Tag Archives: Amazon

Amazon is on the prowl: Be afraid, be very afraid!

Macy’s - Crossroads Mall, Portage, MI

This is a tech blog. Why are we talking about department stores? Because our old nemesis Amazon is on the move again.

The picture shown above was taken at a Macy’s department store in Crossroads Mall in Portage, Michigan, a suburb of Kalamazoo. The merchandise was beautifully displayed and plentiful in colors, sizes, name brands, and variety of styles. Most items were discounted, and prices seemed reasonable.

Two things were missing: customers and sales associates. It is hard to afford good help and enough of them when store sales are down.

About fifty miles North of this store, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Amazon has just signed the papers to build a new one million square foot (that’s 1,000,000 sq. ft.) distribution center that will employ over 1,000 new full-time workers.

This will be the fourth new Amazon distribution center in Michigan (the other three are in the greater Detroit area). Where will these new workers come from? Other retail, wholesale, and service organizations in the area pay their warehouse people about $13.00 per hour. Amazon pays their workers about $17.00 per hour. You do the math.

As consumers, we all love to buy from Amazon. Variety (paper diapers to tablet computers), lower prices, no state sales tax (in some states), and free shipping (if I’m an Amazon Prime member.) Amazon is squeezing retailers from every angle and will soon offer same day delivery in medium-size cities (they are already doing this in larger cities.)

I was recently in the market for Philips Hue programmable LED bulbs and switches. I was amazed to go to my local Home Depot store and find that their selection of Philips Hue items was at the same discounted prices as Amazon. I have also experienced that both Staples and Best Buy will price match Amazon prices if asked and if Amazon (not a third party) directly delivers the product.

I would like you to consider shopping locally. Ask the merchant if they will match Amazon’s price. The worst thing they can say is no.

Unless we all want to work for Amazon and shop only Amazon (can you say the word monopoly), we need to keep local businesses alive. Regardless if the store is called ”Bob’s Books” or Barnes & Noble, keeping them alive brings wages to local employees and service company’s.

Digital Magazine “Joy!” No, this is not an ad – but it could be.


My Favorite Magazines
My Favorite Magazines

The Bad News – Digital Magazines are a Nightmare!

I’ve messed with digital books, newspapers and magazines for over seven years.  I’ve tried them on everything from iPhones, iPads, Nooks, Kindle’s, Androids, Mac’s, PC’s and more…

IMHO the most difficult transition from print to electronic are magazines.  Books are much easier – any of the popular apps like Amazon’s Kindle or Barnes & Nobles Nook make it very easy to read books – after all books are pretty much text and an occassional photo, drawing or map.  Newspapers are more difficult.  A good example of a digital newspaper done right is the USAToday app.
My favorite things to read are magazines.  But magazines vary in size, shape, design, use of photos, story length, publishing frequency, back issues and dozens of more “challenges.”

Over the years I’ve tried many digital magazines some in a horizontal format, some in a vertical format – some in both.  I’ve tried magazines on Mac’s and PC’s with large screens (up to 22″), tablets with 7″ and 10″ screens and smart phones with 4″, 5″ and 5.5″ screens.  Almost every attempt at reading magazines has led to disappointment.  Mostly because of small, almost unreadable text (requiring “Zoomed-in” text.) Poor formatting, and big download size (and time to download) were very discouraging.

Another big digital magazine hassle is the individual magazine app or Apple newstand app required to manage your magazine account(s).  Each required different log-in and password procedures, some required lengthy account numbers (from the magazine labels themselves) and on and on.


Sample  Magazine  Page
Sample Magazine Page

The Good News – “Next Issue” App solves everything

A realtively new company and app (for Apple and Android) is called “Next Issue” and has solved (for me) 95% of my digital magazine nightmares. The “Next Issue” app allows me to manage and read all the current and past issues of my favorite magazines.  The formatting is almost perfect on my iPad (10″ full size model) and actually usable on my iPhone 6 plus smartphone (5.5″ screen size).  The formatting features are pretty consistent from magazine to magazine.  The magazines download quickly (1-2 minutes, about 250Mb each).  It’s easy to download, delete, and re-download any issue of any of the over 140 supported magazines.  Web site links, video links, audio links and animation and special effects are all supported.

