Sunday, April 04, 2010

Amazon Kindle DX First hand

Having borrowed an Amazon Kindle DX e-Book reader for a few days to try out, here are a few first impressions. The device looks like an Apple product, with its stark white case and sparse writing. The unit is very slim, abut as thick as a pencil and along with the slippery aluminium back, it is hard to hold. I would have preferred a unit about as thick as the average paperback (about 20 mm) with a non-slip rubber coating on the back and sides. The screen is very readable but slow to update and a very dull grey. The QWERTY keyboard on the front is annoyingly small and slow to use, even for the occasional search. The other navigation buttons are easy to use. It was surprising the unit did not come pre-installed with some free books. About all there is are some manuals and some PDF documents my colleagues downloaded.

Reading the Amazon format works very well, with the text able to be re-sized and an excellent text-to-speech facility (my Green Technology Strategies book sounds so much more impressive when read aloud by the kindle, than by me). However, the facilities for PDF documents are more limited, with the text not able to be enlarged nor read aloud (you can still make the text larger by rotating the display to landscape mode).

I was able to preview a book, after registering with my account. The preview of my Green Technology Strategies book gave the table of contents and outline, plus a little of the first chapter. This was enough to see that, much to my relief, the Amazon DTP system had done a good job converting the book from HTML to the Amazon format.

Disappointingly the web interface on the Kindle is not available in Australia, apparently due to networking costs. It is frustrating to see a network indicator on the Kindle screen showing it is connected to a 3G wireless network, but not being able to use it for much more than buy books from Amazon.

The Kindle works well for its intended purpose: to lock the consumer into buying materials from the Amazon bookstore. But as a wireless tablet computer it is very frustrating. The device would seem to have very little use outside the niche of being able to display reformatted books. It has little use in education, where the student will need wider access to online material and will need a way to compose text easily, not just read prepared material.

It will be interesting to see how well the Apple iPad answers these needs. The iPad might be a better e-book than the Kindle, but there is still the question as to who wants to buy an expensive netbook computer with no keyboard?

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Green Technology Strategies from and Barnes & Noble have my book Green Technology Strategies available in paperback (also on the Amazon Kindle electronic Book reader). Last December I pushed the button to have LuLu distribute the book. That was supposed to take six weeks, but has taken about ten weeks. I heard no more from LuLu about it and just happened to notice the book listed on Amazon today. I don't know if it is available via any of the other channels. It is supposed to also be available from Baker & Taylor, from NACSCORP and the Espresso Book Machine (but there appear to be no working book machines in Australia).

While LuLu's online process for publishing via their print on demand service works well, the distribution via other channels has been frustrating.

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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Green Technology Strategies on Amazon Kindle

Green Technology Strategies Book on Amazon KindleAmazon have my e-book "Green Technology Strategies" available on their Kindle electronic Book reader. The PDF, paperback and hardcover editions remain available from LuLu (and the free web version on my web site). Amazon said it would take 48 to 72 hours to approve the book for the Kindle, but took less than a 24.

I specified a list price for the book the same as the LuLu PDF version. Amazon requires that the publisher specify a price no higher than other version, but then they added $2 to the price for delivery to the international version of the Kindle, outside the USA.

One issue with the e-book is the ISBN. I used the same the ISBN I had issued for the LuLu PDF version fo the book for the Kindle e-book version. This was because I could not find any way to enter the different ISBN for the PDF version into the LuLu system: it seems to use the same ISBN as for the printed book. As the ISBN was not used by LuLu, I tought I may as well use it for the Kindle. In retrospect, this was a bad idea, as that ISBN is already registered in library and book cataloging systems around the world. So I have now requested a new ISBN for the Kindle version. That takes up to five days.

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Amazon Kindle e-Book for Australian Publishers

Amazon now allows Australian publishers to publish e-Books on their Kindle electronic Book reader. I was able to register my Australian company address into Amazon's Digital Text Platform. One limitation is that only cheque payments are catered for to Australia, not electronic funds transfer. Due to the high cost of cheque processing, there would have to be significant book sales to make this worthwhile (Google now pay by EFT in Australian dollars, making the process a lot cheaper and easier).

A few weeks ago I attempted to publish an electronic edition of my "Green Technology Strategies" book for's Kindle e-Book device. Using Amazon's DTP web site, I was easily able to convert the book from the web format used by e-learning courses to Kindle's format. But I could not publish the e-book, as Amazon did not cater for Australian publishers with an Australian address and bank account.

Amazon some useful information on how to format your book. I have several version of the book to choose from. The PDF version did not convert well. I could have used the word processing version, but mine is a master document and I was not sure how well that would convert to Microsoft Word, as accepted by Amazon. I tried exporting the OOO version to HTML, but the results were not that good. OOO generated a table of contents with hypertext links, but the links are on the print page numbers, which do not make much sense for an e-Book (as the Kindle has smaller pages than a paper book). I could have used the web version of the book, but would have had to assemble all the chapters, which are separate web pages, into one document.

What worked best was the HTML generated by the Moodle Book module. This produces a good table of contents and creates reasonably clean HTML. I just had to remember to download the CSS file to go with it and zip them for uploading.

One change I made was to move the front matter of the book to after the table of contents. While with a paper book you can quickly flip over the boring stuff at the front, with a e-book this is tedious. It is better to put the table of contents first. Readers will see the front matter if the then scroll through the book, but will quickly learn the can skip this by clicking on the first chapter in the content.

