Click and Collect Lockers

20140701-011102-4262204.jpg
Photo: Engadget

I feel like the retail industry keeps reinventing itself. At some point retailers may end up exactly where they started, a storefront. Friends of mine who are business writers tell me that the next big trend in retail will be to have Internet purchases delivered to a pick-up station rather than a home address. It seems that a lot of e-commerce retailers are looking for new ways to accommodate customers.

Engadget reported that Amazon has already started this in London. I heard that it will be instituted in the United States as well. As of last week, Amazon has opened what they call click-and-collect lockers in Finchley Central and Newbury Park Tube stations in London. It seems odd, but purchases are being delivered to pick-up stations in subways in order to be more convenient for workers who commute.

Amazon is not the only retailer seeking out sites for pick-up locations. I hear that traditional department stores, mass merchandisers, warehouse clubs, and dedicated online retailers are considering this option too.

This may be a win-win for all. Customers get to pick where they want their purchases delivered and retailers get to make fewer delivery stops.

Dirty Phone Calls

20140217-001938.jpg

20140217-001859.jpg

20140217-001924.jpg

This post is going to gross you out. It discusses exactly how dirty your cell phone is. Maybe you don’t want to know. It’s one thing to find out about how dirty a public bathroom door knob is, or how dirty the inside of your handbag is, but get ready to freak when you learn about the filth and the germs you are putting on your face every time you make a call.

The inventors of PhoneSoap, a device that sanitizes your cell, reported that phones have 18 times more harmful bacteria than the handle on a male public toilet. They also found research reports that showed that staph, E. Coli, and MRSA live on our cell phones!

Okay you’ve been warned. Here comes a shocking bit of info. One in six cell phones have fecal matter on them because people use their phones in the bathroom. All this info comes from Wesley LaPorte, Inventor/Germ-Guru and Dan Barnes, Internet Marketing Guru at PhoneSoap.

This all may sound a little self-serving because LaPorte and Barnes are introducing a remedy for dirty phones, but the info is worth noting. They say that cell phones are susceptible to bacteria because of the warmth they radiate.

LaPorte and Barnes invented PhoneSoap, a small box that simultaneously charges and sanitizes your cell phone using UV-C light. UV-C light is electromagnetic radiation that’s used in hospitals and clean rooms around the world.

There is a lot more to learn about this product but I will allow a previous PhoneSoap fundraising campaign to spell it out. Click here to read much more about this product and cell phone related health concerns.

PhoneSoap is available on Amazon at $45.99. Remember, PhoneSoap charges your cell as well. That’s a huge plus.

Amazon’s Anticipatory Shipping

20140124-063357.jpg

In an effort to speed up deliveries, Amazon will be shipping products you haven’t even ordered yet. They will be placing bets on what you will want and when. How weird is that?

Amazon actually just received a patent for something called “anticipatory shipping.” It allows Amazon to predict your future purchases based on previous orders, site searches, and online window shopping.

Amazon is absolutely ecstatic about being psychic. They are going to fill warehouses nearby with items you may need in the future. All you have to do is click on “Buy.” The delivery will be made to you within an hour.

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

20131012-225943.jpg

I can’t wait until October 15. The print, Kindle, and Audible editions of “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon” will become available. I love biographies, autobiographies, and memoirs. The book is going to tell all of us who don’t know much about Bezos just how he built a $75 billion empire.

The book was written by Brad Stone, a senior writer for Bloomberg Businessweek. I know Brad from his days at The New York Times when he covered technology. He is extremely well respected and very precise, so this book is going to be as close to accurate as you can get.

Bezos was not interested in being interviewed, but he didn’t stop Stone from speaking to hundreds of his closest contacts. As I read an excerpt of the book, featured recently in Businessweek, I soon started to see some uncanny similarities between Bezos and Steve Jobs.

1) No level of tolerance and humiliate those who screw up.

2) Never met their real fathers.

3) Very peculiar. Amazon office desks are repurposed doors. Jobs lived in a house with no furniture.

