MyHabit and Kindle Social: Amazon’s Latest Mobile Moves

It landed in my in-box today:

We’re excited to introduce our valued customers to our new private-sale website, MYHABIT.

Save up to 60% every day on fashion for women, men, children and home.

Earlier this month, someone mentioned on Twitter (sorry, I don’t recall who) that Amazon seemed to be cultivating a social network among Kindle owners, something RWW calls Kindle Profiles. Both moves represent quiet forays into the “mobile” computing space.

MyHabit : The Deals Site

Free shipping promised. Login with your Amazon account credentials.

Although it’s a new site to me, AOL’s Daily Finance wrote about MyHabit (in the future tense) back in May.

The hot, private sale websites — the modern day, online version of the sample sale –- such as Gilt Groupe and Rue La La, aim to deliver the hottest designer looks at up to 80% off retail prices. The discounts are usually offered for just 36 to 48 hours on upscale, designer merchandise in limited quantities.Amazon’s will feature daily sales that last 72 hours starting at 12 p.m. EST each day on women’s, men’s and children’s clothing from tony brands like Doo.Ri, Halston and Vera Wang.

Then on August 1, TechCrunch reported that Amazon launched an iPhone app for MyHabit, yet another acknowledgment of the importance of mobile. “Other recently launched Amazon mobile apps include barcode scanning app Price Check, shopping iPad app Window Shop, and a Gold Box deals app.

Given those May and August news reports, I searched my inbox to see what I’d missed. Not much. In June, Amazon sent a note to associates:

Happy summer! We’re excited to announce MYHABIT, a new member of the Amazon family of websites. As an Amazon Associate, you can earn 15% in advertising fees on qualifying purchases at MYHABIT.

MyHabit is both a mobile opportunity and traditional website. The MyHabit launch feels very “stealth” to me … as does the company’s efforts to develop a social network around the Kindle, a different kind of mobile experience.

Kindle : Social Reading

The Kindle “as social reading environment” movement is little-reported and seems unannounced. Here’s how looks to a “guest” and to someone logged in who has registered a Kindle:

Kindle.Amazon.Com Home
Kindle.Amazon.Com Home : Not Logged In
Kindle.Amazon.Com Home
Kindle.Amazon.Com Home : Logged In

Amazon wants us Kindle owners to make notes on what we are reading and publish those notes “publicly”:

With Public Notes, our Kindle customers can choose to make public their highlights and notes. Once a customer enables Public Notes for one of their books, then any other customer who follows them will be able to see their Public Notes.

They also want us to make public what we are reading on our Kindles.

Note that all of my stats are “zero” even though I have a lot of books and periodicals on my Kindle. The default for this service is “off” as it should be. (For the record, this is opposite of how Facebook implements new features.)

I searched my inbox back to March, looking for email from that contained “Kindle.” There was no notice of this networking option, although I have lots of “so-and-so is following you on” announcements subsequent to my customizing my Kindle account here.

Kindle.Amazon: Your Reading

You control what is public from (Note the odd use of third-person … on any other site, this would be “my_reading” and “My Books”.)

Kindle.Amazon.Com My Reading
Kindle.Amazon.Com : Your Reading

The default view of this page, when accessed from the Kindle site, is “Kindle-only” reading. [You can change the view to “all books” from the drop-down; I changed status on non-Kindle books after this review.] Interestingly, there are no periodicals in the list, only books; I subscribe to several periodicals on the Kindle. How this page could be made even more useful: let us write a review from THIS interface!

My Stats

Kindle.Amazon: Public Stats, Notes

I changed the status for Kindle books I’ve read or am reading to public. I also made “notes” public for many of them. Maybe (a big maybe) this will inspire me to take notes as I read. It’s doubtful that I will make notes retroactively, although I might for books that I have used in classes.