One issue to be resolved are the external hypertext links in the book. In the USA, Amazon provide limited web browsing, but not internationally. The reader can't see the difference between local links in the book and external ones. The reader could get frustrated when the click on links which do not work. I might need to hide the external links for the Kindle version, or at least distinguish them. This is possible with some more CSS.

One catch with Kindle are the high charges by I get only 35% of the recommended retail price of the book. This is more than LuLu charge. Amazon also require that I make the cover price no more than the book is available from other outlets, so I cannot set a higher price for the Kindle version of the book.

In any case I thought it was time to stop theorising and start trying it, so I pressed "publish" and got this message:
Green Technology Strategies Tom Worthington (Author) 01/22/2010 ...

Publishing Green Technology Strategies. Your book is currently under review by the Kindle Operations team as we are trying to improve the Kindle customer experience. Please check back in 48-72 hours to see if your book was published to the store. This will not affect any titles you are currently selling in the store, but uploading updates to existing titles will take longer to process...
It will be interesting to see how long this actually takes for the book to appear on the Kindle catalogue.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Larger Screen Amazon eBook Reader

Kindle DX Wireless Reading have announced the Amazon Kindle DX International, a larger 9.7 inch screen version of their international eBook Reader. This has a 3G wireless modem, allowing for use around the world. The unit has the same format as the smaller 6 Inch screen unit.

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Saturday, January 02, 2010

Cloud Computing to Reduce Greenhouse Emissions

Cloud Computing could be used to reduce energy use and allow for more use of renewable energy, by shifting processing off desktop PCs and onto shared data centres.

At a new year's party I was asked how to reduce greenhouse emissions at home. This was by an engineer who works part time from their home office. One thing I suggested was a lower power computer. However, they explained that they need to perform complex engineering calculations which take several days on a desktop computer. A slow low power computer would result in the calculations taking weeks.

Instead I suggested using cloud computing, with the computations run not on the home computer but on one rented for the purpose, as required. An example of this is the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). offer configurations (call "instances") of the services they provide optimised for data base ("High-Memory") or computations ("High-CPU"). Amazon offer a choice of Linux or Microsoft Windows operating systems, with Windows costing about 20% more. The number of the processors can also be selected. However, the engineering application is limited to running on Microsoft Windows and has not been optimised for multiprocessor machines.

The user can specify the number of
"virtual cores" provided and the number of "EC2 Compute Units" for each. The compute units are measured relative to a 2007s era 1.0-1.2 GHz Intel Opteron processor. Offered are 1, 2, and 3.25 EC2 Compute Units. These appear to relate to the speed of the actual processors is using, rather than an arbitrary allocation by a virtual operating system.

One anomaly is that the High-CPU Instances have smaller EC2 Compute Units than the High-Memory Instances. The High-CPU Instances are much lower price than the High-Memory Instances.

Assuming that a computation takes two days on Amazon's standard instance (US$0.12 per hour), this would cost US$5.76. One such calculation per week, would cost about US$300 per year, a cost comparable to a desktop computer. also offers Spot Instances, where unused capacity is auctioned. This would suit engineering calculations which are not time critical.

Working out if using's service would actually reduce energy use would be a complex process. This would depend firstly on how the desktop alternative was used. If a computer was dedicated to computations and turned off when not needed, then the power use would be low (not including the embedded energy in making the computer). More likely the computer would be used for normal office applications. In hat instance the processor may lower its energy use for the less demanding application.

The energy management of's system is not well known publicly. Perhaps need to offer greenhouse gas emissions as one of the parameters for their system. The use could then select a processing site which might use renewable energy, for example, to power the processors.

Assuming that's processors are fully occupied, then they should use less energy and cause less greenhouse gas emissions than a desktop computer which is idle much of the time. Also assuming that's computers are in a well designed data centre building then the air conditioning cost of cooling the system should be lower than for an office building (if the desktop computer is at home then hopefully it is naturally cooled with no air-conditioning).

Perhaps this is something I need to set as an exercise for my Green Information Technology students.

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Friday, October 09, 2009

Amazon not supporting Australian Authors

I have prepared an electronic edition of my "Green ICT" book for's Kindle e-Book device. are now offering an international version of the Kindle for use in Australia. So it seemed a good time to publish. But after carefully formatting the book and uploading to Amazon's Digital Text Platform web site, I found I was not able to publish without a US bank account and US tax information. I am already registered as an Amazon Associate and receive cheques from Amazon. But the Australian address and Australian tax details which are acceptable for Amazon Associates appear not to be acceptable for Kindle. The result would seem to be that only US based publisher will be permitted to publish with the Kindle. This is unfortunate as it makes the device unsuitable for educational use. I attempted to get around this by seeing if had an arrangement to publish on Kindle, but they don't.

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

International Version of Amazon Kindle e-Book

Kindle electronic Book have announced an international version of their Kindle electronic Book reader. This is designed to work with 3G Wireless mobile phone networks outside the USA, including in Australia. The international version has a 6 inch screen (smaller than the USA 9.7 inch model). While wireless access is free in the USA, it appears that usual data charges will apply in other countries (these charges could be considerable). The device could be useful for e-learning.

Technical Details

Display: 6" diagonal E Ink® electronic paper display, 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 16-level gray scale.

Size (in inches): 8" x 5.3" x 0.36" (203.2mm x 134.6mm x 9.1mm).

Weight: 10.2 ounces (289.2 grams). ...

Storage: 2GB internal (approximately 1.4GB available for user content).

Battery Life: Read on a single charge for up to 4 days with wireless on. Turn wireless off and read for up to two weeks. Battery life will vary based on wireless usage, such as shopping the Kindle Store and downloading content. In low-coverage areas or in EDGE/GPRS-only coverage, wireless usage will consume battery power more quickly.

