WTF, Amazon. What The (Price) Fix?

Hi Amazon,

I love to read, and so it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of your Kindle. It’s wonderful: it’s portable, I can load it with thousands of books, and the battery life is amazing. It’s the device that every reader should seriously consider.

However, here’s what I am not in love with: the ridiculousness of e-books in your store.

I understand that e-books may or may not be cheaper than the paper versions, for whatever reason, but people have to feed their families. I understand.

What I don’t understand is, what the heck are you trying to pull with us loyal customers?

Background: I am in the middle of reading this amazing series, The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson, and I just finished book seven: Reaper’s Gale. Despite being the longest series I have ever read, the books have managed to keep me captivated thus far and I was very excited to start the next in the series, Toll the Hounds.

There was a link, at the end of the Kindle version of Reaper’s Gale, to go buy Toll the Hounds in the store, so I clicked on it and noted the price for the book was $12.65. Wanting to make sure that the price was correct, I go to my computer and look at the listing, and I can confirm that it is the same price.

Oh okay, everything checked out.

However, I am a rather cautious fellow. I opened up Incognito mode in Chrome and Googled ‘amazon toll the hounds kindle’ and… what’s this?

Hold on, why was there an option that I was never shown? Why was it significantly cheaper than the one shown to me, someone who has bought 48 e-books in the past year and a half that I have owned my Kindle?

Here are the key differences between the two listings:

  • Cover Image
  • Publication Date

They are virtually the same otherwise. Just to prove it, I sent myself a sample of the more expensive version after I bought the cheaper, older version. Older version on the left, newer version on the right.

Can you spot the actual difference? Yup, the font.

So Amazon, please answer me this: as a loyal customer, why would you want to sour my experience with this practice?

UPDATE: It was pointed out on Reddit that, in the area that shows all of the different types of mediums that the book is purchasable on (Kindle, Hardcover, Mass Market, etc), you can click on the plus sign next to the medium type to get an expanded list for that particular medium.

As I responded on Reddit, I consider myself rather technically capable and observant, and I still had no idea that existed. Now you know!

Canadian Streaming TV Apps: Report Cards!

Television watchers in Canada usually get the short end of the stick when it comes to watching shows, on-demand, online. If we aren’t being restricted because we don’t live on American soil, then we’re being restricted for not having a specific type of account.

To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with, I spent a bit of time with four of the only streaming TV apps that work well for *any* Canadian who has an iOS device or a computer. In addition, I’ve tested out how each of the apps handles AirPlay and what happens to the quality of the video upon doing so; a useful metric for those of us who own an Apple TV.

NOTE: If you want to see the combined report cards, go directly to the Canadian TV Streaming App Report Card page!

 



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I visualized the data into a “report card” of sorts to give you a side-by-side comparison of features and offerings. Here’s how to read the report cards:

Canadian Streaming TV App Report Card Reading Instructions

  1. App Info
    The name of the app and who it is published by. This is also an indicator of which of the major media companies in Canada happens to own this channel and app.
  2. Device Availability
    From left to right: iPhone, iPad, Web, and Airplay. Certain apps are only available on certain platforms. If it is not available, that given platform will be greyed out, such as AirPlay in this instance.
  3. Measurement Minimum
    For the given section, in this case the “Number of Shows,” this is the minimum number for the measurement. For both instances, it will be zero.
  4. Measurement Maximum
    For the given section, in this case the “Number of Shows,” this is the maximum number for the measurement. This is determined by the highest number I encounter while measuring.
  5. Measurement Average
    For the given section, in this case the “Number of Shows,” this is the average number measured across the board.
  6. Video Quality Indicator
    For a given device, I took a look at the video quality available for a user across multiple shows and made my judgment. This is rather subjective, but if it is passable quality (not full of artifacts and jaggies) then it is given a checkmark. An ‘X’ will only be given if it is not available in the first place, and/or it is of very poor quality.
    NOTE: Quality, for most of these apps, was great on iOS devices and so-so on the web at full screen.
  7. Advertisement Usage
    An indicator of when and where advertisements show up, in relation to watching a television episode. Some apps, such as the CTV app, will actually interrupt you as you are using the app and looking for a show to watch.

