Thoughts on disappearing offers, 4 free kindle books

First, for your Kindle, the 4 free books –

  1. A Horse to Love by Marsha Hubler. Price: $0. Genre: Horses, Childrens’ Books.

    Thirteen-year-old foster kid Skye Nicholson has become an expert at being an angry, cold, and defensive teenager. After breaking more foster home placements than she cares to count, and committing numerous offenses, she’s headed to her final resort — juvenile detention.

    But after a court compromise, hope finds her through a beautiful sorrel quarter horse named Champ and the tough love of Tom and Eileen Chamber, who offer her another chance at their home at Keystone Stables. There she’s introduced to a God who has the power to truly save her, no matter how much she thinks she’s not worth saving.

  2. Silent Screams by C. E. Lawrence. Price: $0. Genre: Crime, Serial Killers. Rated 4 stars on 16 reviews. 

    A Deranged Killer’s Twisted Urges
    In the streets of New York City, the Slasher chooses his victim–and makes his move. As he wraps his fingers around the girl’s pretty throat, his power increases. As he carves into her skin, his words become flesh. As he arranges her lifeless body in a loving tableau, his fantasies demand new, more violent sacrifices. . .

    A Profiler’s Cunning Plan
    At first, NYPD detectives suspect a jealous boyfriend. But criminal profiler Lee Campbell senses something darker, even ritualistic, about the murder.

  3. 25 Days, 26 Ways to Make This Your Best Christmas Ever by Ace Collins. Price: $0. Genre: Christmas, Self-Help, Christian. Rated 4 stars on 12 reviews.

    Christmas should be the most anticipated day of the year. But many people dread the shopping, financial strain, and extra activities they have to sandwich between the layers of their already too-busy lives.Bestselling author Ace Collins is the perfect guide to help them navigate the stress of the holidays. As he shares twenty-six easy ways to revamp Christmas expectations, readers will relax, refuel, and readjust their attitude toward the season. Each upbeat chapter contains easy to apply ideas for taking a fresh look at a holiday tradition or task and making it positive and meaningful.

  4. Huckleberry Finished by Livia J. Washington. Price: $0. Genre: Mystery, Woman Sleuths, Genre Fiction. Rated 4 stars on 8 reviews.

    Set aboard a Mark Twain–themed cruise on the not-so-peaceful Mississippi, Washburn’s snappy second mystery to feature literary travel agent Delilah Dickinson (after 2008’s Frankly My Dear, I’m Dead) shows how much mischief a tour group can get into while confined to a moving paddle wheeler.

    When one of Delilah’s charges, Ben Webster, causes a scene in the casino, the captain calls Delilah on the carpet. Ben later vanishes only to reappear as a corpse. Meanwhile, a charming onboard Mark Twain impersonator, Mark Lansing, takes a shine to Delilah, but turns out to have more than one identity to hide.

There were 12 books for this post and 8 disappeared somewhere between 11:30 and 12:30. So only 4 are included.

The Case of the Disappearing Free Kindle Books

At 10:45 am EST there were 26 free kindle books. Went through and listed 14 and then realized that the offers might go away so sent out the post with 14 free books by 11:30 am or so. At that time one of the books had gone missing. The rest were still there.

Began writing the post with the other 12 free books and comments started coming in that some of the books were missing.

It seems that there was some limit for the preorders or a mistake. Perhaps there was a limit at 1,000 free books or 10,000 free books. Perhaps it was a mistake. Perhaps it was a way to increase sales rank for these preorders. Whatever the cause, the book offers started getting pulled and by 12:30 pm we were down from 26 free offers to 8.

  1. On Monday and Tuesday it’s a good idea to check the blog (or if you have an email subscription – your email) as early as you can. If there’s a free book post it’s best to get all the books instantly.
  2. If there isn’t a post by 9 am EST it’s a good idea to head over to Amazon and search for ‘-public -breakthrough’ and then arrange books by Price: Low to High. Then the new free books will be listed amongst all the others. Alternatively, you can go to the official kindle forum and someone will usually have listed what free books are available.
  3. On Mondays and Tuesdays this would really help. On other days there usually aren’t a bunch of offers in the morning.

The blog and the official kindle forum are the best options. Have a search tool at one of my other sites but the forum works better and this blog gets updated almost as quickly as the forum.

This is the first time that the free book offers disappeared so quickly – Usually they’re around for at least a half a day. Didn’t get all 26 books myself (missed at least 10, perhaps more) – Just so you realize that the offers don’t usually disappear like this. From now on, will send out free book posts instantly and then add genre information and snippets later. That cost 30 minutes and ended up causing problems this time.