Charge Time: Fully charges in approximately 4 hours via the included U.S. power adapter. Also supports charging from your computer via the included USB 2.0 cable.

Connectivity: HSDPA modem (3G) with a fallback to EDGE/GPRS ...

USB Port: USB 2.0 (micro-B connector) for connection to the Kindle U.S. power adapter or optionally to connect to a PC or Macintosh computer.

Audio: 3.5mm stereo audio jack, rear-mounted stereo speakers.

Content Formats Supported: Kindle (AZW), TXT, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), MP3, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively; PDF, HTML, DOC, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP through conversion.

Included Accessories: U.S. power adapter (supports 100V-240V), USB 2.0 cable, rechargeable battery ...

Documentation: Quick Start Guide (included in box) [PDF]; Kindle User's Guide (pre-installed on device) [PDF]. ...

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Publishing e-Learning material for Kindle

A few weeks ago I attempted to publish an electronic edition of my "Green ICT" for's Kindle e-Book device. PDF did not work well, as the Kindle uses a version of the Mobipocket format. So I decided to stop at that point and see if I could create a good quality HTML document in the format Amazon requires. It appears that Moodle can generate e-Books suitable for the Kindle which has significant implications for education.

The Green ICT book was originally converted from HTML created by Moodle's Book module. I was able to upload an IMS Content package created by the Moodle Book module to and have this converted to the Kindle format. produced an 80 kByte zip file for the Kindle, slightly smaller than the original 81.5 kByte IMS content package. The Kindle archive appears to have the same folders and files as the IMS original, with an XML manifest, a folder with a CSS file and a folder with a HTML file for each chapter. The only change appears to be that the HTML 4 headers of the IMS content package have been stripped off the HTML documents.

When previewed by the Amazon's Digital Text Platform web site, the book content is displayed in a window of about 50 columns by 16 lines of text, with headings in larger font and hypertext links underlined and highlighted in blue, much like the web page original (current Kindle devices actually have monochrome screens).

Being able to provide educational content via the Kindle essentially unchanged is very attractive, but has some limitations. The Kindle does not appear to display the table of contents for the book. This is displayed in an Learning Management System (such as Moodle) from the XML Manifest. Without the table of contents the e-book is very hard to navigate. This may be a limitation of the way Moodle creates IMS content, or the Kindle online emulator (perhaps the Kindle device creates the contents page dynamically).

The Moodle Book module can also "print" a book. This produces one HTML file containing all chapters (unlike the IMS format which has each chapter in a separate HTML file). I saved this web page from the Firefox web borrower, along with a folder generated containing a CSS file and images. When Zipped, this produced a 73.7 kByte archive file. After conversion by Kindle, a slightly smaller Zip archive (73.5 kBytes) with a similar structure, but slightly simplified HTML resulted.

The converted print file looked very similar to the IMS version when displayed with the Kindle emulator. The table of contents generated by Moodle in the HTML file was displayed.

With a table of contents the e-Book has sufficient for navigation. But I will check the Formatting Guides, before trying to publish.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Publishing on Amazon's Kindle e-Book

I noticed that my "Green ICT" book was available from via a reseller. In the processing of adding some more detail about the book, I noticed that Amazon was offering to publish an e-book version on their Kindle device. So I registered with Amazon's Digital Text Platform, and started the process of submitting the book for distribution. This consisted mostly of copying the book details from where it is distributed on Lulu.Com.

However, I got stuck at the point of uploading the text. I had assumed Kindle would use PDF, so I uploaded the PDF of the electronic version I created for LuLu to distribute. To my surprise, Amazon's system then proceeded to convert this to poor quality HTML. That the HTML generated from PDF was of poor quality is not a surprise: it is difficult to put back the information lost in the conversion to PDF.

So I decided to stop at that point and see if I could create a good quality HTML document in the format Amazon requires. The book was originally converted from HTML created by Moodle's Book module, which creates good quality XHTML (and SCORM Learning Object), so it should be possible to produce something much better than the PDF easily.

However, it is not simple a matter of taking the Moodle file and uploading it, as the book has some subtle difference from the e-leaning module version of the material (as an example, they have difference ISBNs). So I may have to take the Open Office XML file I created from the HTML and convert that back to HTML. provide Formatting Guides, to help convert to HTML, with:
  1. Introductory HTML Formatting
  2. Advanced HTML Formatting
  3. Samples

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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson on

Michael Jackson on have set up a Michael Jackson store. It is remarkable how quickly sellers have reacted to his death. As well as albums and MP3 downloads for sale, this has videos, books and a discussion area. Surprisingly, not all the discussion is uncritical tributes from fans, with allegations about his relationships with children discussed.

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Friday, April 03, 2009

GoogleAds Preferences

Google are adding "Ads Preferences" so that people can select the type of google ads they want to see on web pages. It will be interesting to see how well this is accepted.

Google AdSense previously was based on the idea that the ads displayed on a web site would be related to the topic of the page. This made sense: if you are looking at a web page about a rail journey in Australia, you may be interested in products and services related to rail travel in Australia.

With the ad preferences, Google will attempt to track what people are interested in and show ads for that. This the approach used by and others. The results can be a bit jarring, with ads completely unrelated to the topic of the web page they are on. Also there is the issue of privacy. Google have addressed these issues to some extent, by allowing people to set the topic they would like ads about, or to opt out of the personally targeted ads. However, with logic worthty of "Catch 22" it appears that Google will still attempt to set a Cookie on the web browser of the user's computer, so as to indicate that the user doesn't want personal information recorded.

