Reinventing the…book? Really?

For those of you that weren’t really doing the Internet thing during it’s boom, Amazon.com started out as a bookseller. Obviously this turned out great for them, and they grew into “The World’s Largest Marketplace.” But now, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, is looking to reinvent those things he sold in the first place.

The product is called the Kindle, and it’s aim is to replace the book. While it’s quite the ambitious endeavor, it’s surprising the amount considerable thought has gone into how to create a reader gadget that doesn’t lose complete sight of why people love books to begin with. One of the first roadblocks people throw up is that the screen resolution is lacking and their eyes get tired. The Kindle mimics a book page’s clarity thanks to a technology created just a few years ago called E Ink. The battery lasts up to 30 hours and the device can charge in just two.

Readers can also enlarge or decrease the font, to the cheers of the near-sighted everywhere. When the Kindle goes into “sleep” mode, it displays the book covers from classic novels like Jane Austen.

The real innovation in Kindle lies in the service aspect it provides. Other digital readers have been created, but none of them created a whole streamlined service the way that Kindle is setting up to have with Amazon. With Kindle, you can get into the Amazon bookstore anywhere, no Wi-fi or hotspot required. Browse, read the famous recommendations on Amazon, and download directly from wherever you are when you see a book you like.

“The vision is that you should be able to get any book—not just any book in print, but any book that’s ever been in print—on this device in less than a minute,” says Bezos.

For a really thorough run-down on the Kindle and it’s full capabilities, check out the Newsweek spread.

Keeping things straight in the 21st century

One of the great parts of the Internet is the ability to find all kinds of useful tools. What’s even better is when these tools are cheap (sometimes free) and web-based, because then you have the ability to access them no matter where you are. Whether you’re running a small team, working on a project in an online or virtual capacity, or simply cannot keep lists in your mind long enough, there are hundreds of tools out there to keep you organized and accomplishing your tasks. Here are some favorites:

RememberTheMilk.com

Hailed by PC World magazine as a reinvention of the classic to-do list, RememberTheMilk is quite a robust little application. Beyond the basic ability to create task lists with due dates, you can share your lists with others (to the horror of husbands that have a honey-do list), set up reminders via all major chatting platforms and calendar applications, and even plot your to-do locations on a map to help you plan your route better.

This is a very timely tool with the holidays coming up as well. Schedule out your dinner parties, create holiday card lists, and…remember the milk.

JoesGoals.com

For those tasks that are longer-term goals and tend to be repetitive, JoesGoals can be a nifty resource. You set up your goals and monitor your progress, with the added benefit of putting in vices or things that thwart you from you task. It helps you to visualize those small things that never seem to get done or often fall through the cracks so you can kick the bad habits.

WorldofInspiration.com

Sometimes what you need is a literary kick in the rear. WorldofInspiration is a good place to pick the brains of the famous (and not so famous) for some words of wisdom. The beautifully clean design will instill a zen-like sense of focus, and provide words worth chewing on all day. You can even subscribe to receive emails with quotes for when you’re too busy to even take personal inspiration time!

BaseCamp

If it feels like projects and to-dos are circling your team like a tornado, give BaseCamp a try. It easily helps you create projects, keep related file stored, have team chats, assign to-dos, and set milestones with email reminders. It’s your one-stop for effective collaboration and project communication, and you don’t need a PhD in software to figure it out, as seems to be the case with other applications. You can check out the company that develops it, 37signals, for additional easy-to-use tools that can seriously help out a team that’s hurtin’ for help.

The Hubbub with Hulu

It’s probably no secret that YouTube is the 800lb. gorilla that no one can seem to come close to topping. When Google finally decides to purchase you rather than compete, you know you’ve made it. Since Google acquired YouTube, the brand has remained largely unchanged and as popular as ever. It seemed like that was pretty much the state of things, and it was accepted that competition was fairly futile.

Unless you’re NBC and Fox and you think you might have the money between the two of you to raise the stakes. In that case, you join forces and start creating Hulu.com.

Copyright issues have plagued YouTube, which is a pretty open atmosphere and so many submissions policing them for restricted content can be a challenge. With Hulu, it’s consisting of studios granting access to the TV properties they already own, from famous titles to really obscure ones plus some shorter snippets from things like famous Saturday Night Live skits.