Amazon will shortly be celebrating its 20th anniversary. Stone says “Amazon rivals Wal-Mart as a store, Apple as a device maker, and IBM as a data services company.”

“In the past few months, Amazon has launched a marketplace in India, opened a website to sell high-end art, introduced another Kindle reading device and three tablet computers, made plans to announce a set-top box for televisions, and funded the pilot episodes of more than a dozen TV shows. Amazon’s marketplace hosts the storefronts of countless smaller retailers; Amazon Web Services handles the computer infrastructure of thousands of technology companies, universities, and government agencies.”

Bezos, 49, surprised everyone last August when he personally bought The Washington Post. He believes he can turn the newspaper around. He also spends one day each week heading his own private rocket ship company, Blue Origin, which seeks to lower the cost of space travel.

Stone’s book is going to be a great read. I look forward to finding out more about Bezos and how he became one of the biggest successes in the digital marketplace.

20131012-225958.jpg

Before and After Bezos

20130807-224049.jpg

Mackenzie and Jeff Bezos

By now most of you have heard that the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, purchased The Washington Post with his own personal money, $250 million to be exact. He is worth $22 billion according to Bloomberg business press. At 49, Bezos is also politically active, a libertarian who supports gay marriage.

I have been in discussions with the tech writers at The Washington Post recently. I was trying to get them to write about the kind of land mobile radios that first responders like EMS, fire, and police need to properly do their jobs. It wasn’t an easy pitch, so I was on the phone with a few reporters over many recent weeks.

No one told me that Bezos was in negotiations to buy the newspaper, but the usual eager-beaver “scoop” reporters were just not their usual energetic selves. They now claim they didn’t know that anything was going on at the time, but their dispositions have changed in the past few days.

They are now acting like they have something to prove. If they write a startling story about a certain topic, they may get noticed for breaking news. All of a sudden, I am important. I knew that my news was worthy of page one, but I couldn’t get them to focus. Now I am getting calls several times a day requesting further information or additional contacts.

If and when the story gets picked up, I will let you know. It’s an interesting one that should have been told a long time ago. Of course, bureaucracy kept it on the back burner. Hopefully, that all will be history soon.

Meanwhile, I truly believe Bezos bought The Washington Post because he understands that he needs content for his current and future businesses. There is lots of other speculation going around, like maybe his political aspirations, but I don’t think that has anything to do with it.

I do think that the editorial staff at The Washington Post will see changes over the next year or two. Those changes will help them survive and then prosper. There is nothing to fear. The changes Bezos will make will not have anything to do with the stories the reporters write, but rather the way they are delivered.

The fast pace of the Internet will dictate the changes, and if I were a journalist today I would be thrilled to be a part of his regime rather than work for a publisher who refuses to change with the times.

Here are some of the ways I think newspapers will change.

1) No more print. The Washington Post folks better get used to it. Print is a waste of money and everyone should read everything electronically. Those who are balking now will love the performance of digital once they give it a chance.

2) Layouts will not look like the newspaper of today. Stories will appear in capsule forms. If you want more information, you just click for additional coverage.

3) Every story will have suggestions and cross references to similar or related articles.

4) The newspaper will alert you to the most popular stories, which ones were the most emailed and posted on Twitter and Facebook, and suggested articles based on your previous preferences.

5) Articles will be much more current. New ones will appear every half hour if not sooner.

6) Relevant stories will be pushed out to you via email or alerts. You will check off what topics you want to know about firsthand.

7) Readers will contribute to the news and feature pages with any pertinent information they are privy to, much like a Twitter feed.

8) Readers will be able to access all the former stories that were previously written on the same topic. This will serve as a great reference. No one is left in the dark.

I will let Bezos surprise you with the rest. I gave you my best guesses

Read, Listen, Read, Listen, Read, Listen, Done!

20130729-225955.jpg

Sometimes I feel like I have a keen intuition. Maybe we all have it, and I just exercise my sixth sense more than others. It mostly applies to technology. I use certain gadgets or software more than others. All of a sudden I find myself saying, “This device is wonderful but wouldn’t it be great if it had this blah-blah feature?”