I was going to paste here a list of the categories I selected for ads. But I ended up with the entire list of categories. This would therefore seem to reflect Google's view as to what products are of interest to the world:
* Animals
o Pets
+ Pet Food & Supplies
+ Exotic Pets
o Veterinarians
o Wildlife
* Arts & Humanities
o Books & Literature
+ Book Retailers
+ E-Books
+ Fan Fiction
+ Poetry
o Humanities
+ History
+ Myth & Folklore
o Theater & Performing Arts
o Visual Arts
* Automotive
o Auto Financing
o Auto Insurance
o Auto Parts
+ Vehicle Tires
o Car Shows
o Car Stereo
o Custom & Performance Vehicles
o Hybrid & Alternative Vehicles
o Motorcycles
o Off-Road & Recreational Vehicles
o Trucks & SUVs
o Vehicle Brands
+ Acura
+ Audi
+ Cadillac
+ Chevrolet
+ Chrysler
+ Citroen
+ Dodge
+ Fiat
+ Ford
+ Honda
+ Hyundai
+ Jeep
+ Kia
+ Lexus
+ Lincoln
+ Mazda
+ Mercedes-Benz
+ Mercury
+ Mitsubishi
+ Nissan
+ Peugeot
+ Pontiac
+ Porsche
+ Renault
+ Saturn
+ Subaru
+ Toyota
+ Volkswagen
+ Volvo
o Vehicle Licensing & Registration
o Vehicle Maintenance
o Vehicle Shopping
* Beauty & Personal Care
o Beauty Magazines
o Body Art
o Cosmetic Surgery
o Cosmetology & Beauty Professionals
o Face & Body Care
+ Cosmetics
+ Fragrances
+ Hair Removal
+ Hygiene & Toiletries
+ Skin & Nail Care
o Fitness
+ Bodybuilding
+ Yoga & Pilates
o Hair Care & Products
+ Hair Loss
o Spas & Beauty Services
+ Massage Therapy
o Weight Loss
* Business
o Advertising & Marketing
+ Marketing Services
+ Public Relations
+ Telemarketing
o Business Plans & Presentations
o Business Schools & Training
o Business Services & Consulting
+ Fire & Security Services
+ Knowledge Management
+ Outsourcing
+ Physical Asset Management
+ Quality Control & Tracking
o Corporate Events
+ Trade Shows & Conventions
o E-Commerce
+ Merchant Services & Payment Systems
o Human Resources
+ Compensation & Benefits
+ Corporate Training
+ Payroll Services
+ Recruitment & Staffing
o Management & Corporate Operations
+ Business Process
+ Strategic Planning
+ Supply Chain Management
o Office & Printing Services
+ Office & Facilities Management
+ Office Furniture
+ Office Supplies
+ Printing Services
+ Writing & Editing Services
o Small Business
+ Home Office
+ MLM & Business Opportunities
* Computers & Electronics
o Computer Security
+ Antivirus & Malware
+ Hacking & Cracking
+ Network Security
o Consumer Electronics
+ Audio Equipment
# MP3 Players
# Home Stereo
+ Home Video
# Video Players & Recorders
# Televisions
+ Personal Electronics
# Handhelds & PDAs
o Electronics & Electrical
+ Electromechanical Devices
+ Electronic Components
+ Optoelectronics & Fiber
+ Power Supplies
+ Test & Measurement
o Enterprise Technology
+ Data Management
o Hardware
+ Desktops
+ Hardware Components
# Chips & Processors
# Memory
# Sound & Video Cards
+ Laptops
+ Mods & Customization
+ Peripherals
# Input Devices
# Monitors
# Printers
# Scanners
+ Servers
+ Storage
# Network Storage
o Networking
+ Data Formats & Protocols
+ Network Monitoring & Management
+ Networking Equipment
o Programming
+ C & C++
+ Developer Jobs
+ Development Tools
+ Java
+ Scripting Languages
+ Windows & .NET
o Software
+ Audio & Multimedia
+ Business & Productivity
+ Device Drivers
+ Educational Software
+ Graphics & Publishing
# Fonts
+ Internet Software
# Internet Clients & Browsers
# Content Management
+ Open Source
+ Operating Systems
# Linux & Unix
# Mac
# Windows
+ Software Utilities
o Tech Support
* Entertainment
o Celebrities
o Clubs & Nightlife
o Comics & Animation
+ Anime & Manga
+ Cartoons
+ Comics
o Dancing
o Entertainment Industry
o Fashion & Modeling
o Fun & Trivia
o Movies
+ Bollywood & Lollywood
+ Horror Films
+ Movie Memorabilia
+ Movie Rentals & Sales
+ Science Fiction & Fantasy Films
o Multimedia Content
+ Flash Content
+ Podcasting
+ Video Clips & Movie Downloads
o Music
+ Alternative-Punk-Metal
+ Classical
+ Country & Folk
+ Dance & Electronica
+ Jazz & R&B
+ Latin
+ Lyrics & Tabs
+ Music Art & Memorabilia
+ Music Retailers
+ Music Streams & Downloads
+ Musical Instruments
+ Rock & Pop
+ Urban & Hip-Hop
+ Vocals & Show Tunes
+ World Music
o Radio
o TV
+ TV Programs
# Soap Operas
+ TV Networks
* Finance & Insurance
o Accounting & Tax
o Credit & Lending
+ Credit Cards
+ Debt Management
+ Student Lending
o Currencies & Foreign Exchange
o Insurance
+ Risk Management
o Investing
o Retirement & Pension
* Food & Drink
o Cooking & Recipes
o Cookware
o Culinary Training
o Food Retailers
o Nonalcoholic Beverages
o Restaurants
+ Restaurant Supply
* Games
o Video Games
+ Online Games
+ Cheats & Hints
* Home & Garden
o Domestic Services
o Gardening
o Home Appliances
o Home Furnishings
+ Lighting
o Home Improvement
o Homemaking & Interior Decor
o Pest Control
* Industries
o Aerospace & Defense
+ Space Technology
+ Defense Industry
o Agriculture & Forestry
+ Agricultural Equipment
+ Aquaculture
+ Crops & Seed
+ Food Production
+ Forestry
+ Horticulture
+ Livestock
o Chemicals
+ Agrochemicals
+ Cleaning Agents
+ Coatings & Adhesives
+ Dyes & Pigments
+ Plastics & Polymers
o Construction & Maintenance
+ Building Materials
# Doors & Windows
# Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning
# Nails Screws & Fasteners
# Plumbing Fixtures & Equipment
# Wood & Plastics
* Flooring
+ Civil Engineering
+ Construction Contractors
+ Property Development
+ Urban & Regional Planning
o Design
+ Architecture
+ Graphic Design & Publishing
+ Industrial & Product Design
+ Interior Design
o Energy & Utilities
+ Alternative Energy
