Amazon Appears To Be Inflating The List Prices Of Some Discounted Items (AMZN)



Amazon Weird Pricing

You know how when you shop on Amazon there is a price and a then a “list price” which is usually much higher?

The effect is that you feel like you’re getting a big discount shopping on Amazon.

It turns out Amazon might be publishing list prices that are too high.

Mouse Print first noticed the problem with an array of general consumer products such as Kraft’s Mac & Cheese and a 100-count box of Splenda.

As if this afternoon, most of these prices have been fixed, except for a ton of pet food items.

Take for example the dog treats you see above. The retail value of one Merrick Flossies is approximately $4, making a 50-count supply valued at no more than $200. Yet Amazon claims the list price stands at a whopping $422.89, more than doubled what it should cost.

Click here to see more examples of Amazon’s wacky prices >

We tried to contact Amazon for comments, but did not receive a response.

The incident reminds us of last year when Amazon listed a seemingly normal book about flies for $23,698,655.93. Biologist Michael Eisen blogged about the unrealistic selling price, and documented how Amazon’s price for the book The Making of a Fly constantly went up day after another.

Here’s what happened: A professor required this book for a class and students naturally flocked to Amazon to purchase the text. Eventually, only two sellers still had the product available.

Because the book quickly became an exclusive, hot ticket item, Amazon’s algorithm for retailers to competitively price their product catapulted the retail value to more than $23 million.

We’re not sure if this is the same situation with the pet food offerings on the site, but it seems hard to believe the world is running out of doggie treats.

Deli Cat Dry Cat Food

Ok, we know having pets can be expensive but you can’t fool us, Amazon.

Higgins Celestial Blend Bird Food

Who can resist 89 percent off retail list price? Only ten left in stock!

Redbarn Filled Bone – Peanut Butter

Dog foods are getting so fancy these days, but at $6.70, the bone’s a steal.


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Wednesday, February 29th, 2012 news No Comments

SanDisk makes 128-gigabit flash chip, crams three bits per cell, takes afternoon off


SanDisk has developed a chip that earns it membership in the exclusive 128-gigabit club. Not content with simply matching the Micron / Intel effort, SanDisk and its partner Toshiba claim their new memory uses 19- rather than 20-nanometer cells in the production process. Shrinking the size is one thing, but SanDisk’s new chips also use its X3 / three-bit technology. Most memory stores just two bits per cell; cramming in another means fewer cells, less silicon, more savings, cheaper memory, happier geeks. Analyst Jim Handy estimates that the price per gigabyte for the tri-bit breed of flash could be as low as 28 cents, compared to 35 for the Micron / Intel equivalent. Full details in the not-so-compact press release after the break.

Continue reading SanDisk makes 128-gigabit flash chip, crams three bits per cell, takes afternoon off

SanDisk makes 128-gigabit flash chip, crams three bits per cell, takes afternoon off originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 22 Feb 2012 19:37:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012 news No Comments

Rice University And OpenStax Announce First Open-Source Textbooks



When we think about the distribution industry being disrupted, we tend to think about music and movies, whose physical media and vast shipment infrastructure have been rendered mostly obsolete over the last decade. To a lesser extent, we hear about print, and the effect of e-readers and web consumption on books and magazines. No one is making the change particularly gracefully, and the same can be said of the textbook business, which does millions of dollars of business every year selling incredibly expensive items to students — who likely consider them anachronisms.

Rice University, which has been pushing alternative distribution mechanisms for scholarly publications for years, has announced a new initiative, by which they hope to publish free, high-quality textbooks in core subjects like physics and biology via a non-profit publisher called OpenStax College. It’s the polar opposite of Apple’s iBooks textbooks, which, while they too help drag this dusty industry into the present, amount more to a new sales vector for the publishers than competition.

Rice and OpenStax aren’t the first people to propose open-source or free textbooks. There are collections here and there, like Flat World Knowledge and Apple’s iTunes U — but they’re decidedly short on the type of books a freshman might have to buy for their year of survey courses: Biology 1, Physics 1, Sociology 1, Psychology 1. And 11 Learning has a similar idea of collaboration producing a book, but their creation model may not be economically feasible.

And of course there are the many companies that want to remove textbooks from the equation entirely. Setting up textbook platforms on new devices like Kno and Inkling, making an environment for meta-curricular activities and non-traditional learning like Khan Academy, or virtualizing the whole education experience, something with which many universities are tinkering.

But textbooks are still big business, and their utility in the education system is difficult to argue with right now. So OpenStax splits the difference: fueled by grant money from a number of private foundations (i.e. not government grants), they’re putting together full-on textbooks, peer-reviewed, professionally laid out, and all that. These textbooks will be provided for free in file form. But supplementary materials — quizzes, videos, presentations, and the like, presumably — cost money.

