Friday, November 12, 2010

Amazon patents "bad gift" converter. Random House non-Agency sales up 300%

"BAD GIFTS" - The Telegraph (UK) subtitles their story "Technology will automatically swap unwanted presents for books, CDs and DVDs you really want."

Claudine Beaumont, The Telegraph's Technology Editor, reports that Amazon might soon allow customers to swap unwanted presents for items they really want before before the gift even leaves the warehouse.  That might be tricky if the gift was meant to be a surprise, I'd think.

Beaumont says that "The company has been granted a patent application that will make it easy for them to request a different item in place of the gift ordered by a friend or relative."

  Amazon's application for a patent, entitled "System and method for converting gifts," was granted by the United States Patent Office, and it lists Jeff Bezos, as one of the inventors.

  This would allow users to set up "rules," so that whenever an order is placed by a "well-meaning but clueless relative" (Beaumont's words) or friend, the item would automatically be replaced by a gift certificate of the same value, or a similarly-priced item from the recipient's Amazon "wish list."   Beaumont adds wording from the patent:
' “As in other gift-giving situations, it sometimes occurs that gifts purchased online do not meet the needs of tastes of the gift recipient,” reads the patent.  “In such situations, the recipient may wish to convert the gift to something else, for example, by exchanging the gift for another item or by obtaining a redemption coupon, gift card or other gift certificate to be redeemed later.”  The system could also allow Amazon users to block friends and relatives from buying certain gifts, could keep a record of the correct clothing sizes, and even send automated thank-you notes to the gift-giver.

Amazon has not yet indicated whether it has started to build the system outlined in the patent, or whether it plans to make the gift conversion tool available on its site. '

Paul Biba at Teleread caught a story from Authorlink about the press release from Bertelsmann, which owns Random House, pointing out that Random House in the first 6 months of 2010 (RH figures are not broken out for the 3rd quarter yet) "significantly increased its first-half 2010 sales and operating EBIT, driven by major increases in revenues and profits from its U.S. division and rapidly rising digital sales... Also for the first six month period, Verlagsgruppe Random House grew its market share in a flat overall market.  Random House U.S. e-book sales surged 300 percent in the first six months, and comparably in Germany and UK."

  This is of course very interesting in light of general book sales (which would involve much of the Big5 who insisted on the 'Agency Plan' route, with fixed-higher-pricing for all online stores) which were reported yesterday to have decreased in a major way from last year this September while e-book sales increased significantly.

Paul also got this story up quickly yesterday.

  From the NY Times article by Julie Bosman, he quotes this section:
' In an acknowledgment of the growing sales and influence of digital publishing, The New York Times said on Wednesday that it would publish e-book best-seller lists in fiction and nonfiction beginning early next year.

The lists will be compiled from weekly data from publishers, chain bookstores, independent booksellers and online retailers, among other sources. …

Janet Elder, the editor of news surveys and election analysis for The Times, said the newspaper had spent two years creating a system that tracks and verifies e-book sales.

“We’ve had our eye on e-book sales since e-books began,” Ms. Elder said. “It was clear that e-books were taking a greater and greater share of total sales, and we wanted to be able to tell our readers which titles were selling and how they fit together with print sales.” '
  The Electronista adds:
' Which platforms would be included hadn't been named, but the top platforms are likely to be among the first.  Amazon's Kindle is currently leading and is the most probable candidate but could be accompanied by Barnes & Noble's Nook shop, Kobo and Apple's iBookstore.  Not every company readily provides numbers, but dedicated companies have usually had ways to track sales through indirect means.

  A unified e-book list could alter the makeup of bestseller rankings.  Amazon has often prided itself on having most or all of the NYT bestseller list available online, but its results haven't necessarily reflected the actual popularity of downloads. [?]  Apple hasn't provided a recent update on sales of books for the iPad and iPhone but has been hurt by the relatively small catalog.  Digital lists could better reflect the contribution of a smaller store like Apple's to total popularity rather than just how the leading store or print editions might rank sales. '

I'm including this from an email notice I got today as a too-avid Electronics consumer living in a Kindle world :-), but Amazon has a 2-day only (11/12-11/13) sale on HDTVs & Video, which includes a Roku streaming-video player I recently bought for $79 but which is $65 for 2 days and the Apple TV with 160GB Hard Drive for $130 (list $230).
  Amazon UK usually has Electronics sales going on but I didn't get a notice from them on HDTVs.

Kindle 3's   (UK: Kindle 3's),   DX Graphite

Check often: Temporarily-free late-listed non-classics or recently published ones
  Guide to finding Free Kindle books and Sources.  Top 100 free bestsellers.
UK-Only: recently published non-classics, bestsellers, or highest-rated ones
    Also, UK customers should see the UK store's Top 100 free bestsellers. Below are ways to Share this post if you'd like others to see it.
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  1. "That might be tricky if the gift was meant to be a surprise, I'd think."

    If I read the thing correctly, the system should be able to replace the item with something from your wishlist without your intervention.

  2. Tricky in human relations aspects. Have someone pick out something they think you'd love and you just reject it on an automated basis and choose something else for a gift meant as a surprise?

  3. It'd still be a surprise what you get :)
    Maybe I've lived too long in families where you had to redecorate the living room every few weeks depending on which family member with incredibly bad taste was coming to visit, putting in all the stuff they'd given you over the years that you just can't stand only to remove it again after they've left.

  4. I'm surprised Amazon was actually granted a patent in this. According to patent storm, Amazon's invention summary is "An exemplary embodiment relates to a computer-implemented data processing system comprising a user interface and gift conversion logic." It's basically an overblown wishlist, helping Amazon get lots of people's credit card details uploaded for future use.


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