Devices & People & Feelings

Zynga is closing down some of its games today. One of the games is Petville – where you have virtual pets you take care of and buy things for. The comments from people whose ‘virtual’ pets are being killed off are a reminder that people and people’s feelings are far more important than software and hardware.

Technology only holds value/meaning if it creates an impact in people’s lives. If it makes people FEEL things.

We tend to forget that devices and technology are meaningless in themselves. It is how devices affect people and the feelings they create that give them meaning.

Would a tree falling in the forest make a sound if there was no one to hear it?

It (the notion that devices in themselves are nothing) might sound like heresy to people working in technology who think the software they make, the devices they manufacture, the cars they build, and the planes they construct are masterpieces. That it doesn’t matter how they impact people or their lives or their feelings. Just the existence of the technology is beautiful in itself.

Actually, it’s not (except to the creators). The existence of technology means nothing until it reaches people.

A hammer by itself is powerless. A hammer used to build a house that people will live in and cherish is something beautiful.

Twin Traps of Technology Fetishism and Fashion Obsession

We’ve fallen into two very interesting traps –

  1. The first trap is that technical specifications of devices have meaning. That having a quad core processor is somehow twice as good as having a two core processor – even if there is no difference in the end user experience.
  2. The second trap is that the device and its beauty is the center of the universe. That it’s not the person who gives the device meaning, but the opposite.

They are both traps. The first gleefully endorsed by the technologically savvy and the second spread by the aesthetically adept (or obsessed or addicted).

A device that has impressive specifications but doesn’t create some great value for the device owner is just a technology fetish. A device that looks beautiful but doesn’t provide great value is just a fashion accessory.

Devices are defined by how People use them

A device gains relevance when people start using it and it starts impacting their lives. When people feel something about it.

There are different things different companies go after –

  1. One device manufacturer says – Let’s put in 57 different shiny new technologies. The user will be so happy to have access to these new technologies that it doesn’t matter what using the device is actually like.
  2. A second device manufacturer says – Let’s polish and pretty up the device so that it sparkles. The user will be so busy showing off that she won’t care if some things don’t feel right.
  3. Somewhere, hidden away in the Arctic perhaps, is a device manufacturer who thinks only in terms of the core. Not the extrinsics like fashion or technology fetishism or price or addictions. Just the core – What does the device do? How does it make the user feel? How can we perfect that?

Subjugating a device’s core purpose to extrinsic things – closed ecosystems, fashion and trends, technology, business priorities. That’s just a corruption of the core ideal. All of it just gets in the way of the device doing justice to its core functionality.

People want to feel good about their devices

Yes, this is in both extrinisc and intrinsic ways. Extrinsically,

  1. People want devices that make them feel they got good value for money OR that they got the chance to show they have disposable income OR that they are most certainly not willing to waste money on expensive things.
  2. People want devices that are pretty and make them look cool and sophisticated.
  3. Some people prefer devices that make them look smart and knowledgable.
  4. Often people want devices that convey a philosophy or an idea.
  5. People want devices that have extrinisic qualities with in turn help people get extrinisic things (coolness, popularity, confidence, contentment, congruence with an idea they hold dear).

Intrinsically, however, is where it gets really interesting. People, sooner or later, run into the core uses of a device i.e.

  1. People end up using the device for what it’s meant for.
  2. This either works great and people feel satisfied and great about themselves and in control.
  3. Or it doesn’t work and people feel stupid and that they don’t control things and realize that the device made them feel bad.

This intrinsic part, in my opinion, is ten times more important than anything extrinsic.

The device must do its core function so well, and with such ease of use, that users LOVE it and Feel good about it, and about themselves. Regardless of the extrinsics.

Devices & People & Feelings

A great many people who make devices and technologies suffer from one of two fatal flaws (sometimes both) –

  1. They don’t realize (or perhaps don’t give importance to) the fact that a device or technology they are making has the power to make people feel things. That their creations can make a person’s day (and life) better or worse. Not just at the ‘getting things done’ level, but also at the ‘how I feel’ level.
  2. They can’t, or don’t want to, step into the common users’ shoes and view the device as the common user will see it. The common user will see the device as ‘providing something’. Not as a combination of a four core processor and a NFC chip and a Wireless card. For the user, the device is a living, breathing thing that the user interacts with and which affects the user’s life and emotions and ability to get things done.