It would be petty to call this a bait and switch, since the bulk of the material is being provided for free. And a savvy professor or TA can scrape quite a few supplementary materials from the web already, thanks to those post-textbook services already mentioned. Providing the meat for free and the potatoes for a price is perfectly reasonable.

What remains to be seen is the quality of the textbooks. So far OpenStax has signed up “in the low tens” of colleged and universities to use the books. Institutions probably are waiting to see how the next year or so plays out: everything is in flux and to commit to one platform over another when the true costs and benefits are still unclear would be a bad move.

OpenStax’s first textbooks, for physics and sociology, will be coming in March, with others following later in the year. A strange time to make a debut, in a way, as the school year is well underway and many intro courses won’t be offered. But it will give time for the creaking machinery of academia to notice, acknowledge, examine, and judge the OpenStax offering. It may be that they can demonstrate their agility in fixing, improving, and expanding the content on the fly, which could either impress or terrify nodding faculty members who use the same text for a decade at a time.

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Wednesday, February 8th, 2012 news No Comments

Groupon Buys eCommerce Data Targeting Startup (And Angelpad Alumnus) Adku


Screen Shot 2012-02-06 at 1.22.09 PM

I love the smell of acquisitions in the morning! We’ve just heard that Groupon has acquired Adku, a stealth startup that uses big data in order to personalize the online shopping experience for people visiting eCommerce sites like eBay, Amazon and Zappos.

The company built their personalized targeting technology in three months, and have basically been in stealth since they launched at the Angelpad Demo day a year and a half ago. Adku is backed by Greylock Partners, Battery Ventures and True Ventures in addition to being an Angelpad startup.

Although CEO Ajit Varma and several members of the six person team are former Googlers, from what I’m hearing this wasn’t a talent acquisition or acqhire but a team + technology play  – with a price beyond $10 million. Varma would not disclose what the team will be working on when they get to Groupon.

While it’s not clear what the technology will be applied to, the acquisition makes sense on a lot of levels, especially because a personalized experience is where most of eCommerce is headed. Greylock VC David Thacker now runs product for Groupon, so that couldn’t have  hurt either.

Wrote Varma in a blog post, “We started talking to Groupon to bring our technology to more customers and quickly realized that we wanted to be a deeper part of a company that people love and is empowering merchants and customers in a way that’s never been done before.”

Stay tuned!

OK @adku (three former Google engineers) is a company that Techcrunch will slobber over. Dynamic content. Interesting company.—
Robert Scoble (@Scobleizer) November 11, 2010

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Monday, February 6th, 2012 news No Comments


Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV Whether you’re looking for a way to catch the big game this weekend when you’re away from your living room, or you just like to catch live television when you’re trapped somewhere without either cable or a television, you have plenty of options to help you catch a broadcast on your mobile phone or your computer. Here’s a look at five of the best ways to tune in when you’re on the go.

Earlier in the week we asked how you tune into live television that you’re subscribed to on your mobile device or when you’re not in front of the big screen. You responded, and now we’re back to take a look at the top five, based on your nominations.

Photo by IK’s World Trip.

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Orb/Orb Live

When you need to stream audio or video around the house, to your mobile device, or across the globe when you’re away from home, Orb can certainly deliver. We mentioned Orb several times, and it’s still a great way to stream your media from your computer to other devices in your home, or, if you’re willing to pay for an Orb appliance to connect to your cable box or HTPC, stream live TV or recorded TV to any other device on or off of your home network. Orb supports video up to 720p, and gives you the flexibility to watch live sports, prime time TV shows, or anything else that’s currently airing in your living room on your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop over Wi-Fi, 3G, or 4G when you can’t be in the living room to enjoy it. Pricing varies depending on whether you need hardware (between $79-$99 for the set-top box) to connect to your TV and home network, or you already have a TV tuner in your HTPC (the Orb Live and Orb Caster software are both free, but the mobile apps are $9.99.)

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV


Where other live TV streaming solutions offer complexity, Slingbox offers elegant simplicity. The Slingbox from Sling Media is a set-top box that connects to your TV and your cable or satellite receiver that makes it easy for you to effectively log in to your TV at home and watch live TV on your computer or mobile device as though you were sitting in front of your TV. You can change channels, browse TV listings, and even set your home DVR to record TV that you won’t make it home in time to watch. The Slingbox comes in two flavors, the Slingbox Solo and the Slingbox Pro-HD (which predictably supports HD and additional devices connected to it) and will set you back $179.99 to $299.99 (not including extended support options). You’ll also need to drop $29.99 for the SlingPlayer app to control your Slingbox from your smartphone or tablet, but the price buys you one of the most feature-rich and hassle-free live TV streaming solutions on the market.

