Discover books as they become digital products

February 28, 2007

BooksTwo of the largest book publishers, HarperCollins and Random House, make their books freely available. They have made digital versions of their books, which can be searched and even be placed on weblogs. They hope to sell more books with this strategy.

I think this is a good attempt, because consumers value the discovery of new digital products. By making books fully available on the Internet, consumers can search through books and discover books of their interest previously unknown to them. Brynjofsson (2003) argues that discovering previously hard to find products increases consumer welfare. Maybe the next step they can make is combining books to new digital products.

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StumbleUpon: Personalize your browsing experience

December 29, 2006

StumbleUpon lets you “channelsurf” the best-reviewed sites on the web. It is a collaborative surfing tool for browsing, reviewing and sharing great sites with like-minded people. This helps you find interesting webpages you wouldn’t think to search for. [https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/138/]

Another service that lets you discover (unknown) digital products, this service uses websites as modules of a digital product. Like my research conclusions make clear, the service tries to interact as much as possible with their consumers.

The first site I stumbled upon was Musicovery (a combination of Liveplasma and Pandora), what a coincidence ;). Impressive first result as this is a site that shows similarities with Pandora and Last.fm. The second ‘discovery’ was Pandora by the way, the third Blogmusik and the fifth Finetune.

Read more: http://www.stumbleupon.com/about.html


Thesis finished!

November 23, 2006

Today is the day that my thesis is finished. I handed it in on November 15, and today I graduated with honor (cum laude) 🙂

The past months were very intense, but all was worth it. For everyone who’s interested, the public version of the thesis can be downloaded from here.

Thesis customization in the Internet economy

My aim is to keep posting to this weblog every now and then. The thesis is finished, but the topic is still alive and research never ends.


iLike, another music discovery service

October 25, 2006

At this point in time I am writing the conclusions of my thesis. During the journey of this research, my interest for topics that are related to my research is increased significantly. Therefore I keep track of some sites that regularly write about related topics, for instance TechCrunch of Michael Arrington. Yesterday TechCrunch posted about a new startup called iLike. It has some similarities with Last.fm and Pandora. Recently, many services started which can be compared to Last.fm and/or Pandora.

The reason I write about iLike, is because one of my conclusions it that recommendations are important in these kind of services. I did not try the service, but it is nice to notice that companies like this are there, and that they are related to my study. My first impression is that it can be compared to Last.fm, because they seem to support a community.

I think it would have been a service that could have been of value for my thesis, if it had just existed six months ago…


The mass customization of television begins

October 2, 2006

I ran into an interesting article today, where mass customization of television is the subject.

The best thing of this article is that it has some similarities with my research, and that some early conclusions seem to correspond. The experience when customizing digital products seem to be very important, which is rather different than with mass customization of physical products. The interaction length of time should be as short as possible when customizing physical products, while it seems it should be long when customizing products. The experience is still important when customizing digital products, but not during the interacion process, but during use. With digital products, the interaction process with the supplier and the use of the product happens at the same time. This shows some similarities with services; services are always produced and used simultaneously. One can only value a digital product after it is being used.

The above argument shows similarities with the following quote from the article: “Community based interactive channels and programmes let viewers feel they are a part of the programme, that their views and opinions make a difference and that they are part of an active community. This emotional connection will not only keep them watching, but also participating.” Close relationships between supplier and consumer are important, what indicates that a high degree of customization (consumer involvement) should be available.

Social also communities seem to be important for experience goods. “The real challenge for us all is to create cost-effective, revenue-generating interactive services, whether for brand promotion, product sales, social networking or gaming, that deliver both shared and unique experiences and foster active communities of interest.”

It seems that customization of television shows similarities with customization of digital music. Nice for further research…


Customization in the Internet economy is getting recognized

July 26, 2006

While I am writing my thesis, and reading literature on mass customization, characteristics of information products and other parent disciplines for this research, it is getting clearer that existing literature has a gap on customization of digital or information products. That makes my research interesting for me and maybe for some other people too.

As can be read on this blog, digital products are being customized and personalized on the Internet. Digital products in the form of music, or music stations, can be customized on Last.fm and Pandora. As I had contacted Frank Piller before on this research, he showed his interest in the subject. Now on his mass-customization weblog this topic is getting attention, as he has reviewed Pandora and some other services that allow music to be personalized.

It makes me curious if customization and personalization is getting more attention in scientific literature in the near future. But if Frank Piller is starting to mention it, I’m sure it will.


Identity management to solve mass confusion?

June 20, 2006

Frank Piller, a mass customization guru, addresses mass confusion on his blog, and how how to cope with it. Mass confusion, or complexity or noise is one of the main subjects of this research.

Mass confusion is a result of customer co-design, which is the genus of mass customization according to Piller. Mass confusion has two major reasons:

  • Burden of choice: One limit of mass customization is that excess variety may result in an external complexity. Users might be overwhelmed by the number of options.
  • Matching needs with product specifications. In addition, customers often simply lack the knowledge and skills to transfer their personal needs and desires into a concrete product specification. A pair of sport shoes becomes a rather complex product if one has to decide explicitly between different widths, cushioning options for the insole, patterns for the outsole, and color options.

Piller argues that the premier task of the design of co-design toolkits (configurators) is to prevent mass confusion. A premier measure for this is a starting solution so that customers do not have to start from the scratch. In a good mass customization system, there will be a pre-configuration which represents already a full configuration and which customers can modify according to their wishes.

That means knowledge about consumer preferences is needed for first-time consumers and for returning consumers. For first-time customers, the provision of a good starting solution is a more challenging task.

This task can be simplified by using a virtual identity. Higgins is an open-source 'user-centric' identity management. Higgins breaks a person's identity into pieces, allowing users to dictate who can access parts of their identity information, within applicable privacy guidelines and laws. Organizations using applications built with Higgins open source tools can share specific identity information, such as their telephone number or buying preferences, according to rules set by the individual.

If Higgins is successful and adopted by mass customizers, this will mean a large boost for mass customization according to Piller. New research has clearly shown that mass confusion and the burden of choice are major obstacles of mass customization – preventing consumers to adapt this strategy.