Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Can't I Subscribe to an Author?

What do you do when you discover a new author but you've read every book they've written?  You probably go to their website.  Maybe you subscribe to the site's RSS feed.  Perhaps they're a columnist, so you subscribe to the magazine or newspaper they write for (or maybe you just read that content for free online or you grab it's RSS feed).  If they're into Twitter you probably follow their tweet stream too.

The good news is there are quite a few options besides books if you want to keep up with what your favorite author has to say.  The bad news, IMHO, is there's no single service tying all this together.  I subscribe to way too many RSS feeds, so the result is I don't read many of them at all.  I've also been cutting back on magazine subscriptions, so I'm losing that option as well.  And even though I use TweetDeck to help split up the various groups of people I'm following (e.g., colleagues, publishing industry people, sports figures, etc.), I never find myself going from one tool to the next for a particular author.

Here's what I'm talking about: I used to subscribe to The New York Times on my Kindle.  I did so, not because it was my news source, but because I enjoyed getting the latest articles from my favorite columnists including Thomas Friedman.  When I dumped the subscription I realized I wasn't subscribing to The New York Times; I was subscribing to Thomas Friedman (and a few other columnists).  Steve Rushin is another example.  Steve stopped writing for Sports Illustrated years ago but he's active on Twitter.  I follow him there and I even have "Steve Rushin" set up as a constant search on Google News.  (Yes, I'm that big of a fan!)  So I have to check in on Twitter every so often and then look in my Google News tab to see if there's anything recent from him.  What a waste of time and effort.

Why not just have an author feed subscription via the Kindle?  Yes, Amazon sells blog feed subscriptions, but that's a ripoff and I'm looking for more.  I don't want something I can get via an RSS reader for free.  I want a combined feed of the author's blog, their Twitter activity and any publication/website they write for.  All in one.  I'd be willing to pay a modest amount for this ($10/year?), at least for the 4 or 5 authors I care most about.  And heck, go ahead and include some advertisements in it if necessary.

This is all about the convenience of having everything from one author in one source, automatically pushed to my Kindle (via WiFi) on a regular basis.  It seems like an opportunity for Amazon to extend the Kindle's functionality as well as a terrific way for authors to engage with their readers.  On top of all that, it's a great way for authors to let their fans know when their next book is coming, perhaps give them a preview or even a loyalty discount.

Monday, June 20, 2011

How Amazon Could Improve Discoverability

Discoverability is one of the biggest issues facing e-retailers.  How do the right customers know when a new product they might be interested in has arrived?  Amazon knows I buy a lot of books on sports and WWII.  Although I get emails from them every day I don't think they're doing enough to help me keep up with the latest products I might want to buy.

Here's an idea: Why not let me opt in to a service that automatically sends me samples of new books in my favorite topic areas?  I'm not talking about emails with covers and links back to catalog pages.  I'm saying they should deliver those product samples right to my Kindle.

Give me a checklist to fill out.  I'd like samples from all the new titles about baseball, hockey, Roosevelt, D-Day, etc.  Go ahead and send them my way.  My Kindle has plenty of memory and I'll delete the ones I'm not interested in.  Let's not limit this just to topics though.  I've got some favorite authors as well.  Let me sign up to automatically receive samples from all of them too.

Yes, this could lead to a very cluttered Kindle home screen.  That's why Amazon should also create a "Samples" folder with subfolders for each of the topics/authors I'm subscribing to.  Alert me when new samples have arrived...again, not via email to a device I'm not reading on but rather send a message to my Kindle so I can see a summary of what's just come in.

Some customers won't see the benefit of this.  I'm not one of them.  I would greatly appreciate this sort of service.  It would save me from manually going through each topic area every so often to see if I've missed anything.  It forces Amazon to push more content to customers but I'm sure they'll benefit from the additional sales the samples will generate.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Delivereads, eReaderIQ & Amazon's "Sunshine Deals"

Today's post is all about content discovery and great deals.  First up is Delivereads.  This is a simple email service that provides you with short-form content you might not have discovered otherwise.  It's all free, of course, and the content is delivered directly to your Kindle.  Emails come when Delivereads founder Dave Pell feels like sending them, but I generally find at least one piece that's worth reading in each collection.

Next, if you're not familiar with eReaderIQ I recommend you give it a try as well.  Rather than scouring Amazon's site to see what's free or inexpensive today, the folks at eReaderIQ gather all that info for you.  Like Delivereads, eReaderIQ is also a free service and you can expect to receive an email from them every day.

Speaking of great values, have you heard about Amazon's new "Sunshine Deals" program?  It's a deep mark-down of more than 600 older ebooks in the Kindle catalog.  Prices are either 99 cents, $1.99 or $2.99.  Several publishers are featured and I scanned all of the 650 titles the other night.  I was prepared to buy quite a few books, saving a ton along the way, but I only wound up buying 3.  That's right.  I looked at 650 titles and only found 3 worth spending no more than $2.99 on.  Maybe you'll have better luck than I did.  Be sure to review the list soon though as the campaign ends at midnight on June 15th.