So we end up with devices built for robots and non-thinking non-feeling automatons when we need devices built for human beings.

The average user is wary of technology. Simply because she has been trained that interacting with technology is usually painful and frustrating. Simply because she feels good before dealing with technology but bad afterwards.

It’s time for device makers to change that. So that people look forward to using new technologies.

Device makers think of making devices as fitting a brick into a wall. It is actually more like counting stars. It’s not about the dimensions and the fit and the numbers – it’s about the experience and the joy.

34 Free Kindle Books for Monday, December 31, 2012

Disclaimer: Prices Change. It’s 12:50 pm EST and all books were free FOR EVERYONE in the US (you didn’t have to have Prime). Please check the Price BEFORE buying – especially if you are reading this post on Tuesday, January 1.

Credits: Jake, Official Kindle Forum.

Free Kindle Books – Full List at Amazon

Free Kindle Books – Romance

  1. Frankie Blanco by June. Price: Free. Genre: Romance, Urban, African American. Rated 4.8 stars on 10 reviews. 118 pages.
  2. *** [Free Book of the Day] Wait for Me by Elisabeth Naughton. Price: Free. Genre: Romance, Suspense. Rated 4.6 stars on 140 reviews. 267 pages.
  3. Blood From a Stone by Cynthia Lucas. Price: Free. Genre: Romance, Fantasy. Rated 4.5 stars on 6 reviews. 298 pages.
  4. * [Repeat from March 10, 2012] Trading Up by Sandra Edwards. Price: Free. Genre: Romance, Contemporary. Rated 4.4 stars on 24 reviews. 65 pages.

Free Kindle Books – Thrillers & Mysteries

  1. From Manhattan with Love and Revenge (Boxed Set) (The Fifth Avenue Series) by Christopher Smith and Brandi Doane. Price: Free. Genre: Thriller, High Tech, Suspense. Rated 5 stars on 8 reviews. 266 pages.
  2. Murder by the Marfa Lights (The Ariadne French Mysteries) by Denise Weeks. Price: Free. Genre: Mystery, Cozy. Rated 4.3 stars on 6 reviews. 259 pages.
  3. * [Repeat from May 25, 2012] Critical Mass by Susan Howard. Price: Free. Genre: Thriller, Suspense. Rated 4 stars on 13 reviews. 144 pages.

Free Kindle Books – Christian

  1. Simple Things to Make This World a Better Place by Vicki Julian and Reverend Gary Teske. Price: Free. Genre: Christian, Religion & Spirituality, Christian Living. Rated 5 stars on 6 reviews. 128 pages.
  2. * [Repeat from July 26, 2012] Suddenly a Bride by Cynthia Thomason. Price: Free. Genre: Christian, Religious Fiction, Historical Romance. Rated 4.1 stars on 24 reviews. 352 pages.
  3. ** Constant Heart, A by Siri Mitchell. Price: Free. Genre: Christian, Religious Fiction, Historical Romance. Rated 4 stars on 46 reviews. 385 pages.
  4. Mary’s Choice by Dr. Barbara Horton Jones and Shelbee Mares. Price: Free. Genre: Christian, Religious Fiction, Children. Rated 4 stars on 3 reviews. 56 pages.

Free Kindle Books – Fantasy, Science Fiction & Horror

  1. Turn a Dark Phrase by David Coy. Price: Free. Genre: Horror, Occult, Short Stories. Rated 5 stars on 8 reviews. 105 pages.
  2. The Descent Series, Books 1-3: Death’s Hand, The Darkest Gate, and Dark Union (The Descent Series, Volume 1) by SM Reine. Price: Free. Genre: Fantasy, Urban. Rated 4.8 stars on 5 reviews. 896 pages.
  3. Wolfkind by Stephen Melling. Price: Free. Genre: Horror, Occult. Rated 4.2 stars on 5 reviews. 251 pages.
  4. [Repeat from 2011] [Short Story] Voodoo Children – A Bubba the Monster Hunter Short Story by John G. Hartness. Price: Free. Genre: Horror, Urban Fantasy, Paranormal Investigator. Rated 4.1 stars on 9 reviews. 24 pages.
  5. * [Repeat from July 2, 2012] Erich’s Plea (The Witchcraft Wars) by Tracey Alley, Angela Armstrong and Geoff Armstrong. Price: Free. Genre: Fantasy, Epic. Rated 3.8 stars on 20 reviews. 318 pages.