Will the Internet and increasingly intelligent users mean the end of advertising?

Frederic Filloux has a very interesting post in the Washington Post that posits the theory that advertisers have become proud and pompous and are failing to innovate.

Here’s a snippet which captures part of what he’s saying –

Is advertising the next casualty of the ongoing digital tsunami? 

… excessive confidence in one’s body’s past performance, mixed with a state of permanent denial and a deep sense of superiority, all aided by a complacent environment.

The digital graveyard is filled with the carcasses of utterly confident people who all shared this sense of invincibility. The music industry and, to some extent, the news business built large mausoleums for themselves. Today, the advertising industry is working on its own funeral monument.

Advertising needs to innovate?

Not sure whether Mr. Filloux means that advertising needs to get more persuasive and manipulative or whether he misses that part of the equation completely.

It’s a beautiful post – However, it puts too much faith in the ability of advertisers to continue to innovate and too little faith in the ability of customers to get smarter at a rate faster than advertisers.

Most importantly, Mr. Filloux is discounting some very smart and deceptive companies that are becoming the new advertisers and are replacing advertising with manipulation of a higher order. Perhaps the industry has already innovated and the stragglers just don’t realize it.

This post will look at three trends –

  1. The fall of traditional advertising. 
  2. The rise of customer intelligence and awareness.
  3. The rise of what will attempt to replace advertising. 

A little on advertising and it’s ongoing decline

Advertising is communication intended to persuade. You could argue that all communication intends to persuade – However, for now let’s focus on advertising.

Advertisers are basically talking to you and me and putting the notion into our heads that purchasing their product or service will improve our lives in some way. It’s gotten to the point that they aren’t just advertising the benefits of their product – they’re creating a void in our minds and filling that void with their product.

Advertising is based on advertisers being smarter than customers

At a fundamental level advertising requires that the user be one of two things –

  1. Really in need of the product and not have realized it. 
  2. Not in need of the product and open to suggestion. The latter being an opening advertisers can wiggle into and use to convince users they fall into the first category.

As advertising became stronger and stronger more and more people fell into the second category. This was really helped by the rise of TV – in fact the growth of the ‘consumer’ mindset can be linked directly to the rise of TV.

Video not only killed the radio star it killed the intelligent customer. TV was such a huge leap in advertising’s influence and impact that for decades users were simply overwhelmed. Plus they had no idea of the type of psychological manipulation that was being done to them.  

The Internet and How it killed the power of Advertising

The first reason the Internet began to kill Advertising is that there was just too much of it and it was shown to be weak and annoying –

  1. As opposed to TV where the user was mostly captive (unless they changed channels) on the Internet you couldn’t really take up the whole screen or all of the users’ attention. 
  2. Advertising was very poor and weak compared to the high quality and highly influential advertising on TV.
  3. To make things worse these was too much of it and most of it in annoying forms. With the complete lack of supervision there came an unregulated stream of advertising – flashing ads, banner ads, low quality ads that were hardly convincing, obviously unethical ads, and so forth.
  4. The other thing weakening advertising was that we had people unhindered by the need to make profits putting up pages and forgoing advertising. Not only could users see that ads were annoying they could also see that ads were unnecessary.
  5. Finally, ads were rarely entertaining or powerful – which meant it became very easy for users to disregard them completely.

Basically, advertising went from ‘something that is necessary to pay for content’ to ‘something that is optional and something annoying, evil people tend to indulge in’. In parallel adverts went from the polished, powerful influencers on TV to the annoying, appallingly bad banner ads on the Internet.

Hand in hand with this came about a far more important change.

The Internet makes customers more intelligent and better informed

The first part of Advertising is very effective advertising – which the Internet’s paradoxical duality of ‘sites with too many ads, sites with no ads’ began to kill. The second part is naive users who believe most of what they see and are easily convinced.

Well, the Internet totally blew away the ignorance that most users used to live in. Consider buying a car –

  1. You can go on a forum and find out what prices people paid – the best and the worst.
  2. You can go to a site like and figure out MSRP, the dealer’s price, the bonuses dealers get for hitting sales targets, the total cost of ownership, and exactly how much profit the dealer stands to make.  
  3. You can search and find out what the market is really like, what the prices are in different states, and the price as a function of the time of year.

Suddenly you know a lot more about the dealer and their profit margins than the dealer knows about you and your finances and desires. It evens up the playing field a little bit given that the car dealer does this negotiating for a living (10-30 times a day) and you do it 3-10 times in your entire life.

