went right away to look at something that I think most people might not consider: who the publishers were.

I was curious as to whether Amazon was going to stick mostly with traditionally published books (which might give their list more legitimacy in the eyes of the literati), whether they would include books traditionally published by Amazon, and whether Hachette might be downplayed (because of the ongoing contract dispute I refer to as the Hachazon War) and perhaps Simon & Schuster upplayed (since they reached a contract with them).

I wasn’t expecting the Hachette/Simon & Schuster thing, really…presumably these lists take months to compile, and although the Hachazon War has gone on long enough, the S&S agreement is new.

Here is how it breaks down for the top 10:

  1. Penguin Press (PRH…Penguin Random House)
  2. Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
  3. Doubleday (PRH…Penguin Random House)
  4. Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
  5. Penguin Press (PRH…Penguin Random House)
  6. Scribner (Simon & Schuster)
  7. William Morrow (HarperCollins)
  8. Knopf  (PRH…Penguin Random House)
  9. Putnam  (PRH…Penguin Random House)
  10. Knopf  (PRH…Penguin Random House)

No Hachette or indie (independently published) or Amazon tradpubbed book in the top ten…interesting. Certainly PRH publishes a lot more books (I believe I’ve seen that that one publisher is as big as the other four in the Big Five combined), but still, it suggests there is a difference.

Continuing down the list, I noticed two from Amazon’s “Little A” tradpub imprint (#75 and #78), and finally, down at #97, one from Hachette’s Grand Central. I checked: the Grand Central one doesn’t appear to be delayed for delivery right now, and I didn’t see a banner directing me to buy something else. It was $12.99.

The lack of Hachetter representation could be coincidence, of course…and there was one, so it wasn’t a disqualification…

I’m a bit disappointed that we don’t see real indies on here, from what I can tell…although what may happen is the indies get bought up by a tradpub. That’s what happened with

The Martian (at AmazonSmile*)

by Andy Weir, which is also soon to be a major motion picture.

Lists: as always, intriguing and challenge-provoking. 😉

My new favorite video news app


Amazon Fire TV (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

hasn’t quite allowed us to totally “cut the cord” yet and give up cable. One of the barriers to that for me has been the 24 hour news channels. I like watching those, and while you can watch CNN on the CNN app, you can only do that if you verify for them that you are paying for CNN with a cable/dish company…at least, that’s how it was last time I looked.

Now, though, I am liking

Watchup (at AmazonSmile*)

which gives me current CNN stories…among other things.

I’ve only started using it, and it will “learn” me over time and as I give it more input.

Right away, though, it does have major news channel coverage (including CNN) of major events…same day, I think. It also has specialized news.

This is something different from others I’ve tried, where you don’t see the mainstream stuff.

The interface is okay…and it will just go from story to story without your intervention, so you can have it on while you are brushing your teeth or working out (or, you know, sometimes I do both at the same time). 😉

You don’t have to set up anything for it to work, but for it to work best, you do a free account…and you vote stories up or down.

I don’t find I have time to vote when I’m watching it on my Fire TV while I’m doing something else…there is only a three second window.

You can, though, pause playback, and get to where you can vote stories up and down.

Overall, this does move us closer to cutting the cord: Sky News, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Univision, euronews, c|net…quite a few.

It’s free, so worth trying on your Fire TV or on your phone. I haven’t been a news watcher on my SmartPhone, but I have found myself having it on in the background at work (with earphones)…you do need to be connected to a network, though, so if you aren’t on wi-fi, be aware of the possible data costs.

Why the Amazon Echo will succeed…and why it won’t

I recently wrote about Amazon’s market-defining new device:

Amazon reinvents…life? Amazon Echo

It’s been really interesting to read intelligent people commenting on it.

Many tech folks (and others) are down on it. They don’t understand why people would pay that amount of money for something they can do on their phones, and they also refer to it as just a sales channel for Amazon. Of course, they are also comparing it to the

Amazon Fire Phone (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

which clearly didn’t meet Amazon’s expectations…I think I might have bought the only one in North America. 😉 Just kidding…but they mention it as a drag on the bottom line during their recent financial call.

I think there is a pretty good chance it defines a new market, and is a success.

They are being much smarter about how they are introducing it than they were with the Fire Phone…really building up demand. Amazon was very clever to introduce it at apparently two prices: $199 for most people, $99 for (invited) Prime members. I’ve seen people say, “I wouldn’t pay $200 for it, but $99 seems like a bargain.” I suspect many of the same people would have said, “I wouldn’t pay $100 for it, but $50 seems like a bargain” if Amazon had set the prices that way. 😉

Prime members are seeing it as saving $100, and feeling pretty special about it…both of those are good things. After all, if you buy it, you’ve saved the cost of your Prime membership for that year, right? 😉

Techies think nothing of whipping out their phones at home to ask a question. For a lot of people, there is a considerable amount of friction in doing that. Some folks actually have their phones turned off at home, charging. Some people are intimidated by their phones, not enamored of them. Having this “always on” device in your house will feel very different to them.