+ Electricity
+ Oil & Gas
+ Waste Management
o Engineering Technology
o Industrial Materials & Equipment
+ Generators
+ Heavy Machinery
+ Valves Hoses & Fittings
o Manufacturing
+ Factory Automation
o Metals & Mining
o Pharmaceutical & Biotech
o Retail Trade
+ Retail Equipment & Technology
o Textiles & Paper
o Transportation & Logistics
+ Aviation
+ Couriers & Messengers
+ Distribution & Logistics
+ Freight & Trucking
+ Import & Export
+ Maritime Transport
+ Moving & Relocation
+ Packaging
+ Rail Transport
+ Urban Transport
* Internet
o File Sharing & Hosting
o Online Goodies
+ MySpace Codes & Graphics
+ Skins Themes & Screensavers
o Search Engine Optimization & Marketing
o Web Design & Development
o Web Hosting & Domain Registration
o Web Portals
o Web Services
+ Affiliate Programs
+ Email & Messaging
+ Search Engines
+ Web Stats & Analytics
* Lifestyles
o Activism & Social Issues
+ Environmental Issues
o Charitable & Non-profits
o Clubs & Organizations
o Holidays & Seasonal Events
o Parenting & Family
+ Baby Care
+ Child Care
+ Genealogy
+ Youth Camps
o Self-Help & Motivational
o Weddings
* Local
o Classifieds
o Event Listings
o Jobs
o Regional Content
+ Africa
+ Caribbean
+ Central & Eastern Europe
# Greece
+ Central & South Asia
# Afghanistan
# India
# Iran
# Pakistan
+ East Asia
# China
# Japan
# Korea
+ Mexico & Central America
# Mexico
# Costa Rica
+ Middle East
# Egypt
# Iraq
# Israel
# Lebanon
# Turkey
# United Arab Emirates
+ Oceania
# Australia
# New Zealand
# Pacific Islands
+ Polar Regions
+ Russia & Caucasus
+ South America
# Argentina
# Brazil
# Peru
+ Southeast Asia
# Indonesia
# Malaysia
# Philippines
# Singapore
# Thailand
# Vietnam
+ US & Canada
# Canada
+ Western Europe
# France
# Germany
# Ireland
# Italy
# Netherlands
# Portugal
# Spain
# Sweden
# United Kingdom
o Traffic & Public Transit
o Weather
* News & Current Events
o Business News
o Gossip & Tabloids
o Local News
o Magazines
o News Networks
o Newspapers
o Politics
+ Elections & Campaigns
o Technology News
* Photo & Video
o Photo & Video Equipment
+ Cameras & Camcorders
# Cameras
# Camcorders
o Photo & Video Sharing
o Photo & Video Software
o Professional Photo & Video Services
o Stock Photography
o Webcams & Virtual Tours
* Real Estate
o Home Financing
o Home Inspections & Appraisal
o Home Insurance
o Property Management
o Real Estate Agencies
o Rental Listings & Referrals
* Recreation
o Boating
o Cycling
o Equestrian
o Hobbies
+ Crafts
+ Paintball
+ Radio Control & Modeling
o Outdoors
+ Fishing
+ Hiking & Camping
+ Hunting & Shooting
o Running
o Surf & Swim
* Reference
o Biographies & Quotations
o Business & Personal Listings
o Calculators & Reference Tools
o Dictionaries & Encyclopedias
o Educational Resources
o Forms Guides & Templates
o How-To & Expert Content
o Language Study & Translation
o Libraries & Museums
o Maps & Geography
o Online Directories
o Time & Calendars
* Science
o Astronomy
o Biological Sciences
+ Anatomy
o Chemistry
o Ecology
o Geology
o Marine Science
o Mathematics
o Physics
o Scientific Equipment
o Scientific Institutions
* Shopping
o Antiques & Collectibles
o Apparel
+ Clothing Labels & Designers
+ Clothing Retailers
+ Footwear
+ Lingerie & Undergarments
+ T-Shirts
+ Watches & Accessories
o Auctions
o Consumer Affairs & Product Reviews
+ Consumer Affairs
+ Price Comparisons
+ Product Reviews
o Coupons & Rebates
o Customer Services
+ Warranties & Service Contracts
o Flowers Gifts & Greetings
+ Cards & Greetings
+ Flowers
+ Gifts
+ Parties & Occasions
o Luxury Goods
+ Gems & Jewelry
o Mass Merchants & Department Stores
o Shopping Portals & Search Engines
o Ticket Sales
* Social Networks & Online Communities
o Blogging Resources & Services
o Dating & Relationships
+ Matrimonial Services
+ Personals
+ Photo Rating Sites
o Forum & Chat Providers
o Online Journals & Personal Sites
o Social Networks
* Society
o Education
+ Colleges & Universities
+ Distance Learning
+ Homeschooling
+ K-12
+ Lesson Plans & Teaching Resources
+ Test Preparation
+ Vocational & Continuing Education
o Government & Regulatory Bodies
+ Royalty
+ Visa & Immigration
o Legal
+ Accident & Personal Injury Law
+ Criminal Law
+ Family Law
+ Intellectual Property
+ Labor & Employment Law
+ Law Schools & Training
o Military
+ Veterans
o Public Safety
+ Crime & Justice
+ Emergency Services
+ Law Enforcement
+ Security Products & Services
o Social Science
+ Demographics
+ Economics
+ International Relations
+ Psychology
o Social Services
+ Welfare & Unemployment
* Sports
o Baseball
o Basketball
o Cheerleading
o Combat Sports
+ Boxing
+ Martial Arts
+ Wrestling
o Cricket
o Extreme Sports
o Football
o Golf
o Gymnastics
o Hockey
o Horse & Dog Racing
o Motor Sports
o Olympics & International Competitions
o Racquet Sports
o Rugby
o Soccer
o Sporting Goods
o Sports Magazines
o Track & Field
o Volleyball
o Water Sports
o Winter Sports
* Telecommunications
o Communications Equipment
o Location & Tracking (GIS-GPS)
o Mobile & Wireless
+ Mobile & Wireless Retailers
+ Mobile Phones
+ Ringtones & Mobile Goodies
o Service Providers
+ Cable & Satellite Providers
+ ISPs
+ Phone Service Providers
# Calling Cards
o Teleconferencing
o VOIP & Internet Telephony
* Travel
o Adventure Travel
o Air Travel
o Attractions & Activities
o Bus & Rail
o Car Rental & Taxi Services
o Cruises & Charters
o Hotels & Accommodations
o Vacation Destinations
+ Australia
+ Caribbean Islands
+ Hawaii
+ Hong Kong
+ Las Vegas
+ Mexico
+ New York City
+ Orlando