The beta version of the site was launched in October, and you can (and still) only access it by applying for an invitation. A writer over at Adweek has gotten in, and has a nice run-down (update: link is now obsolete)  of what it’s like behind the Hulu.com curtain.

The online video revolution is still being pioneered in many ways. While some major players have been set up, it’s anyone’s guess as to the staying power of YouTube as #1, because there’s a serious challenge in finding ways to make money from things that are, well, free. The addition of something like Hulu.com shows another way that traditional media is venturing out into what is likely very scary territory for them in order to stay relevant in a rapidly changing landscape.

Customers Want Mobile To Step Up Its Game

It looks like the parts of my new iPhone I love were also liked by Time Magazine, who named the gadget the Invention of the Year. It also seems that a lot of what the device offers hits on what cell phone buyers really want, particularly in one area. A study that looked at the mobile phone consumer population uncovered their biggest want: better Internet capability.

As I mentioned in my last post, trying to view the Internet on my Treo could be painful. The browser would only sometimes realize that my device was a small screen, so I’d get a jumbled mess of squares and text. Now that I’m using the Safari browser on my iPhone, I can’t believe I struggled with the Treo as long as I did. It seems like I’m not the only one, as 47% of the people in this study want a more seamless experience, too.

What’s interesting is this same study notes that of the population who is wanting this upgrade to their mobile browsing experience, only 26% of them sign up for Internet access plans with the cell phone provider. It makes you wonder if the number is so low due to poor experiences, or because there’s a general feeling that the technology just isn’t worth paying for yet.

It also points to all of the untapped potential for mobile advertising still, since the technology hasn’t caught up to some of the possibilities. In a recent study by the Kelsey group, they’re expecting a 112% compound growth rate in the amount of ad revenue. It really brings home the potential for so many things: better user experience, easier ways for companies to reach consumers, and best of all, more mobility for both!

You can read the full article on the study here.

Get LinkedIn, Squidoo’d, Facebooked and MySpace’d!

It’s hard to read anything about online marketing these days and not hear about “social marketing.” It takes the form of various other names, like “social networking” and “viral marketing.” As if that doesn’t sound ambiguous enough, there are so many sites that are used to do this, it can be mind-boggling. They have names like MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Squidoo. There are many others, but these are the hottest ones at the moment.

All of them do things just a little differently, and they most certainly serve different purposes for different demographics. If your head is spinning, let’s break them down into bite-sized pieces.

LinkedIn

This is my personal favorite, because it’s geared towards business professionals networking with one another. It builds on the “six degrees of separation” kind of thinking, in that as large as the world is, odds are good that you know someone who knows someone who….you get the idea. It’s a robust community with tons of expertise to be shared, and is a great way to find services you might need, or ask advice about an a business arena that may be unfamiliar to you. Another great feature is the ability to get recommended by people or recommend others, which provides a testimonial blurb that that will be displayed on your LinkedIn profile.

Squidoo

Squidoo is definitely different than the other sites I’ll cover shortly. Squidoo basically lets you build a one page “expert opinion” on something (called a “lens”) and others have the ability to comment. It allows you to link to external sources (so a lot of companies might build one to help get some external links back to their site) and position yourself as a resident expert. You can get rated via a star system, and it’s fun to spend some time on, as it highlights that old adage that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” (Seth Godin, a favorite author of mine, is behind this one.)

Facebook and MySpace

There are differences between these two sites, but they’re more alike than not for the purposes of this discussion. As a user, you get a page that you can pretty much do whatever you want with in order to express yourself. You can upload videos, design it, keep a blog, and all of those things, but it capitalizes heavily on the social networking aspect with the Friends list. On MySpace you invite people to connect with you, and on Facebook they call it “poking.” Unlike the idea of connecting to others such as you do with LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace are mainly used for socialization purposes. While companies have certainly created their own pages on these sites, the jury’s still out on how effective it really is for them to do so. Facebook is known to be targeting LinkedIn’s model and customers moving forward.

Hopefully this gives a good foundation for understanding the social networking buzz. If you’re afraid you’ve missed the boat on this phenomenon, you haven’t. The best advice is to pick one of these sites and spend some time on it. Learn how it works, build up a small following, and then maybe start on another one. You’ll be surprised at how many familiar faces you’ll see from site to site!

And don’t forget to poke me when you do!