General Comments

While using these apps, it became increasingly apparent that “on-demand” was a term that could only be loosely used by these apps. There seems to be a general trend, with web content from large media companies, where they will only store a handful of the most recent episodes (if that) and the rest are nowhere to be found. In fact, CTV had the highest show count of the four apps, but had the lowest “average number of episodes available” count because they just had so many shows that had zero video content.

In addition, there can be some misleading content in these apps. For example, I don’t believe a collection of your season finale episodes count as a “show,” CBC. And 245 videos labeled “Season X, Episode Y,” but are actually just 2 minute clips, do not count as episodes, CTV. Not to mention, certain platforms do not show all content actually available; CBC had a handful of shows only available on their website but not on the CBC TV app.

With “on-demand” apps like this, it would be a great way to reduce piracy of your shows while receiving some advertising revenue. However, you are forcing consumers to either purchase DVDs (which I assume is the reason to not put full catalogues online) or to pirate shows. I would suggest a re-evaluation of how content is provided to consumers, because you are only making it more difficult for us.

Additional Notes

As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I only spent time with these four apps. For the sake of full disclosure, you should know that there should have been a fourth: Rogers Anyplace TV. There were two reasons, on my part, to exclude a valid television streaming service: 1) you need a working Rogers account to access the site, which not all Canadians have. 2) even if you have a Rogers account, the tablet app is restricted from you if you are on a monthly plan.

Rogers Anyplace TV

That made no sense, so they were not included.

In addition, I do not hold any of the copyrights for the app icons used in the report card, they are owned by their respective media companies.

You can also find the data I collected here. It contains all of the shows that can be found in the apps themselves, along with episode numbers, and any notes I may have made along the way.

I am happy to answer any questions that might come up, as well as add analyses of any apps that I may have missed.

Thanks for reading!

NOTE: If you want to see the combined report cards, go directly to the Canadian TV Streaming App Report Card page!

 

The Humble Indie Bundle #5: 5 Awesome Reasons To Buy

I put together a quick and dirty overview of the lineup for The Humble Indie Bundle #5: Amnesia, Psychonauts, Limbo, Superbrothers: Sword & Sorcery EP, and Bastion.

For those unfamiliar with The Humble Indie Bundle: it’s a really great initiative to bring together an assortment of high-quality, cross-platform, independently developed games and letting the consumer set the price they pay for the bundle. Did I mention it’s DRM-free and Steam unlockable as well?

As a consumer, you set the price level of the bundle and then decide how to allocate the money between the three entities: the developers involved, charity, and the Humble Bundle team themselves.

Overall, it’s an amazing initiative for games that you may not have otherwise played, so definitely check it out and pick it up – you’re getting five amazing games, you help support charities, and you have the ultimate power as a consumer.

Happy gaming!

On Saying Goodbye

Tonight, I found out that my grandmother has passed away.

I’ve mentally prepared myself for this since I visited her in the hospital in San Francisco with my family, and yet this is not any easier. I’ve never had to deal with this in my life, so to put it bluntly: this is not easy.

While standing by her side in that hospital, I realized that I was getting angry. Very angry. Angry at the world. Angry for taking a loved one and putting them under such duress. Angry for bringing concern and worry to the lives of her children. Angry for bringing an entire family to tears.

How could the world do such a thing?

And then I took a look around and realized: my grandmother is a part of each and every single member of my family. Her children, nieces, and nephews have all created wonderful families. Each of us possesses a bit of her in our blood, in our minds, and in our hearts, and that will never change.

You are a part of all of us, grandma, and that gives me peace. Please say hello to grandpa for me.

I love you.

Rest in peace, Elisa Q. Lim.

Money, Evil, and Pragmatism

Why not worship money?

At least its rewards are obvious and immediate. But no, that was simplistic. [Their] worship was more subtle, its ethics bound to those traits and habits that well served the acquisition of wealth. Diligence, discipline, hard work, optimism, the personalization of glory.

And the corresponding evils: sloth, despair and the anonymity of failure. The world was brutal enough to winnow one from the other and leave no room for doubt or mealy equivocation.

In this way, worship could become pragmatism, and pragmatism was a cold god.

From: Udinaas, Midnight Tides: Book Five of The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 5

Friday Indie Feature / Vacationer

Like Now, Now, I saw Vacationer open for The Naked and Famous in Toronto. They seemed to have a ton of fans in the crowd and I could see why: their music sounds great and they put on a great show.