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009's second generation wireless eBook

Amazon Kindle have released a second version of their Amazon Kindle 2 electronic book. At US$359 the question is if a dedicated e-Book is more useful than a general purpose netbook for about the same price.

As with the previous version, the Kindle2 has a wireless modem built in which comes with a free account allowing downloading books. There are a number of limitations this system: it is only available on Sprint's USA mobile phone network and while the wireless account is free, the books are not.

Changes to the device itself seem to be minor. It still as the same design with a large portrait monochrome screen above a miniature QWERTY keyboard. Amazon claims the new design is "sleek", as thin as thin as a typical magazine and lighter than a paperback book. However I doubt these were great problems with the previous device. There is more storage and longer battery life (e-books have a longer battery life than a typical laptop in any case). More useful for people with limited eyesight is built in text to speech for reading out books (although the Adobe PDF reader has this feature available for netbooks). have a very clumsy way to get non-Amazon publications into the device. You can send files in Microsoft Word, PDF and HTML formats via Amazon to the device, but are charged ten US cents for each. To avoid the fee you have to email the documents for conversion to the Kindle's format and then upload the returned document with USB. There is no WiFi on the Kindle.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Amazon Green

Jumping late onto the environmental bandwagon, have created Amazon Green. This has supposedly green products, Green Buying Guides and gimmicks like Take the ENERGY STAR pledge and "Recycle Electronics for Fun and Profit".

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

St George Bank Annoying Queuing System sent me a check for royalties on online sales. These are difficult to deposit and made more difficult by a very annoying queuing system introduced by St. George bank.

Unlike Google, who send checks in Australian dollars (and even do direct deposit to Australian banks), send paper cheques in US dollars. At least I think they are in US dollars, as the cheques do not identify the currency or the country they are from. The first time I tried to deposit one of these the teller looked at me suspiciously.

This time I did not manage to get to the teller at all. St. George Bank have introduced a "take a number" queuing system. I pressed "international transactions" and was issued number "D810". A screen showed that A240 was being served, as were some B and C numbers, but no Ds. So I had no idea when, or if, I would ever have a turn. After a while of standing around and seeing if there was any way to find out, I gave up and put the cheque in a deposit envelope in a slot.

The bank called the next day to say that I must come to the counter to deposit overseas cheques. However, by then I was interstate. The following week I turned up at the branch used the name of a teller to bypass the queuing system. This seems a bizarrely inefficient way to run a bank and is not good for the customer.

In the longer term I will see if I can find another bank which does not have this very customer unfriendly system, which seems to be designed to drive people away from St. George bank. Or perhaps will realize that not everyone in the world works in US currency and will have a direct deposit system in US dollars by the time of my next payment.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Amazon.Com Context Links feature needs some work have "Context Links" in Beta release. With this system you add a few lines of code to a web page and Amazon automatically inserts links to products in their catalog. If someone buys the product, you get a commission. This is an extra feature in their affiliate program.

I tried Context Links on my own Blog and on the ACS Digital Library, with limited success. On one of my travel web pages, Amazon put in a link from "Eurostar" to a European train travel guide, which made sense. But it also put in a link from "ICE" to a novel about a frozen wasteland (ICE is the German high speed train). This was a forgivable error.