Free Kindle Books – Children & Young Adult

  1. Lie to Me (an OddRocket title) by Suzanne Brahm. Price: Free. Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Coming of Age. Rated 5 stars on 7 reviews. 265 pages.
  2. Safari Stanley’s Bugs & Insects – Peek-A-Boo Who’s Under the Leaf? (Baby Books Discovery & Play Series) by Christopher Biggs. Price: Free. Genre: Children. Rated 5 stars on 5 reviews. 28 pages.
  3. The Worry Glasses: Overcoming Anxiety by Donalisa Helsley and Kalpart. Price: Free. Genre: Children, Health, Mind & Body. Rated 4.8 stars on 13 reviews. 32 pages.
  4. Elephant Summer by Douglas Jackson Channell. Price: Free. Genre: Children and Preteen, Action & Adventure. Rated 4.5 stars on 4 reviews. 175 pages.
  5. * [Repeat from June 16, 2012] Down A Lost Road (Lost Road Chronicles) by J. Leigh Bralick. Price: Free. Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Epic. Rated 3.8 stars on 27 reviews. 338 pages.

Free Kindle Books – Various Genres (Fiction) including Adventure

  1. Snow Soldiers by Carrie Crafton. Price: Free. Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Lives. Rated 4.8 stars on 4 reviews. 181 pages.
  2. The Battered Heiress Blues by Laurie Van Dermark. Price: Free. Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Lives. Rated 4.7 stars on 19 reviews. 234 pages.
  3. * [Repeat from June 13, 2012] Sweetwater American by Eileen Cruz Coleman. Price: Free. Genre: Literary Fiction, Women’s Lives. Rated 4.2 stars on 21 reviews. 247 pages.

Free Kindle Books – Non Fiction

  1. The Princess Plan: Shrink your waist. Expand your beauty. by Dr. Jennifer Hanes. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Health, Mind & Body, Diets & Weight Loss. Rated 5 stars on 7 reviews. 294 pages.
  2. Pet Names and Numerology: Choose the Right Name For Your Pet by Amy Morford. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Home & Garden, Animal Companions. Rated 5 stars on 7 reviews. 283 KB.
  3. Any Room? Simple Dessert Recipes by Diana Bricker, Alex Bricker and Cherryl Hewett. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Cooking & Food, Desserts. Rated 5 stars on 6 reviews. 639 KB.
  4. 31 Green Smoothies: Heal your body and lose weight with nutritious and delicious green smoothie recipes (Healthy Smoothies) by Pawel Malczewski. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Health, Mind & Body, Nutrition. Rated 5 stars on 5 reviews. 94 pages.
  5. Ghetto Medic: A Father in the ‘Hood by Rachel Hennick and Clarinda Harriss. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Biography. Rated 4.9 stars on 9 reviews. 259 pages.
  6. Professional Destiny by Valerie Hausladen. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Career Planning. Rated 4.8 stars on 21 reviews. 160 pages.
  7. 32 Years of Keba: The Memoir of a Southern Girl by Makeba Yasmeen. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Memoir. Rated 4.8 stars on 5 reviews. 948 KB.
  8. [Repeat from April 20, 2012] That Is That: Essays About True Nature by Nirmala. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Health, Mind & Body, Meditation. Rated 4.4 stars on 12 reviews. 170 pages.
  9. One-Two-Go Paris: The Ultimate Guide to Paris 2013 (One-Two-Go.com) by Michael Wynn. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Travel, France. Rated 4.4 stars on 5 reviews. 124 pages.
  10. What They Teach You At The Wharton Business School: How To Be An Entrepreneur, Start A Successful Business, Sell More Than The Competition, Make More Money, … Be A Better Person, And Live A Happier Life by Clint Arthur. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Business & Entrepreneurship. Rated 4.2 stars on 17 reviews. 157 pages.
  11. American Legends: The Life of Sitting Bull by Charles River Editors. Price: Free. Genre: Non Fiction, Biography. Rated 4 stars on 30 reviews. 46 pages.

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Today’s Deals (Not Free, just Cheap)

Kindle Daily Deal – Today’s 4 Amazon-recommended Kindle Daily Deals

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Credits: Official Kindle Forum.

