Why everything is “technology”

A couple of podcasts I listened to recently reminded me that, in a sense, everything is technology. Including your house. Including your eyes.

Give these a listen and you’ll see what I mean:

AP’s iPhone App: White Elephant

White Elephant: A possession entailing great expense out of proportion to its usefulness or value to the owner. (Random House Dictionary)

Today, AP debuted its AP Stylebook iPhone app.

According to the press release. “AP Stylebook fans have been asking for a mobile application so they can have style guidance wherever they go. Journalists never know when they will need to run out the door to chase a story, so as long as they have an iPhone in their pockets when they go, the Stylebook can go with them.”

…Which indicates the strategy here: The AP Stylebook iphone app is basically an app as e-book. Which almost explains its exhorbitant price: $28.99.

Yep, that’s right: $28.99 for an iPhone app. Seriously.

Beyond displaying the text of the AP Stylebook 2009, this app adds a little extra functionality: “The 2009 AP Stylebook app features searchable listings for the main, sports, business and punctuation sections, along with the ability to add custom entries and personalized notes on AP listings. Stylebook app users are able to mark any entry as a favorite for easy access.”

…In other words, similar with what you could do with this book on a Kindle. Only AP doesn’t offer a Kindle edition of the Stylebook.

AP does offer online Stylebook subscriptions: $25/year for an individual, with cheaper bulk pricing available for organizations. Which means that the iPhone app is more costly than an online subscription. So why wouldn’t iPhone users buy an online subscription instead and access it through the mobile Safari browser?

Here’s another thing baffles me: Why sell an app that’s basically a standalone e-book? Why not offer a free app with some free content/service that also can allow paying subscribers to log in from their phone and have a mobile-optimized experience? It seems to me that AP is reinventing the wheel with this app, missing obvious opportunities to grow its Stylebook market, and positioning this product poorly through ludicrous pricing.

It gets worse… but it could get better too…

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Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Reader Discussion Guide Excerpts

I just finished reading a killer classic fiction mashup (literally), Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s a parody of the Jane Austen novel (which I tried to read in college and found unbearably tedious).

I must admit, though: The addition of a Night of the Living Dead-style zombie plague made all the endless fretting and plotting over how to present  oneself as appropriately marriageable in polite society surprisingly entertaining and understandable.

Because the thing is: The strictures of British aristocratic society — particularly how women were held in chattel status, and the ceaseless power plays of verbal indirection — were indeed nightmarish, soul-destroying, and cannibalistic.

Therefore, I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider this book a seminal feminist treatise. (God knows we need more entertaining seminal works of feminism!)

If you read this book (and I recommend it) don’t miss the reader’s discussion guide at the end. It contains 10 questions. Here are a couple of my favorites…

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TechStars Investor Day and other good stuff today

This morning I had the privilege of attending some of the morning presentations from this year’s crop of TechStars startup companies in an event called “Investor Day,” held at the Boulder Theater.  TechStars is a Boulder, CO-based program that provides seed capital and mentorship for tech startups. SocialThing (which just got bought by AOL) and Brightkite were both graduates of last summer’s TechStars.

The main reason I went was because my good friends Susan Mernit and Lisa Williams were presenting the flagship product, WhozAround, from their new company, People’s Software Company. I’ve been watching them endure the TechStars maelstrom this summer, and they pulled through great despite lots of pressure and stresses.

WhozAround is currently a Facebook application in alpha. It’s the first step in their plan to bypass the current communication chaos that ensues whenever two or more people try to agree on a place & time to meet. As Susan said in her presentation today, “Do all those e-mails, IMs, texts, Facebook notifications, and other messages really make getting together easier?” I can answer that with a resounding “NOT!!!”

Here’s Susan giving the presentation:

Susan Mernit presenting at TechStars Investory Day, 2008

And Susan and Lisa taking questions from investors:

Susan Mernit & Lisa Williams taking questions from investors

(Apologies for the crappy images, my iPhone camera isn’t great for that sort of lighting and distance. I was sitting in the balcony.)

I’ll be heading back to the Boulder Theater in a couple of hours for the Tech Cocktails event there:

Tech Cocktails

But some more cool stuff happened today…

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