Making notes “public” means that they can be seen by anyone, not just people who follow you on the Kindle. Notes that are public are accessible via the web, even if you are not logged in to Amazon. You can see these all the books where I have made notes (which includes highlights) public; the only book of mine with many notes is Kevin Phillips’ Wealth and Democracy. [This ranks 9,043rd in books with Public Notes. This is the 11,561st most highlighted book on Kindle.]

I can see the sharing notes feature being useful in a course if a lot of students have Kindle versions of a course book (instead of paper). However, because Kindle versions are often more expensive than used paperbacks, and because they cannot be resold, I would not expect lots of students (at least in the near term) to opt for a Kindle version versus paper. This note-sharing feature might be an interesting experiment in a course where reading an ebook made pedagogical sense, such as a class on the economics of information or a class on digital networking. You can read a Kindle book on an iPhone or iPad, Blackberry or Android, even a WinMobile device or from the web with the CloudReader. In other words, it would not be a technological challenge to require students to buy a Kindle edition, although it might be a sociological one.

Kindle.Amazon: Finding People To Follow

Another clue that Amazon envisions this space as a social reading space is this (hidden, mouseover to read) blurb about “People With Similar Books”:

These are people who may be of interest to you because they read similar books. The “similar to you” percentage is a calculation of how similar their reading is to yours, based on the books that you both have made public.

However, there is no easy way to find those folks if you are not already connected to them through Twitter or Facebook. [Update: after I finished writing this, Amazon began suggesting people to follow. Note that I activated this network two weeks ago.]

Also, the only way that I can see the list of who I’m following or who is following me is to click the number in the stats box. This is very bad UI, not only because the target is so small but also because this seems to be the only way to reach account information.

When I click the number after “following” I’m taken to a page that has information from my Amazon profile (my avatar and a link) and details on everyone I’m following. There is also a “stop following” button. If you stop following someone they do not disappear from this list; instead, the button changes to “follow”. Also, the order seems random; there is no way to change the order to alpha or even by “when I started following”.

Kindle.Amazon.Com - Who I'm Following

Like any good digital gathering space, Amazon’s Kindle site lets you link your Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Linking your Twitter account means you will automatically follow anyone on Amazon Kindle whom you are also following on Twitter. This is not, in my opinion, a good idea. Instead, Amazon should show me who those folks are and let me decide whether or not to follow them; these are two very different gathering places (social environments). Instead, Amazon auto-follows and you have to manually “stop following.” Yes, the end result is the same (sorta), but the process rubs me the wrong way.

Kindle.Amazon.Com : Twitter Account Linked

Likewise, Amazon’s “permission to link to Facebook” pane reveals just how much more automatic behavior you are authorizing:

amazon-kindle-facebook : Link To Facebook

As with Twitter, there is too much “automatic” activity. I’d like to know who in my Facebook network has activated their Kindle network but not enough to make all of this information automatic, especially automatically posting change in reading status. (Yes, there is a tickbox here. But still – Amazon is forcing an “opt-out” rather than making this “opt-in.”) Nevertheless, I linked with Facebook long enough to see the network overlap, then I revoked application authorization.

Another clue as to how nascent this space is …. the three people in the “highly followed” list are (a) authors and (b) not followed by many people.

Kindle.Amazon.Com Highly Followed People
Kindle.Amazon.Com : Highly Followed People


So there you have it. Two toe-in-the-water moves by Amazon in the digital/mobile/social environments.

I’m far more interested in the digital book-gathering place than I am in yet another “here’s a way to get a deal on stuff you don’t really need” space.

The fact that Amazon has a handle on part of my book purchases makes it a logical place for a virtual book club. But it’s competing with real book clubs and media-centric book clubs (Oprah, for example) as well as Copia, Goodreads and Shelfari. Then there’s More magazine, which earlier this month hosted a one-hour Skype chat for 10 book clubs across the country with Meg Wolitzer, author of the bestselling novel  The Uncoupling [Amazon].

Can Amazon use its knowledge of our reading purchases to its — and our — advantage? Only time will tell.

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By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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