Amazon iPhone/Touch Application Released

There has been a Mobile Safari optimized version of Amazon.com for a long time now, and it’s a site I use a lot. I was extremely exicted to find out that Amazon has realesed a native application for the iPhone and iPod Touch. TUAW has a good write up about the app. One of the most interesting features is the “Remembers” feature. You can apparently take a photo of an object and upload it to Amazon. A couple mintues later you will be sent a link to the product. I’m not sure how they’re doing this, whether they’re licensing technology like TinEye or running the image to a bank of humans… but if it works as advertised, it will become an indespensible part of my shopping habits.

I was very glad to see that Amazon has made it easy to add items to your wishlist. I use the wishlist a lot to keep track of items I’m interested in but I’m not ready to buy.

Get the Amazon app from the iTunes Store: iTunes Link



I tried out the Remembers feature, and it really surprised me! It recgonized my new 15″ Macbook Pro from a really poor photo I snapped. And it did it quickly.

[Update 2]

As Nathan mentioned in the comments, the Remembers system isn’t working off of any image recognition software or anything like that. Instead, it’s leveraging the Mechanical Turk system that Amazon launched not too long ago. Anyone can sign up to complete short tasks, such as looking at a picture submitted by the Amazon iPhone app, and returning the Amazon store URL. Check out more information at www.mturk.com.


Amazon Buys Shelfari

For the last 7 days I’ve been carrying around an Amazon Kindle e-book reader, thanks to a new loan program from the NCSU Library. I’ve fallen in love with the device, and in these 7 days I’ve read much more than I expected. I’m also a big fan of Shelfari, a site that lets you manage your books on “shelves” (much like Delicious Library on the Mac) with shelves for Read, Plan to Read, Wish List, and so on. In the last week, as I start a new book on the Kindle (the one I have had over 50 books preloaded on it by other students) I’ve had to log into Shelfari and manually add the book onto my shelf for books that I’m currently reading. This feeds me reviews and suggestions on related books.

A few moments ago, as I filled out a rating for a book I just finished (Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely) I started wondering if there was an opprotunity here. What if Shelfari could tap into your Kindle’s information, automatically filling your shelves with books you have on the device. This would deliver an experience quite a bit closer to the way Netflix monitors what movies you have at home, what movies your friends are watching, and what movies you have listed in your queue. I brushed the thought off, though, figuring that for an outfit as small as Shelfari to get so intimately involved with Amazon’s systems would need a level of access that Amazon would be reluctant to give. I also figured that Amazon wouldn’t want to invite such direct competition to their own “Media Library” service.

No more than 3 minutes later, I came across a post in the Shelfari Discussion Group announcing that Amazon has aquired Shelfari!

Amanda writes,

We just announced that Amazon.com has acquired Shelfari! This is a very exciting time at Shelfari and there are a lot of new opportunities in the future that will benefit all members. In the meantime, members will continue to have access to the great community and tools that you’ve always known and used on the site. You can continue to build virtual bookshelves and socially interact around the books you care about at http://www.shelfari.com/.

We look forward to working with Amazon to continue with our mission of building great communities that celebrate books. Thanks for your interest in Shelfari and Amazon.com.

Happy Reading,

It makes sense… as Shelfari has been using Amazon’s repository of information, even providing “Buy This Book at Amazon” links for titles you come across. It will be interesting to see if Amazon leaves Shelfari as it’s own entity, much like Yahoo did when it aquired Flickr, or if it will pull the developers and existing code into Amazon’s own Media Library site. I think that a lot of users would like to see Shelfari remain independent, but as a heavy user of Amazon (as I think most web-savvy readers are) and a hopeful owner of the second revision of the Kindle, I can’t help but hope that Shelfari gets much more tightly integrated into Amazon’s print and electronic book sales systems.

Sony Reader Opens Up

Sony ReaderFrom Engadget:

Sony will be shooting out an update on Thursday to allow the Reader to use purchased books in the protected EPUB format from whoever is peddling them, instead of being tied to the Sony’s e-book store, or just DRM-free text and PDF documents.

This is an excellent move by Sony. One of the big downfalls to both the Sony Reader and the Amazon Kindle was the fact that you were tied to the devices’ respective stores for content. We’ve recently seen yet another example of why DRM is bad when applied to music purchases [Yahoo Music Goes Dark, Takes DRM Keys With It], and I think that the same will hold true for ebooks as well. Now, you can load your own DRM-free TXT and PDF files onto the Sony Reader, expanding your content options. If you still want to buy from a major seller, you can buy from anyone using the EPUB system. It’s still DRM, but at least you’re no longer stuck with Sony’s offerings.

I haven’t seen an Amazon Kindle in person yet, but from the photos I think I like the industrial design of the Sony Reader much more. We’ll see what happens if Amazon releases new Kindles in October as rumored, but right now I don’t mind the thought of picking up a Sony Reader on clearance in a year or two.

Via Engadget