From their Facebook page:

The eastern seaboard’s foremost relaxation specialists have teamed up to compile this unique collection of serenity-inducing sonic arrangements. The audio program you are about to experience was designed with the sole purpose of relaxing the listener and sending their mind on a well-deserved trip. No airfare needed, no reservations. Simply settle in, relax and enjoy; Vacation from anywhere at anytime.

Here’s my favourite song from their album, Gone: Be With You

Friday Indie Feature / Now, Now

I saw Now, Now perform live when they opened for The Naked and Famous in Toronto. Tons of energy, great sound, and their album, Threads, is fantastic from start to finish.

From their Wikipedia:

Now, Now, formerly known as Now, Now Every Children and abbreviated NNEC, is an American indie rock band formed in Blaine, Minnesota and based in Minneapolis. The band is composed of Cacie Dalager (vocals, guitar, keyboard); Bradley Hale (drums, backing vocals); Jess Abbott (guitar, vocals), with occasional touring members Britty Hale (keyboard) and Christine Sako (bass).

Here’s my favourite song off of their album, Threads: Wolf

The Naked And Famous in Concert: Better than their album!

Last night, I had the pleasure of seeing The Naked and Famous in concert. They quickly became one of my favourite bands when their record, Passive Me, Aggressive you, kept me hooked from start to finish.

Live? They’re incredible.

They played every song from their album as well as a new song and a b-side, and the crowd at the Sound Academy was loving it. In addition, the lights at the show really added to the experience as they had this huge block of LEDs behind them that flashed to the music and displayed images.

They also had two great bands open for them: Now, Now and Vacationer.

Young and talented bands with amazing sounds for a night? An amazing experience that I must get more often. And now I end this post the way The Naked and Famous ended their night: Young Blood.

Great Local Coffee: Velvet Sunrise – Colombia Excelso Ocamonte

I wouldn’t consider myself a coffee connoisseur, but I do enjoy drinking coffee. I also enjoy supporting local companies and endeavours, so I was delighted to discover the Velvet Sunrise brand during one of my first trips to Village Grocer.

Velvet Sunrise even has an entire page dedicated to explaining their roasting process and what different roasts can mean for the flavour of the coffee.

The beans were originally purchased as a treat for my parents, as I regularly get them different beans to try out for their weekend morning coffees, but I have been drinking it for a few weeks and it is fast becoming one of my favourites. As a bonus, the bags come with a resealable top, so those of us who don’t go through 6 cups a day will be able to keep the beans as fresh as possible.

Consider me one of your regular customers now, Velvet Sunrise!

30x25m lengths by the end of March – Achieved!

I lead a rather sedentary lifestyle, being glued to a computer for most of the day (and night!) while not really changing my eating habits. Neither of those facts about my life have helped my body in any way.

I decided to shake it up a bit in March: I signed up for the YMCA, I vowed to swim every morning that I could, and I would change my eating habits. At the end of the day, I wanted to get back into better shape, have more energy throughout the day, and just feel good about myself in general.

One of the short term goals I wanted to hit was to be able to swim 30 lengths in the pool by the end of March, and it seemed really far off especially considering I started with 10 on March 5th. However, I decided to set as blistering of a pace as possible and increase that number by two lengths every day, as well as changing the number of consecutive lengths I would swim before stopping to rest.

I am proud to say that I hit 30x25m lengths today, March 22, 2012, well ahead of my goal by 9 days. I think I’d love to hit at least 40 by the end of March, but I may also stick with 30 and just increase the number of lengths I swim consecutively to build my endurance.

As a result, I feel lighter on my feet, I (usually) get better rest, and I am absolutely pumped as soon as I finish exercising.

It can only get better from here.

Below the log of my swimming activity up to today, if you are so inclined.


Date

Number of Lengths

Weight (lbs)

Weight Change (lbs)

3/5/2012 10 188.6 0.00
3/6/2012 12 186.7 -1.90
3/8/2012 14 185.6 -3.00
3/9/2012 16 184.7 -3.90
3/12/2012 16 186.5 -2.10
3/13/2012 18 185.9 -2.70
3/15/2012 20 184.2 -4.40
3/16/2012 22 185.8 -2.80
3/19/2012 24 185.9 -2.70
3/20/2012 26 184.6 -4.00
3/21/2012 28 182.7 -5.90
3/22/2012 30 183.6 -5.00