Delivering Happiness with Tony Hsieh

Having been given a complementary advanced reading copy of the book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, it is only fitting that I return the favor by giving an honest review of a personal, humorous, and informative narrative told by the CEO of Zappos himself, Tony Hsieh.

The book gives you an insight into the life of Tony Hsieh, whom many have only heard about through the recent acquisition of Zappos by Amazon. He discusses his adventures in entrepreneurship – from worm farms, through building a customer service enterprise – in his pursuit of delivering happiness to the world. Along the way Hsieh dabbles in the art of making and selling buttons through a mail-order catalog, running a pizza business during college, building Link Exchange and selling to Microsoft for $275 million, and finally, through the survival of Zappos during a period where they were walking within inches of financial bankruptcy.

Just the story of Tony’s life is an interesting read in and of itself. You learn of why he acquires a love for the peace-love-unity-respect (PLUR) culture after attending a rave for the first time, why he sold his million dollar loft after throwing a massive birthday bash, why he left a stable well-paying job at Oracle, and of course, the journey from an initial investment in ShoeSite.com to what we know today as Zappos.com.

Our Brand, Culture, and Pipeline are the only competitive advantages that we will have in the long run. Everything else can and will eventually be copied. – Tony Hsieh

Continue reading Delivering Happiness with Tony Hsieh

E-Ink Kindles Books Into a Paperless Future

Disclaimer:
I do not own either of these products, and thus my review is based on other reviews, along with the product information found at the company websites, and through other sources.

Update 11/28/07: So I’ve been thinking about this new kindle, and I have to say that I like the concept and am still excited about the technology. However the economic aspects of the device as well as the design are much to be desired as many have stated in their reviews.

Update: Cali Lewis gives her first hand review of the Kindle on her GeekBrief podcast #262.

Update: Tech crunch has two interesting first hand posts about the Kindle, and a short Jeff Bezos interview.

E-Ink is the future!
People have been talking about the paperless office for years, and now the book industry is taking interest. New paper book size devices using an electronic ink technology are entering your personal time and space. Sony and Amazon have finally hit on products that should stimulate the growth in this market shift. The technology and experience of electronic ink systems will be akin to science fiction newspapers, or those similarly found within the Harry Potter universe. We will soon have cereal boxes, newspapers, and then clothing that have embedded e-Ink allowing the reader or publisher to update the content in real-time. Especially with this new partnership between Amazon and Sprint, things are looking to advance into the area of what used to be found only in fiction.

The Shift
The entire printed media industry will be moving to this new electronic format and form-factor. Newspapers, Books, Magazines, and even the written word that already exists online and in electronic form like blogs will invade your space on that plush reclining chair that you curl up in next to a fire in to enjoy the relaxing and intimate relationship with that special book.

The Hardware
Sony has delivered a 2nd generation product with their e-reader. It is light, small, and sleek. It uses the newest e-ink technology to deliver a high contrast display that looks like a real paper page while also allowing a long usage period between charges. Amazon is using a similar technology (seems to use the same e-Ink technology) with their new Kindle service and e-Reader. The reader has a keyboard and looks like an oversized PDA designed by IBM, it is white, plain, and a little too square. However,

Amazon

  • Storage: 200 books
  • Weight: 10.3 ounces (lighter than typical paperback)
  • Battery: 1.5 days / 7 days (wireless on / off)
  • Charge Time: 2 hours
  • Display: 600 x 800 pixel resolution at 167 ppi, 4-level gray scale
  • Other: Keyboard

Sony

  • Storage: 64MB internal (memory card slot for “unlimited” # of books)
  • Weight: 10 ounces
  • Battery: Read 7500 pages on single charge (~15 500pg books)
  • Charge Time: 4 / 6 hours (AC / USB)
  • Display: 6″ diagonal E-ink(tm) with 4-level grayscale
  • Other: plays mp3 (not sure why – i guess for audio book – just get an iPod/Zune)

The Services
Sony does offer a service to purchase books from, but it isn’t as grand a scheme as Amazon has devised and just recently released details of their new Kindle e-reader and service. Amazon will utilize Sprint’s national EVDO network in order to bring books and other content to the device from almost anywhere in the US.

Amazon

  • 88,000 books, Top Newspapers, 250 blogs
  • No Computer Necessary (all downloads are free and wireless)

Sony

  • Thousands of books
  • Windows XP or Vista

What does the future look like?
As I mentioned before this has more profound consequences than what lies on the surface in relation to how we interact and communicate. Sure you can get books anytime and anywhere you want, however think about other uses and you’ll quickly realize that the always connected everywhere we go future is actually something possible in the near future. Obviously it won’t be perfect, but this is sort of like 1995 with the internet coming into existence. We didn’t know then that we’d be watching video on a little pocket touchscreen phone. We have no idea yet, or just a small idea, of what is to come. People are probably think of the new advertising models, and the ability to get other types of content. However, that’s really already been done as the iPhone is probably currently the best overall e-book of its time. Battery drain is the main problem that the e-Ink technology attempts to fix.

Imagine being able to highlight in the books, have multiple bookmarks, sync this information online, download personal documents to the device, utilize an integrated search both within a book as well as across many different books. Just like we carry around our personal contacts, our music, and our photos (camera phone), we will soon carry around all our paper content including homework, textbooks, novels, magazines, newspapers, references, dictionary, translation books, study guides, DIY guides, etc.

There are so many things that can be done with technology when it is used in new ways along with inventions, and innovations. The e-Book was an innovation in the way we read printed materials, Kindle is an innovation in how we get that printed material. I’m only more excited about the future now, and hope I don’t become disinterested as I get older in the exciting innovations that the world brings to us each and every day.