Textbooks on Kindle

July 18, 2008

One of the barriers to adoption of the Amazon Kindle is its price. One of the things that makes it seem expensive is surely the price of books. For example, I usually buy paperbacks at $10 or less, so >$300 seems huge. But the Kindle might be particularly attractive to people who spend a lot on books.

College students certainly spend a lot of books. Textbooks for a single semester often cost more than a Kindle. Hence I think that Mike Arrington and others are right on the money when they identify college students as natural Kindle users.

The trouble is, college students don’t have much choice when it comes to textbooks. The professor usually chooses the textbook for the course from what the publishing firms offer. The incentives to the prof and the firms don’t always align with the best interests of the students.

A few days ago, many of us posted about Google App Engine. Most of us made some sort of comparison between GAE and AWS (Amazon Web Services.) I remarked that I didn’t understand why GAE seemed to arouse much more concern about lockin than did AWS.

Dion Hinchcliffe compares the two “Plafform as a Service” offerings, concluding that:

The decision for many startups will be an easy one; the benefits of using these platforms for their new products are compelling across the board despite minor concerns about platform lock-in even though the models used by both companies are actually surprisingly lock-in free.

So maybe the perception that GAE poses significantly greater lockin risk than does AWS is a perception about the difference between Google and Amazon, rather than a reflection of technical differences between the two platform as a service offerings. It’s a feeling that one should be wary about being locked in by the “don’t be evil” company.

A Surf Around the Cloud

February 19, 2008

Web application developers seem to be moving toward keeping their applications in the clouds. By what is a cloud? Alex Iskold at Read/Write Web:

The idea behind cloud computing is simple – scale your application by deploying it on a large grid of commodity hardware boxes. Each box has exactly the same system installed and behaves like all other boxes. The load balancer forwards a request to any one box and it is processed in a stateless manner; meaning the request is followed by an immediate response and no state is held by the system.

Alex contrasts cloud computing with the LAMP stack on which web applications “traditionally” run. He concludes that we are at the start of “a fundamental shift in our ability to compute.”

Fred Wilson agrees, but with an interesting qualification.

I think Alex is directionally correct. We are going to see more and more companies build and host their web apps on someone else’s infrastructure. It’s not going to happen overnight because I’ve never met a more control oriented group than software engineers.

Rackspace just announced its own cloud-like service, to add to its more traditional hosting services. Erick at TechCrunch remarks that Mosso bills itself as a Web app hosting service, and contrasts Mosso with Amazon Web Services.

Mosso isn’t as purely cloudy as AWS. As such, it may be a good first step toward a walk in the clouds for those control oriented software engineers.

BigCo Banter

February 16, 2008

Just a few comments on goings-on at the web BigCos in the last week.

Three Music Models

January 27, 2008

Three music business models are in the tech news. Mashable lashed out at two different models, albeit via two different writers.

Qtrax is a free and legal way of getting (via P2P) music, and it has the support of the major labels. The bad news is that it requires an ad-inflicting proprietary player, uses DRM, and is not iPod-compatible. Why are people going to want to clutter up their systems with yet another proprietary system that is filled with DRMed music that they can’t put on the most popular digital music player in the world?

So, if that’s not the way to go, let’s consider music dialtone. But the attempt to work a one-price-have-all system successfully has several fatal flaws that will most likely allow it never to draw a lucrative existence in the era of the digital download.

The Mashable curmudgeons have yet to comment on the news that Amazon just announced the international rollout of Amazon MP3. Engadget sees this as the biggest threat yet to Apple’s dominance of digital music.

I actually like music dialtone. I don’t see it as a problem that I lose access to the music if I stop paying the monthly bucks. I’ll (almost) always be able to buy, or otherwise acquire, the music that I really really want to listen to.

Yes, Sony. A few days ago, it seemed that in order to download DRM-free MP3s of music on the Sony BMG label, you had first to go to a store.

But Sony will start selling DRM-free music on AmazonMP3 at the end of the month. This is good news for those of us who see shopping as an expensive form of surfing, rather than as a reason to leave the house.

It’s also good news for Amazon. AmazonMP3, unlike iTunes, will offer DRM-free music from all four major record labels.

Amazon Profile

January 8, 2008

I seem to have a profile at Amazon. It shows my Media Library, which is essentially my purchase history. I could add other things to the library, such as book I bought in a real-world store.

I saw this via Mashable Mark, who presents it as Amazon’s stealthy entry into social networking. He answers one of my questions: if you go to my profile, and buy something from it, do I get an affiliate commission? The answer is no. I’m also wondering about Amazon’s intentions around the social networking standards…

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