The rise of infinite competition and the resultant penalty for dishonesty

Hand in hand with the rise of customer intelligence is the rise of infinite competition. The dealer in your home town now suddenly has to compete with –

  1. The dealers in the neighbouring towns. 
  2. National chains and online sites selling cars. 
  3. Users like you who are selling their used cars.

The competition is dangerous and constantly increasing.

Not only is it harder to fool customers they also have other options – some of which (other users, etc.) are not in the business of misleading customers.

Misleading Advertising (you could argue it always is) has gone from being a benefit to a liability. If a company advertises a false claim not only will users be smart enough to figure it out they will probably also be told about it by competitors and other users.

Suddenly, false advertising goes from being an asset to being a major liability.

The Two Strategies that companies will use to replace Advertising

Fundamentally, you can make money in two ways –

  1. Give people what they desire and get what you desire – a win-win strategy. 
  2. Fool people into giving you their money for nothing (or more money than is fair).

Well, we are going to see the same thing –

  1. We will have super-ethical companies that always work for customers. Companies that create win-win situations.  
  2. We will have super-unethical companies that use things more advanced than advertising to trick customers.

Let’s consider a few examples.

Companies that are creating win-win situations

Here are a few examples –

  1. Walmart and Amazon. They are constantly cutting prices and making things better for customers.  
  2. Companies like Zappos that focus on customer experience.
  3. The whole microfinance revolution is another good example.  

You could argue that even they are doing it only for profits. That’s fine though – As long as the customer also wins.

In some ways it is the smartest strategy – they are building strengths that are not illusory. They are ensuring that the user wins by choosing them and in a world with smart, informed customers that’s a winning strategy.

Companies that are using very advanced forms of manipulation

The fundamental thing here is the creation of debt which customers are unaware they will have to pay back later. Two easy examples stem from Facebook’s ecosystem –

  1. Facebook is promising a service that’s free and also promising to preserve privacy. What they are actually doing is trying to covertly sell user information and also build up databases of user intent. These databases of user intent can be used to advertise to users more effectively i.e. manipulate them into buying things they don’t really need or want.
  2. Zynga are using advanced psychological tricks to get users hooked on to their games and are then getting them to buy virtual goods.

At one level this is pretty impressive –

  1. Advertising has moved from selling people on goods they might or might not need to selling them virtual goods they almost certainly don’t need.  
  2. Facebook is getting all this user information and routing it to customers without customers even realizing (until now).
  3. It’s done very gradually and discretely. Most people don’t even realize that something is happening.

At the same time this goes a level beyond advertising in terms of evil. At least with ads and TV supported by Ads you knew what you were getting into. Now we have the promise of ‘free’ to customers while in reality databases of customer information and customer intent are being built that will eventually allow advertisers ridiculous levels of insight into users’ desires and psyches.

The Four Types of evolved advertising/manipulation that might work

There are basically four types of advertising that are going to work very well in the future (there may be others) –

  1. The ‘very smart and also very stupid’ advertising strategy i.e. Facebook and Zynga. Here users are promised ‘free’ and trapped into spending in ways they don’t fully understand – their data being sold, them being psychologically trapped. It is, however, a free market and users willing to be exploited in this manner will continue to be exploited. There is also a very strong ‘we can get things for free without paying for them’ attitude prevalent on the Internet so perhaps it’s not as manipulative as we fear.  
  2. The indoctrination strategy i.e. associate the brand with the person’s identity or something they really, really want as part of their identity. In a way you could say this is the top 5% of advertising where everything goes right – You identify a need, perfectly fit the need to your product, and constantly maintain the illusion that your product is fulfilling the need. If done right then in the customer’s mind there is literally no difference – if you look carefully you’ll notice the holes. However, to the user and to people who don’t look carefully it will literally seem as if the product does everything it promises.
  3. The ‘build up a store of reciprocation’ strategy. This is where you do things for users – offer them benefits, offer them free services, and do lots of other things. This first part is what a lot of Internet start-ups are doing. If the intent is to create a win-win situation then this is fine. However, for some companies the aim is to get the user hooked and ‘grateful’ to the company and thus make it easier to exploit the user down the line.
  4. The ‘Get users invested’ strategy. This is where you get the users involved so deeply into the product (or the creation of the product) that they almost don’t have a choice. By investment we don’t mean passive participation like watching a banner ad or even clicking on something. We mean active participation – helping create the product or some aspect of it.  

We will gradually see these replace traditional advertising and then we will see users become smarter and understand the dangers and perhaps a new set of advertising/manipulation strategies will rise. It’s a never-ending cycle – advertising/manipulation Vs customer intelligence/awareness.