For it to be a success, it needs to do two things:

  • It has to be the simplest interface to the internet and shopping ever. It has to be much simpler than that phone. It has to understand us, and give us the answers we want
  • It has to integrate with things, so it doesn’t become just an isolated disembodied voice. It will work with music, but it needs to quickly work with TV (through the Fire TV and Fire TV stick, I would guess), and other items…maybe your car. “Alexa, ,turn on the car and warm it up…baby, it’s cold outside!” “Alexa, make me some coffee.” All of that is entirely possible

I think those sorts of things will happen, although there does have to be a virtuous circle of market penetration and attractive features…the more people who use it, the more will be made available for it to do…the more it is able to do, the more people will use it.

Why might it fail?

  • It doesn’t understand us well enough and doesn’t do enough…those are both “ifs”
  • People are concerned about the privacy…I doubt that will be the case. I don’t think most people worry about that that much. Sure, hypothetically, the NSA could hack into it and listen to all your conversations, but this isn’t the only or most likely channel for that
  • Somebody else introduces something cheaper and better…again, I don’t think that will happen quickly. I think it will define a market and there will be competitors, but I think the Echo will dominate
  • It’s just too expensive…it wouldn’t surprise me if it costs $50 three years from now. Producers paying Amazon for referrals through Echo will subsidize the price, driving it down. Amazon doesn’t need to make money from consumers if it can make money from producers by becoming the new infrastructure…I think that’s their real golden path

That new KFHDX update

I manually updated my Kindle Fire HDX to the update which I told you about yesterday:

Profiles are here for the KFHDX

The look of everything is much better. They’ve done something which has really enhanced the crispness, and they’ve made the visual interface items cleaner.

I realized today that I can set up another Amazon account with another e-mail address of my own, so I’ll test that out for you.

They took away the “modern art” clock they had, which I did enjoy. I literally use my KFHDX as my nightstand clock, and I miss having those two growing circles (one for hours, one for minutes). Also, the time moves around the screen, which is weird.

The Carousel now has a lot fewer items on it…it does seem to be growing as I use it, and I know a lot of people complained about having hundreds of items on it.

I now have text-to-speech for National Geographic! That might have been there before, but I’m not positive.

Overall, I’m liking the update…have to play around with the profiles.

What do you think? What do you think were the best books of 2014? Were there indies that stood out to you? If you are using Goodreads (now owned by Amazon), I think you can go back and check which ones you read this year. Will the Echo succeed or fail…or be somewhere in-between? Will, perhaps, the Echo rescue the Fire Phone, if it gets a great interface with it? 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! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

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.

6 Responses to “Round up #275: why the Echo will succeed…and why it won’t, Amazon’s Best Books of 2014”

  1. Harold Delk Says:

    I read this morning that Little A’s editor has resigned and, as I recall, is moving to Penguin. Not sure about Penguin as cannot find the article at the moment.

  2. Lady Galaxy Says:

    The only book in the best 100 list that I’ve read is “What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” mainly because I could borrow it from KU. There are several other books on the list that are on my “wish list” waiting for the price to drop.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Lady!


      My situation is the same…that’s the only book on the list that I’ve read, and for the same reason. That may change after the holidays: we give our relatives “wish lists” every year, and this year, there may be more books on mine. Why? I’m not tending to buy books as much, since I’m reading them in KU…meaning that there are more that I particularly want to read which I haven’t gotten.

  3. Edward Boyhan Says:

    As to the Echo — several of the reviews I read were quite positive as to the speaker technology that it contains — that for $200 it could turn out to be an excellent Bluetooth speaker (compared to all the other $200 Bluetooth speakers out there) irregardless of its goodness/utility as a Siri/Cortana alternative.

    Probably 70% of my own interest in the Echo is to use it as a speaker :-).

    There was nothing on that list that I had ever heard of — much less read, but then I’m an over-educated Philistine 😀 what do I know?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Edward!

      Oh, I think I’d heard about all of them, but I do keep pretty close track of this.

      It’s funny, but I haven’t engaged with idea of the Echo as a speaker at all, emotionally. I have a couple of speakers, but don’t use them much. Clearly, we need another generic name for this device: maybe, instead of a speaker, it’s a listener? Yes, I think that works for me: “Does that TV come with a listener?” Sure, some people might see that as creepy, but I think that’s the key thing…it listens, and responds. In this case, it is both a listener and a speaker.

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