Kindle Fire Sales Estimates, Kindle Fire HD Sales Estimates

Estimating Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD sales is an interesting challenge.

Amazon likes to put out constant press releases full of meaningless nonsense – Amazon sold more Kindle Fire HDs than it sold ice cream cones and bubble wrap combined.

These are mostly misdirection. Not to mention a sort of calculated vagueness. To take advantage of the human need to avoid uncertainty and fill it in with guesses and estimates – something which is probably amplified in journalists and stock analysts to the point of borderline madness.

Let’s look at ways to estimate Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD sales – both qualitatively and quantitatively.

Kindle Fire Sales Estimates & Kindle Fire HD Sales Estimates based on Reviews

This is actually a very good way to guess. The only missing thing is what ratio we assume exists between Kindle Fires bought and reviews left.

We currently have:

  1. 4,438 reviews left for the Kindle Fire 2. If we assume the usual 1,000: 1 ratio between Sales and Reviews we are talking about 4.4 million Kindle Fire 2s sold. However, the ratio is different for higher priced devices and even higher for devices that create strong likes and dislikes. So a ratio of 500: 1 is more appropriate. That would give us 2.2 million Kindle Fire 2s sold. This seems more like the top end. The Kindle Fire 2 probably sold 1.75 million to 2.2 million units.
  2.  5,537 Kindle Fire HD reviews. Again, let’s go with the 500:1 ratio and that gives us 2.75 million Kindle Fire HDs sold. If we assume that a $199 device would get reviews slightly more often, we end up with a range of 2 million to 2.75 million Kindle Fire HDs sold.
  3. 1,609 Kindle Fire HD 8.9″ reviews suggest that between 500,000 and 800,000 of these were sold. Again, we are assuming that the higher up the price the more likely the purchaser is to leave a review.

This gives us the following estimates – 1.75 million to 2.2 million Kindle Fire 2s were sold; 2 million to 2.75 million Kindle Fire HDs were sold; Half a million to 800,000 Kindle Fire HD 8.9″s were sold.

Total Kindle Fire Sales: Between 4.25 million and 5.75 million.

Reliability of this Method: Close to Zero.

While this method seems absolutely crazy, it’s a really good one in the absence of any hard figures. Anyone who sells books or products through Amazon can confirm it for you. Depending on your price and quality you will see 1 review per 250 sales to 1 review per 1,000 sales.

Kindle Fire Sales Estimates & Kindle Fire HD Sales Estimates based on Browsing Share Among Tablets

This is actually the absolute worst method. Why?

  1. Different Tablets are used in different ways and bought for different reasons.
  2. Different Tablets vary wildly in how good they are for browsing.
  3. Measuring Browser Share among Tablets based on one company’s figures (even if it is an advertising company) is very vulnerable to pre-selection bias. The networks usually pre-select users in ways that tilt it towards different devices.

That being said, a recent survey by Chitika showed that for every 100 iPad impressions there were 4.88 Kindle Fire impressions.

If we assume this study is right, and if we assume that iPad users are twice as likely to use the iPad for browsing, then we get that for every 100 iPads sold there have been 9.76 Kindle Fires sold.

Total iPad Sales to Date – Perhaps around 112 million iPads sold.

Total Kindle Fire Sales to Date – Perhaps around 10.9 million.

Since we know neither Kindle Fire sales figures, nor Kindle Fire 2 sales figures, it becomes an exercise in futility. So, let’s just assume that the sales are split as either 5.9 million and 5 million OR as 6.9 million and 4 million.

Which gives us: Kindle Fire 2 and Kindle Fire HD have sold between 4 million and 5 million units to date.

Reliability of this Method: Zero.

Kindle Fire Sales Estimates based on Various Data Points

Let’s assume (you’ll see a lot of that – baseless assumptions) that Amazon sold 3 million Kindle Fires during last year’s holiday season. That it sold a further 2 million Kindle Fires until the launch of the Kindle Fire 2 and Kindle Fire HD.

Let’s assume that Amazon was ambitious and assumed that it would sell 10 million to 15 million of the new Kindle Fires (as opposed to 5 million of the first Kindle Fire 1 in its first year of existence).

That would give us stock of 5 to 7.5 million for this holiday season. We saw a few things that I personally haven’t seen Amazon do –

  1. A massive $50 off sale on Kindle Fire 2.
  2. A massive $50 off sale on Kindle Fire HD 8.9″.

Amazon has not, to the best of my knowledge, done a big sale on new models. Please keep in mind that these new models are ALREADY at a huge price discount compared to iPads.

