Saturday, February 19, 2011

(Kindle) Lending Club

As is apparent from my last few posts on the Kindle, I've become a huge fan of it. In the last couple months, Amazon has enabled you to "lend" certain Kindle books to others via the website - much like how you can lend a paper back to a friend - meaning you can possibly avoid purchasing another book. This is especially nice, as the pricing decision has moved to publishers there are now instances where the Kindle version of a book is more expensive than the hardcover (don't ask me why).

Alas, to effectively lend/borrow books, you need to know someone who has the book on kindle and then swap. I've been trying to work my way through Verne's reading list, but know very few other people who both have a Kindle and an interest in these books. Enter the (Kindle) Lending Club.

Shortly after Amazon announced the feature, a facebook group was started to match people who have books, with those who want to read them. This quickly evolved into a more structured website called the (Kindle) Book Lending Club - Amazon has subsequently made them drop "Kindle" from their name for trade mark purposes. A quick signup, and you can add a list of books you are willing to lend, as well as a list you'd like to borrow. I did this a few weeks ago, and then started waiting... To be frank, I was ready to write the site off as I hadn't had anything shared with me, nor requested from me until this past Tuesday when a book showed up in my inbox. A few clicks, and it's delivered via wireless to the Kindle and I'm off and reading a new book.

Hopefully, The Book Lending Club will continue to attract more users. Only once true mass is achieved will that frustrating wait fall away. Additionally, Amazon leaves the decision of whether to enable lending on a book up to the publisher, at the moment there are quite a few books that you can't lend. Lastly, there's a 14 day limit on a lend, meaning that you need to finish reading in that time, or you'll never knows what happens. On that note I better get back to the book...

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Artisan Products: Success Lessons for Businesses

I started the week reading The Atlantic piece on the new effort from the team that made Absolute and international brand: Karlsson's Gold. A unique "traditional" vodka they can only produce in limited quantities. Mid week I stumbled upon a review of Etsy, an arts and crafts marketplace that had drifted off my radar and was reminded of some amazing offers on hand made products. Somewhere along the line I was sent a write-up of Jack White's Third Man in Nashville - a music venue that produces music for the love of it on limited edition vinyl. Lastly, I ended up in the Camden Coffee Shop yesterday afternoon, where an elderly man roasts, grinds, and sells fantastic coffees.

In all cases, these individuals are producing what amount to artisan products - small batches of manually intensive products with a small but deep market segment they are appealing to. In all cases, they seem to be finding success of some measure (I don't have figures to support that, but anecdotally it seems the case - we passed three Starbucks before reaching the Camden Coffee Shop down a side street and still had to wait to be served). 

In a world increasingly overrun by commodities, these unique products offer the chance for individual experiences. Rather than being confronted with a "yea, I have that too" people are provided the chance to try something unique - something special. While that might be true of any limited release product, artisan products apear to take it a step further - they are the best at what they set out to be. That is ultimately the point of differentiation: being the best, and doing something because it's the way it should be done (even if it costs a buck more) will in turn garner the support of consumers who appreciate quality and who are keen for that one of a kind experience.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Book Review: Epitaph for a Spy

Epitaph for a Spy
Epitaph for a Spy by Eric Ambler is credited as one of the first true spy novels. In it he details the fumbling adventures of a teacher caught in a drama of circumstance, which leads to him being accused as a spy. While I felt like I was reading the 1930's equivalent of a Dan Brown novel - quick page turns and a go-go plot - the actual quality of the writing was far superior. No detail was superfluous, and no bit of the story was left unresolved. This provides a sense of satisfaction, as it signifies a level of sophistication that makes it alright to be reading a spy novel, which is often considered literary drivel.

All that being said, in the note at the end, Ambler states of his book "I still like bits of it." So maybe don't take the above as a true literary judgement, but rather a justification for enjoying a fun story. I look forward to picking up some of his other books in due course.

Friday, February 04, 2011

2011, Where in the world to go?

After picking up a couple travel books lately, and also appreciating the proximity of Europe through our Athens trip in December, it seems the travel bug has got me once again. While in Asia, I managed to visit ~15 countries in a year. Since being in London, that number has shrunk significantly. So it's time to get back out there, and in the spirit of all the other "things to do in 2011 lists" here are the hopeful destinations for the year ahead:


Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Speaker Notes: Verne Harnish, The Growth Guy

I attended a lecture by Verne Harnish the other night. He's an interesting guy, who has spent his career surrounded by founders and growing businesses. From his insights and research, he's come up with some lessons to help foster growth in startups. I won't regurgitate them at length here, as his blog has most of it, but I did want to share a few of his points - and more importantly the reading list I walked out of the room with.

He shared with us "5 routines to help set you free." The idea being that by getting in these habits, you wont spend as much time firefighting, and have more time to focus on what matters:

  1. Get a mentor
  2. Get a partner (or 2!)
  3. Have a partner breakfast once a week to talk about the big issues
  4. Have a 15min partner meeting every day to focus on what you've learned
  5. Talk to one customer every day (or at least every week)
These steps will help you identify changes in the market place sooner, and react to them quick. In turn, you'll be positioned to out perform, and out grow your competition.

He reached these conclusion from a combination of personal experience, and also ties a fair amount of it to literature:

(If you have any of these on Kindle and can part with them for 14 days, I'd love to "borrow" them)