QOTD: flowing through Amazon

From Jon Udell:

At the end of our conversation I relayed a question that came up during my recent Superpatrons and superlibrarians talk at the University of Michigan. When I demonstrated the various ways in which LibraryLookup can disintermediate Amazon, somebody asked: "Does Amazon hate you?" It shouldn't, I replied, because although LibraryLookup clearly bypasses some purchases, it also invites people to engage with Amazon.com more than they otherwise might. As it turns out, that's just how Jeff Bezos sees it. During his talk he used a key term of blogging art: flow. When library patrons use Amazon's catalog to research what's in the library, they're creating flow through Amazon's site, and Bezos says he's all for that. [Jon Udell: A conversation with Jeff Bezos about Amazon web services]
It would be nice if Amazon were interested in providing a find in a library link on its pages in the way that Google Book Search does (as described here).

I was also interested in the use of the word 'flow': it is important for libraries to get into the user workflow, wherever they can.

One way of characterising recent developments is to look at our locus of engagement with the network. We can see a trend from database, to website to workflow.
And this is not really surprising. As more of our working, learning and playing lives moves onto the network we need better workflow support. One can state one of the major challenges facing libraries in these terms. Historically, users have built their workflow around the services the library provides. As we move forward, the reverse will increasingly be the case. On the network, the library needs to build its services around its users' work- and learn-flows (networkflows). [Lorcan Dempsey's weblog: Networkflows]

Related entries:

Comments: 3

Oct 12, 2006
Bill Drew

So you want a business to provide a link to a resource where the consumer can get the product for free, thereby not buying it crom the business? Where is the benefit to Amazon in this transaction?

Oct 12, 2006
Lorcan Dempsey

Bill, I think that it makes sense for Amazon to think about this for the very reason that Jeff Bezos mentions in his interview: it creates flow through the Amazon site.

And flow is good for Amazon for various reasons. If I can find stuff in my library and stuff to buy through Amazon it makes it more attractive to me and I will use it more. If I buy books online, this means I may use Amazon rather than another site, or buy more given that I am there more. If I do not usually buy books online, it may be that I am converted to the occasional purchase if I find something used or I can't find it in a library or I read a really good review.

Of course, this leaves open the question that the use of the library resources cannibalizes book purchases. This would have to be tested. My hypothesis is that many of those who borrow books also buy books and that any losses would be more than compensated for by increased purchases created by the increased flow encouraged by the additional value this option creates - as discussed above.

Oct 12, 2006
Bruce Newell

It makes sense for libraries to point to Amazon (and other commercial information providers) on library Web sites because it saves the time of the reader (which is what we do). It makes sense for Amazon (and others) to do this because it gives them more traffic, traffic that may stop and buy something. If linking free and fee info sources from my library's Web site has made my life more convenient as an information consumer, then it seems like it is a good idea.

The devil is in the details, of course, but I'd love to be able to decide that I don't want to wait 2 months to read the new Hurried Potter and just buy it; conversely, I'd love to find instead of having to buy it, I could reserve and pick up an available copy at my local public library.