On the ACS Digital Library it put in a link to a subscription which could be purchased on Amazon for one of the journals. Strictly speaking this was correct, but it was a surprise to those of us organizing the publication, as we didn't know subscriptions were for sale on Amazon. Far worse was that it put in links to books by authors with the same name as ones who wrote in the library and to books which happen to have the same names as papers. This makes the facility essentially useless for use in serious scholarly writing.

Context Links also put some odd links on my Blog. For an entry about environmental building in Canberra, it linked the word "Canberra" to a set of papers for a conference held in Canberra.

Compounding the problem of the poor choice of what to link to is that the automatic links look, by default, like normal links. So readers of my web pages think that I put in the odd links myself. Google's AdWords works much better, providing links to relevant advertisements and clearly differentiating the advertisements from the content of the web pages.

When I first saw Context Links I was worried as I already had a student programming something similar. But the student will not have to do much to do better than Amazon Context Links.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Web to Set Tob Box video download the end of TV?

Amazon Unbox on TiVoAmazon is now offering digital videos by download onto TiVo Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). Amazon keeps a record of what was bought and allows the user to download it again (if they erase their hard disk).

The interface for PCs is much the same as for books on Amazon. I am not sure what it looks like on a TiVo. Also I am not sure how well this will sell. Amazon has had digital video download sales and rentals for PCs for some time. I haven't exactly noticed a lot of rentals or sales in my Amazon Associate store.

It will be interesting to see what effect video downloads has on Australia's limited broadband.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Trying Amazon.Com

e-Learning by Design By William Horton (Book Cover)After detailing how works, someone asked me what it was like as a bookstore: Are the prices good? Do the books take a long time to arrive? I had to admit I had never bought anything (just taken commissions). I thought I should try Amazon, so ordered a copy of William Horton's e-Learning by Design.

At the local ACT Library had I found "Designing Web Based Training" by William Horton (2000). This is a very useful book on
how to set up online courses. But it is a bit dated and does not include the recent development with standards for web based courseware. If you are using a package such as Moodle, you need to worry less about the web design of the course as that is largely set by the package.

The same author had the
more recent "e-Learning by Design" (July 2006), so I ordered a copy via Amazon. As well as be useful for creating a course it would allow me to test the Amazon ordering process.

The book was offered for $AU77.95 by bookstores in Australia. Amazon charged $US39.50. At the current exchange rate, even allowing for shipping (
$US11.98), this is a total of $AU65.52, which is 16% less than the Australian bookstore. I bought the book via my own Amazon store, so I will get a commission on the sale, reducing the price by another 6%.

I ordered the book last Friday morning and Amazon sent me a message shortly after to say the book had been shipped and was expected to arrive 9 March. The book actually arrived on the following Thursday morning, taking less than a week. This was using the lowest cost, slowest method of shipping. It is a very impressive result and I can now confidently say of Amazon that the prices are good and the books do not take a long time to arrive.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Download Movies to Set Top Box from Web Store

There are a lot of reports in the media about video and TV available on-line. However, this is still a lot harder then it looks. You need a lot of bandwidth to download broadcast quality video (some services are only offering thumbnail size images). Some free services are full of pirated TV shows, uploaded by viewers. It is not clear if the average person wants to watch TV on their computer. One interesting alternative is the partnership between Amazon and TiVo. have a service to sell or rent videos online: Unbox Video Downloads. These are a mixture of old moves and TV shows. Buying a download costs a bit less than a DVD. Rentals are a few dollars each. As an example the DVD of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" is $US19.99, whereas the download is $US14.95 to buy or $US3.99 to rent. But you need the broadband connection and to fiddle around with a computer to watch the download.

Amazon has now done a deal with TiVo, to allow videos to be downloaded direct to broadband connected TiVo set top boxes. The video is downloaded direct to the hard disk in the STB:
"Amazon and TiVo have joined forces to offer movies and TV shows that can be downloaded straight to TiVo DVRs via the set-top box's broadband Internet connection. "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" bridges the gap between Internet video and TV, offering a practical method of viewing Web-gathered content, but the offering may be too little too late for TiVo.

If hours of prerecorded TV content aren't enough for TiVo (Nasdaq: TIVO) subscribers, Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) will offer a solution. The digital video recorder (DVR) pioneer and the supersized online retailer announced their new "Amazon Unbox on TiVo" (AUT) service Wednesday.

For Amazon, the joint venture provides a captive audience more than one million strong.

For TiVo, the service adds another compelling feature to the device. However, will it attract new users? Will it be enough for a company that has all but been shut out of the market it created? ..."

From: Amazon, TiVo Partner for Direct-to-TV Downloads, By Walaika Haskins, 02/07/07, E-commerce Times

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Friday, February 16, 2007

My First Cheque from Amazon ChequeThis photo is of my first cheque from Amazon.Com for selling products on my web site. In return for linking to Amazon from my web site, I get a commission on sales. This is not going to make me a fortune, but I wanted to see how it works as an example of e-commerce.

I gave the ANU e-commerce students a lecture on Web Services using the Amazon system. The students tend to doze off when I am telling them how to use the web, metadata and all that technical stuff to do business on-line. What gets their attention is when I talk about something selling books and use the magic words: "this is not just theory, I use this to make MONEY". :-)

Amazon provide facilities for showing products on-line, similar to Google's AdSense. But Amazon's systems seems less able to select products the customer would be interested in. I set the ANU students an assignment question to work out how to interface to Amazon's system to create a better service.