The cost – $9.99 per month for access to all monthly magazines that are supported.  $14.99 per month gets you all the monthly and the weekly (Time, People, etc.) magazines.  No contracts.  Free 30 day trial.  Actually saves me money because all my magazine subscriptions for the same print and or digital magazines was substantially more than $14.99.  Plus the same account can be used on up to five devices.

It won’t cost you a thing to check out “Next Issue” on your iPad or iPhone for the next 30 days.  Start here to see if your favorite magazine(s) are supported – I’ll bet most of them are: Next Issue Web Site (click this link.)  Then download the app from the Apple App Store or Android Play Store.


App in Apple App Store
App in Apple App Store
I’m very confident that if you enjoy reading magazines – you will enjoy “Next Issue” – and think about all the trees you will save!

“Mixed” Technology Families

Digital life is not as simple as it used to be!  Many of todays tech families have a mix of Apple, Amazon, Android, Kindle, Nook, Samsung, HTC, iPad, iPhone, and other devices.

Apple, for what people consider a closed system, is amazingly open about what apps are carried in its “Apps Store.”  For example in Apple’s store I can find the Amazon Cloud Drive Photo app that lets me get to ALL my photos on any (and most all the rest) listed in the first paragraph.  But if I go to the Google Play Store or the Amazon Store I can’t find a iCloud app or an iPhoto app or other app that will let me access my streaming photos on iCloud.

Same thing with Amazons MP3 music store.  It’s available on Apple, but Apple’s iTunes music store is not available on Android, Kindle or Nook.

Amazon is making a huge push for cloud services.  Apple is too.  So is DropBox, Box.net and a dozen other cloud service companies.

Apple needs to develop Android apps (and probably Microsoft Mobile apps too) that allow its services like iCloud, iTunes Match, iTunes, and others to work.

Apple used to be the underdog.  Now its the fat cat.

Am I an Apple fan boy? Yes!  Am I getting more than a little concerned that they are loosing their technical and creative edge? YES!

Amazon’s New “Touch” and “Fire”


Amazon fired off a new line of Kindle’s today. The new basic Kindle eReader is just $79. The new more advanced Kindle “Touch” (looks like the B&N Nook “Simple Touch”) starts at just $99. And finally, Amazon introduced the new Kindle “Fire” a full color tablet eReader (similar to the B&N “Nook Color) for the very low price of $199.

Obviously Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other eReader manufacturers are in a race-to-the-bottom sprint for the lowest price. Reminds me of the old adage of – give away the razor (eReader devices), – and make money on the razor blades (eBooks, apps, other media).

The former guys-in-charge at Border’s (now sipping rum and Coke on a beach somewhere) must be reading all this and thinking – “Wheee… we got out of that industry – just in time!”

The current guys-in-charge at Barnes & Noble (now sipping coffee in a board room in New York city and shaking their heads) must be reading all this and thinking – “Hmmm… we do we do now?”

It’s not only the low prices that should be worrisome to B&N, but the incredible treasure chest of downloadable media already in place at Amazon. Amazon offers eBooks, a music store, an audio book store, a video store, a cloud storage service, an Android app store and more.

Plus this past week Amazon went live with its arrangement to over 11,000 public libraries in the U.S. to offer eBooks and audio books (Amazon owns Audible the largest distributor of audio books in the U.S.) Barnes & Noble uses Adobe’s ePUB eBook file format and has had pretty much exclusive arrangement with public libraries for the past couple of years.

Is this doom and gloom for Barnes & Noble? Is the Nook dead? I hope not. The Nook Color and the the Nook “Simple Touch” have been the darlings of the eReader world for the past year. Both were rated “Best Buy” in the September 2011 issue of Consumer’s Report.

It has been strongly rumored that B&N will introduce at least two new devices in late September or early October. Let’s hope that they are priced right, and feature laden.

Stay tuned!