Friday, 31 October 2014

The Digital Reader

The Digital Reader

Breaking News: Amazon Attributes Poor Fire Phone Sales to High Price

Posted: 31 Oct 2014 10:35 AM PDT

amazon-fire-phone-666The hot tech news story this morning comes from Fortune, which reported that Amazon has figured out why they’ve sold so few Fire Phones.

Fortune interviewed  Amazon Senior Vice President of Devices David Limp, who shared the shocking that Amazon may have made a mistake with the price of the Fire Phone:

“We didn't get the price right,” Limp admitted. “I think people come to expect a great value, and we sort of mismatched expectations. We thought we had it right. But we're also willing to say, 'we missed.' And so we corrected.”

After debuting with a retail of $49 and an AT&T subsidized price of $199, the Fire Phone’s subsidized price was dropped to under a dollar. That hasn’t done much to boost sales, or so a market survey of Amazon Prime members suggests.

Amazon has admitted to sitting on $83 million in Fire Phone stock at the end of the 3rd quarter as well as taking a $170 million loss on the phone in that quarter, but that hasn’t quelled their interest in smartphones.

“We are going to keep iterating software features to get it better and better,” said Limp. “Each release that we're doing, we're learning. Beyond that, I leave it out there to see what people think.”

Amazon has a history of putting out cheap but adequate hardware in order to get customers to use their other services (digital music, book, movie, and app stores), so much so that I was surprised first by the specs and cameras and then by the high price and AT&T exclusive. Neither decision follows from Amazon’s past product decisions, so perhaps if Amazon corrects those two missteps they could sell more phones.

The post Breaking News: Amazon Attributes Poor Fire Phone Sales to High Price appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Video: Four Fantastic Features We Don’t Have In The English Language

Posted: 31 Oct 2014 10:46 AM PDT

4ffwdhitelThe English language has a history of borrowing words, letters, and even tenses from other languages, or as James Nicoll put it “pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”.

This has given the English language a set of pronunciation rules that would best be described as crazy, frustrating even native English speakers, but while some of us would like to reduce the complexity, others are looking at other languages and thinking about English might steal next.

Slate recently found a video by Tom Scott where he details 4 parts of other languages which English lacks and could benefit from. The video was actually posted last year, but since I have never posted it I find it fair game.

As much fun as I found the video, only one of the 4 parts (time-independent verbs, clusivity, absolute direction, evidentiality) which English lacks really strike me as a shortcoming.

English has terms for absolute (cardinal) direction in addition to relative direction (left/right) so it’s not like it’s missing anything. Clusivity (inclusive vs exclusive pronouns) is handled by possessive adjectives serving double duty. And as for time-independent verbs, that just trikes me as a way of sowing more confusion by providing less detail in a sentence.

But evidentiality, now that could be useful. As explained in the video, there are languages which are structured so that when you make a statement that an event occurred, you also implicitly say how you know that the event happened – what was your source, in other words.

Speaking as a blogger who regularly has to judge the reliability of a report based on that report’s source (first-hand, second-hand, video, etc), evidentiality is a constant hazard. And while I can explicitly ask for this kind of detail, I would so love if it were instead baked into the language in the first place. It would make writing about events so much easier by guaranteeing that a summary would also include a mention of the source of information.

Do you know what I would also appreciate? Tenses  (this was mentioned in a sidenote in the video). English has an excess of past, present and future tenses, many of which I only vaguely understand, but other languages have tenses which don’t map on to English at all. I would like to see more of those foreign tenses purposes be added to the English language.

On the other hand, I also regret never having been taught to fully understand the tenses we have now, but that is another story.

P.S. If you like this video, you might also like the following:


The post Video: Four Fantastic Features We Don’t Have In The English Language appeared first on The Digital Reader.

Podcast: Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books?

Posted: 31 Oct 2014 07:37 AM PDT

FT-141030-Amazon.jpg.CROP.promovar-mediumlarge[1] Amazon has been the subject of much debate in the book industry for at least the past decade, and it will continue to be debated long after the stake is lit. The retailer has been the subject of numerous panels at conferences, and on Wednesday night it received special attention.

Slate and New America held a special panel in New York City two nights ago to answer the question: “Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books?”

Luckily for those of us who were unable to attend, the event was recorded and it’s now available online. The podcast can be found on Soundcloud, and you can listen to it below. It’s 48 minutes long. (You can find more details on the panelists over here.)

I’ve listened to it twice, and I’ve found that it is not as easy to summarize or break down into sound bites as that debate held in July. (That event could be summed up as “Die Amazon, Die”.) Slate posted a recap, but I don’t think they captured the nuances of the discussion.

I’m not sure I can either, but I did gain a couple insight. One of my takeaways from this debate, and it’s something I learned not so much from what someone said but the viewpoint he revealed, is that some still see Amazon as – but not Amazon plus all the subsidiaries like Goodreads. (I make this mistake as well.)

That point came to me about two thirds of the way through when one of the panelists remarked that Amazon is really great at selling books but that book stores were still better at discovery, and at book culture. That got me thinking about how online bookselling proving the economic theory about a new sub-optimal competitor disrupting the old by focusing on one area and doing it better. That led me to the understanding that Amazon had bought Goodreads because it knew that alone was great at one thing, selling, and that to really compete with bookstores Amazon needed to also match the discovery and culture aspects as well.

That point is rather off topic for Wednesday night’s debate, I know, and now that I’ve written down I see that it is also obvious. But it was something I learned.

What did you think of the discussion?

The post Podcast: Will Amazon Lead Us to the Golden Age of Books? appeared first on The Digital Reader.

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