Note that at every level we do leave behind some users. For example, some users are always going to be susceptible to TV ads and other users are always going to be susceptible to promises of free. There will also be users who don’t care or are OK with what advertising is. 

However, the great thing is that the Internet lets users who want to free themselves of manipulation free themselves. It’s a combination of actually ethical companies and other users that combine to make this happen. This is the real reason that traditional advertising is dying – customers are just too intelligent now.

It’s amazing to see newer and newer unethical strategies emerge and it’s quite amusing that most of the really effective new forms of manipulation consciously put so much effort into seeming altruistic and benevolent.

Don't know what to think – Foxconn's 'I won't kill myself' agreement for employees

Sometimes there are things that my brain fails to understand.

Foxconn is the company that puts together lots of electronic devices – Playstations, Xboxes, iPhones, iPads, the Kindle, Sony Reader.

There have been reports of an unusually high number of suicides at Foxconn’s factories this year. It’s getting some press coverage – However, it’s a human tendency to dismiss it as just a Press creation. After all, who wants to admit that people who put together our iPhones and Kindles have such terrible work conditions that they want to jump off buildings.

This article in the Sydney Morning Herald – Well, I really don’t know how to process it. However, it’s forced me to write about it – a weak excuse but better than nothing.

Let’s start with a detour.

Henry Ford and Welfare Capitalism

Courtesy Wikipedia

 Ford announced his $5-per-day program on January 5, 1914. The revolutionary program called for a raise in minimum daily pay from $2.34 to $5 for qualifying workers. It also set a new, reduced workweek, although the details vary in different accounts. Ford and Crowther in 1922 described it as six 8-hour days, giving a 48-hour week, while in 1926 they described it as five 8-hour days, giving a 40-hour week.

(Apparently the program started with Saturdays as workdays and sometime later made them days off.)

Ford says that with this voluntary change, labor turnover in his plants went from huge to so small that he stopped bothering to measure it.

Here we have an example of an industrialist who made things better for his workers and for himself. Now, let’s take a look at Foxconn.

Foxconn is making its workers promise not to kill themselves

Terry Gou, the chairman of Foxconn’s parent company (and Foxconn’s founder), flew in on his private jet to showcase a Foxconn factory and the measures they had taken to reduce worker suicides –

  1. Workers have been told to sign letters promising not to kill themselves. 
  2. Workers have agreed to be institutionalized if they show strange mental and physical behavior. 
  3. Nets are being hung around buildings to deter workers. 
  4. Roof patrols are being arranged.  
  5. There are tension release rooms where you can beat up dummies to release your stress and frustration.

Here’s a quote that, well, is hard to comprehend –

[Regarding safety nets being installed around buildings]

“If they jump, they’ll fall into the safety nets, so their lives will be saved,” a contractor told the channel.

Your workers are jumping off their work buildings and you’re installing safety nets. What sort of nonsense is this.

Why are Foxconn focusing on the symptoms rather than the core problem?

What person in their right mind thinks it’s a good idea to get workers to sign a letter promising not to kill themselves? The solution isn’t to put up safety nets or start roof patrols – just avoid making your workers so miserable that they want to kill themselves.

Here is the real problem –

  1. 12 hours workdays, 6 days a week. 
  2. Workers not allowed to talk to each other during the 12 hours.  
  3. Having to live in the factory itself. 
  4. A monthly salary of $300.
  5. Working on products that they can never afford. Imagine if you worked at Ford but could never afford a Ford car.
  6. No path to a better life – No American dream. No European social safety net.
  7. Working for a company that has the gall to treat you like a slave – Can you ever imagine a company in US or Europe or Canada getting an employee to sign a letter giving the company the right to put the employee in a mental asylum?

This is wrong on so many levels.

Years of Abuse can’t be hidden any more

From Wikipedia it seems that Foxconn have been doing this since 2006 –

In June 2006, allegations of Foxconn operating abusive employment practices came to light as reported by Mail that were later denied by Foxconn. Apple launched an investigation into these claims.

The result was that the claims of mistreatment of employees were judged by the Apple inspection team to be largely unfounded, but the inspection team also discovered that at peak production times some of the employees were working more hours than Apple’s acceptable “Code of Conduct” limit of 60 hours and 25% of the time workers did not get at least one day off each week.

It’s awfully easy to find claims of mistreatment to be unfounded when you have billions of dollars of profit on the line. However, when people are jumping from buildings you can no longer pretend. 

Don’t know what to write because haven’t done anything myself – it’s not as if suggesting something would be appropriate.