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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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.


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…


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.


The downside of customization of digital music?

June 5, 2006

My research is not about communities, but communities arise constantly on the Internet. Also for digital customizable products such as music, for example Last.fm. These communities are mostly based on similarities and, in the case of Last.fm, at the same time about discovering new music also based on similarities. Now there are some critics on this, because these similarities are killing these communities. 

"If people can get any song they like, why should they listen to their friend's music, or (horrors) listen to the music selected by a group of barflys? By allowing people to have whatever they want, are we destroying that ability to get along?" (source: Bloggingstocks). The same can be said about blogs, do they only attract people that are alike, or do people with different interests also interact on these topics? Or as a professor of us in class puts it, "blogs are a-social!" 


The value of variety

May 9, 2006

During one of my interviews, we talked about the optimal amount of variety. This is a question which is not easily answered. When will the advantage of variety ends up in complexity, or even in regret as is mentioned in literature (Desmeules, 2002).

variety-regret-450.gif
Recently during the Google TechTalks, mr. Barry Schwartz addresses this issue. Barry Schwartz is an icon on this subject. He talks about the paradox of choice, why less is more, also addressed in his book.

Thinks like capability and usability is something he's addressing in his talk.


Interviews are done!

May 9, 2006

The interviews that I had scheduled so far are all done. If the respondents are reading this, I would like to say "Thanks again!". At this point, before I have analyzed the interviews, I have only transcribed them, I can already say their input is very valuable for my research.

As for now it has no use to go into detail of the contents of the interviews. First, I will treat the conversation confidentially. I respect the openness of the subjects, and will not misuse it. Second,like I mentioned, I yet have to analyze them. So I probably will give more detail after that.

For now, I can say my research is progressing as planned, and I will continue to update this blog on a regular basis. The feedback I get is motivating me to keep updating it.