The Amazon commission did not earn enough for them to send me a payment for about a year (they don't send one until it gets to $US100). But last October it started earning $US100 a day. This dropped back to a few dollars a day shortly afterwards and I never worked out what caused the spike.

Banking the cheque from Amazon turned out to be difficult. Unlike Google, who send cheques in Australian dollars (and now have an electronic deposit option), drawn on an Australian bank, Amazon's was in US dollars. So I had to take it to a special counter at the bank. Amazon do not write on the cheque that it is in US dollars, nor that they are in the USA, which caused some confusion. The teller had never heard of "Amazon Services LCC" which made them suspicious. The address at a PO Box in "Incline Village, NV" made them more suspicious. From Google Maps, this seems to be a small settlement next to a golf course.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Unobtrusive web ads

Advertisements can be useful in generating income on for a web publisher, but annoying for the reader. To minimize the annoyance I am trying more selective ads. If you go to my Web Design notes you will likely see no ads.

But if you are referred to the same web page from a link on a commercial web site (one with COM or CO in the name), you will see ads. I did this by including code to check the referring URL. Additional CSS is used to adjust the page to make room for the ads, when required.

If the user enters the URL directly in the browser there will be no referring URL and so no ads will appear. Similarly, if they click on a link elsewhere in on my web site, or are referred from a GOV, ORG or EDU site, there will be no ads.

The reasoning behind this is that the people who find the page via a web search (such as from Google) are likely to be interested in the general topic and might find the ads useful. Those directed specifically to the site are more likely to be interested in the specific page content and less interested in the ads.

Hopefully the result is ads for those people more likely to appreciate them and no ads for those who do not.

I have also implemented the same technique on the ACS Digital Library. This was tricky as the digital library uses HTML frames. Simply checking the referring URL didn't work, as the referring URL of the web page displayed is always the digital library site. I had to insert code in the frame HTML to store the referring URL and pass it on.

Please let me know if there are problems with this. The code may not be foolproof, but if the only harm is to display an ad occasionally when there should be none, or not display one when there should, it does not much matter.

ps: One exception I make is for people using Google's Scholar search facility. Google Scholar has a COM address but I suppress the ads anyway. Academics are likely to grumble about ads and don't have much money to buy things anyway. ;-)

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

e-Stores in French, German and Japanese

ICE High Sppee Model TrainAmazon has a facility for setting up your own "store" to sell their products on commission. After setting up one for (the US based site in English), I set one up with the German, French and Japanese sites. This was challenging, as I don't speak any of these languages. The Japanese site offers an English interface for shoppers, but not for the resellers. The German and French sites offer no English at all.

I used a web translation service to translate the Amazon interface to English. That wasn't so hard for German and French, but more difficult for Japanese. It was not just a matter of word translation, as an example, I found that postal addresses are entered the opposite way around than in English (with state, city, street instead of street, city and state). But I managed to get through all that.

To see what it looked like, I then translated the sites back to English from French, German, and Japanese.

Fuzzy Logic Rice CookerAfter carefully translating headings and sub headings into each of the languages I discovered when translated back they were all nonsense. So I put the captions in English. The hope is that English speakers will be attracted to the site for products which they can't get at the US Amazon site (the Japanese seem to be obsessed with AI fuzzy logic rice cookers). This even applies to the UK Amazon, which is in English, but has different products to the US Amazon.

Eurostar Model TrainAs an example the US amazon has a poor selection of high speed models of toy trains. This is because the USA doesn't have many real high speed trains. In contrast the UK Amazon offers models of the Eurostar and German Amazon the ICE and Thalis very fast trains.

Apart from that I created speciality stores on subjects from Accessible Web Design to Walter Burley Griffin. Full list:
  • Accessible Web Design: Web site testing and General Accessibility for web pages.
  • Australian Bush HatAustralian Bush Hats: Hats, Oilskin Coats, Saddles, Boots and Books of Australian Outback.
  • Canberra: History, Travel and Architecture of the city of Canberra.
  • Build Your Own Car PCCar PCs: Build a PC for your car. Books and parts with a step by step guide to building a personal computer into a car for entertainment, GPS navigation and car diagnostics. With: Car PCs, LCD Screens and On Board Diagnostics (OBD)Equipment.
  • Film, TV and Video Games Industry: Books on Film Making, TV Production, Games Industry, Electronics, Cameras and Photography.
  • GPS Car Navigation Systems: Units, Books and DVDs on the Global Positioning System (GPS).
  • Home Office Products: Computer and telecommunications equipment for your small or home office. With ADSL Modems, Routers, VOIP, Skype Phones, Wi-Fi, Printers, Scanners, PCs, Add-ons, Software, UPS and Fire Safes.
  • Computer Education Products: Books and other training materials for the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL/ECDL) computer literacy standard.
  • Military Technology: Books on UAVs, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Program, Network Centric Warfare, airborne early warning and control aircraft.
  • International Sporting Events: Clothes, Books, DVDs and Related Products
    from the Olympic Games and other events.
  • Lego Robot KitRobots: Robot kits, books and videos. Build and program your own robot or see how others have done it. With: Lego Mindstorms and the iRobot Roomba Robotic Vacuum.
  • RSS Feeds: Books about RSS and Atom Feeds, Podcasting and Blogging
  • Smart Apartment: Home Automation, Fuzzy Logic Products, Home Theatre and Wide Screen TV.
  • Trains: Train Books, Model Railways, Rail Travel Books and DVDs
  • Universal Service
  • USB: Universal Serial Bus (USB) devices and information.
  • Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin: Architects of Canberra, town planners and landscape architecture.

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