Within a year or two, the bonus feature I was hoping for magically appears. Just like that. It’s as if someone up there is listening to me. It’s happened to me a number of times, but today was a biggie.

Maybe you already know about this, but I didn’t. For years I have been a member of Audible, a service that allows me to listen to books on my mobile devices. Amazon bought Audible a few years ago.

For the last year or two, I have been buying the Audible version of what I want to listen to in addition to the print edition. Call it indulgence, but I like to go back and forth from the audio to the written word and then back again. It all depends on my mood or what I am doing: the treadmill, the couch, the shower, the bed.

Lately, I have this sense of urgency to get as many books done as quickly as possible because my “to read” list is getting longer and longer. I don’t want to waste time with one format. I want to listen to the book on airplanes, when I exercise, in the bath, in the car, and when I wait for an appointment. After I listen to the book for an hour, I yearn for print. So I go back and forth.

The trouble is finding my last place in print when I leave the audio book. I can spend ten minutes looking for it in the book or on Kindle. Audible now has a feature called Whispersync for Voice. It syncs audiobooks both among devices and with Kindle e-books, whether they are on your Kindle device or Apple and Android Kindle apps. Users can now easily switch between the Audible and Kindle versions of select books without losing their place.

When users buy the Kindle version of a book, they receive a discount on the Audible version. Soon we will be able to buy a bundle of the two. Until then, this is a very exciting development in multi-media reading.

20130729-225944.jpg

A Writer’s Burning Desire to Publish

20130508-181455.jpg

20130508-182235.jpg

Susan Schneider and my brother Steve with their grandsons, Ari (center), Ezra, and Max.

For as long as I can remember, my sister-in-law Susan Schneider has wanted to write a novel. She was a high school English teacher for most of her career, so the possibility of writing a book was not that far-fetched.

Continue reading

Amazon Targets 50+ in New Dedicated Store

20130421-211002.jpg

Amazon just launched a new store called “50+ Active and Healthy Living.” This is going to be a one-stop shop for hundreds of thousands of items including nutrition and wellness, exercise and fitness, medical supplies, personal care, beauty products, and entertainment.

Continue reading

Who Owns Your Online Music and Book Collection When You Die?

Bruce Willis

While you were having your BBQ’s this weekend, music bloggers around the world were all busy talking about who owns the rights to our online music and book collections once we die. This may seem like a gruesome topic for such a pleasant holiday weekend, but it all started when one International writer reported that Bruce Willis, yes the actor, was going to challenge Apple about the rights to his iTunes account after his death.

Trade reporters wrote that the Die Hard actor has a huge online music collection. This issue recently came to light when he was updating his wills and trusts. He regards his music as one of his most valuable assets. It is not necessarily what the music costs, but the sentimental value of his personal picks. Rumor has that the collection is worth tens of thousands but it might be higher than that.

Being that social media is a place where everyone chimes in, Willis’s current wife, Emma Hemming, tweeted that her husband was not going after Apple. Don’t quote me but I think someone said she and Bruce have no idea how this rumor got started. No one can verify if that was the real Emma Hemming, but that is not what everyone is now concerned about. Americans want to know who actually owns the downloaded music collections from iTunes?

It is not easy getting an answer. All reporter and blogger inquiries into Apple have so far gone unanswered. Twitter can’t even tell if Emma Hemming is Emma Hemming. They have no real way of knowing. Most people I spoke to about this situation over the weekend and from what I have read, said the only way we are really going to get an answer is to have the actor, who plays big screen action roles, lead the way. Apple will more likely pay attention to Willis, than us.

A British newspaper reporter, one of the first to bring up the entire subject, said Willis was concerned that the rights to his music collection would be “passed back to Apple, entitling his children to nothing.” It was also mentioned that the actor wanted it definitely documented that his children hold the legal rights to his music.

Long time music writers noted that when you download a music track from the iTunes store, you are really renting the content under license. Your next question should be, “Does that apply to music and books from Amazon?” The legal community is sure to have a field day with post-mortem music and book rights as more intellectual property is purchased through online stores.