So, Amazon must not be meeting its sales projections, for it to take such drastic measures.

Finally, let’s add-on the fact that WalMart and Target stopped stocking Kindle Fires this year – right before Holiday Season.

All of this suggests that Amazon probably was not meeting its sales goals of 5 million to 7.5 million Kindle Fires this holiday season and had to do special promotions to get closer.

Which gives us: 3 million to 4 million Kindle Fire 2s and Kindle Fire HDs sold.

Reliability: Close to Zero. However, a $50 off sale on a device that already undercuts the competition by around $200 is very, very telling.

B&N did lots of $20 off sales on its $269 Nook HD+ and also did a $70 off sale at Staples for one day. Combine this with the rumors that iPad Mini cut into iPad sales. We add these data-points to the Kindle Fire fire sales and we get a picture of a Tablet world dominated by iPad Minis. A scenario that hurts everyone (including Apple, since iPad Minis perhaps make 1/4th the per-unit profit of the iPhone and 1/2 the per-unit profit of the iPad (estimates)).

Kindle Fire Sales Estimates, Kindle Fire HD Sales Estimates based on Google Traffic Trends

Right off the bat let’s point out that interest doesn’t indicate intent, and intent doesn’t indicate a sale. Additionally, users would also have been searching for other gifts (instead of Tablets) and for Tablet comparisons.

So, even if Tablet 1 sees as many searches as Tablet 2, it might sell far less if Tablet 2 comes across as a much better choice.

Here are data points from a few searches:

  1. If we compare ‘kindle’ with ‘kindle fire’ with ‘ipad’ with ‘ipad mini’, we get that iPad Mini interest was around three times that of Kindle Fire interest for most of November 2012. Then it was around 40% more in December (except for 3 or so days when interest was equal). iPad interest was a steady 4 to 5 times that of Kindle interest. Nook interest was 40% to 60% that of Kindle Fire (which makes sense given that B&N said sales will miss projections). Note: Comparing 2 letter keywords with 1 letter keywords is VERY inefficient. So anyone who compares ‘kindle’ searches with ‘ipad mini’ searches, their analysis should be taken with a pinch of salt (as should this post).
  2. The Chart comparing ‘Kindle Fire’ and ‘iPad Mini’ searches is very telling. Apart from Christmas Day, and one or two days in early December (perhaps during the $50 off sale), the interest in iPad Mini is 2 to 3 times the interest in Kindle Fire in November and 1.75 to 2 times in December. Combine this with iPad having 4 to 5 times the amount of interest Kindle has, and we can derive some interesting conclusions.

If we assume iPad Mini sold 2 times Kindle Fire we’d get figures like 15 million iPad Mini sales and 7.5 million Kindle Fire sales. However, we also have to factor in 4 times more interest in iPad than in Kindle.

That suggests we might have a 3:1 ratio between iPad Mini sales and Kindle Fire sales.

Which gives us: 5 million Kindle Fire sales (assuming 15 million iPad Mini sales).

Reliability: Close to Zero.

Why is it that all methods give us a range of 4 million to 5 million Kindle Fires sold?

Here are our estimates –

  1. Reviews – 4.25 million to 5.75 million Kindle Fires and Kindle Fire HDs sold.
  2. Tablet Browser Share – 4 million to 5 million Kindle Fires and Kindle Fire HDs sold.
  3. Various Data Points like Firesales – 3 million to 4 million Kindle Fires and Kindle Fire HDs sold.
  4. Google Traffic Trends: 5 million Kindle Fires sold.

If we throw out (or average out) the two outlier ranges (5 million to 5.75 million; 3 million to 4 million) we get an extremely tight range – 4 million to 5 million Kindle Fires and Kindle Fire HDs sold so far. With the highest likelihood being a figure of around 4.7 million.

Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD Sales Estimates: 4 million to 5 million devices.

Most Probable Figure for Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD Sales: 4.7 million.

Reliability: Close to Zero. However, all these methods giving us such a tight range (3 million to 5.75 million) increases our chances of being right from 5% to 20%. They suggest that Amazon did indeed sell around 4.7 million Kindle Fires and Kindle Fire HDs.