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV


Elgato’s EyeTV line of TV tuners and live TV software were, for a long time, the only option for Mac users who were looking for an easy way to use their Macs as TV tuners or HTPCs. They’re not the only options anymore, but they’re certainly one of the best, and if you plug a TV source in to an EyeTV and then the EyeTV into your Mac via USB, you want watch live TV right there on your computer screen. Combine an EyeTV tuner or DVR with the EyeTV app on your mobile device, and you can stream live or pre-recorded TV on your mobile device when you’re out of the house. The EyeTV app will set you back $4.99 in the iTunes App Store for any iOS device, and the tuners vary in price from $99 to $199 depending on whether you need a DTV tuner, a DTV and HD tuner, a tuner with a DVR inside, or a Wi-Fi enabled tuner that can wirelessly stream TV to other devices in your home.

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Vulkano Flow Box

The Vulkano Flow may not be one of the most well known set-top tuners on the market, but it’s definitely one of the most powerful. For $99.99, the Vulkano Flow is an easy to install and set up device that connects to your cable or satellite tuner, supports HD video, and your home network to allow you to wirelessly watch live TV on your iOS or Android device on your home network or when you’re away via 3G or 4G. You get complete control over your home TV, so you can switch channels, browse a built-in programming guide (that you don’t have to pay extra to view), and even connect to other video inputs like a DVR or HTPC and control that as well. Vulkano offers desktop players for Mac OS and Windows (Free), and mobile players for iOS, Android, and BlackBerry ($12.99.)

Five Best Ways to Stream Live TV

Hauppage WinTV

Hauppage is an old name in TV tuners, and the company is still going strong by offering a range of products to HTPC enthusiasts who want to build their own devices to stream, save, and watch live and recorded television and to people who would rather buy a set-top box to handle the streaming for them. Those of you who nominated the WinTV mentioned that you can easily install a WinTV tuner in your HTPC and download the WinTV application on your HTPC and iOS or Android device to stream TV from your HTPC to your device. Pricing varies depending on which tuner you’d like, whether you want HD video, and whether you want an internal or USB tuner to install at all or you’d just prefer a set-top box like the Hauppage Broadway ($199), but the WinTV Extend app you’ll need to stream from your Tuner will set you back $9.95, and the mobile apps are free (although they only support Wi-Fi.)

Now that you’ve seen the top five, it’s time to put them to an all out vote for the winner.

What’s The Best Method to Stream Live TV?

Honorable mentions this week go out to streaming TV sites like, which many of you said you use to stream your own TV shows to the web so you can catch them when you’re away from home, and to The NFL’s website, which many of you noted is indeed streaming the big game on their own. Finally, since we mentioned that the Department of Homeland Security had shut down FirstRowSports‘ primary domain, many of you made note of the fact that the site is still up and running on a different URL.

Have a favorite method that didn’t get the nominations needed to make the top five? Want to make a case for it, or for your favorite of the nominees above? Sound off in the comments below.

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Sunday, February 5th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Kenko Tokina 400mm lens for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX hits Japan tomorrow


Looking for a zoom booster to flesh out your NEX or MFT kit? Then take a highly magnified gander at Kenko Tokina’s 400mm f/8 mirror lens, which now comes with both E- and T-mounts to complement the manufacturer’s existing SLR-compatible range. So long as you don’t mind the light-sapping aperture and manual focus, you’ll be able pick one up in Japan tomorrow for a price that should soon become apparent. Just bear in mind that other new MFT options from Tamron and Astrodesign are likely on their way too.

[Thanks, Tibor]

Kenko Tokina 400mm lens for Micro Four Thirds and Sony NEX hits Japan tomorrow originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 02 Feb 2012 12:54:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, February 2nd, 2012 news No Comments


The New BlackBerry Ad Campaign Is Proof RIM Has Entirely Lost ItSay hello to The Bold Team. Sadly, this animated foursome is RIM’s attempt to capture the youth market. They urge the younger generation to “Be Bold”. Something tells me it won’t work.

This pink and purple mess looks a bit like an advertising executive just vomited his late-night cocktail onto a page and presented it to RIM. “That’ll do,” he probably thought. “They’re shafted anyway.”

The Bold Team are “bravely stepping out of 2011 and into 2012 filled with unlimited possibilities”. If you care to know more about RIM’s answer to the Power Rangers, there are four of them. You want a quick run through their biographies? Sure, there’s:

GoGo Girl, The Achiever: “Saving the day with a brilliant strategy”
Justin Steele, The Advocate: “Always ready to stick up for his friends”
Trudy Foreal, The Authentic: “Not afraid to call it as she sees it”.
Max Stone, The Adventurer: “Able to jump out of a plane…”

Presumably Max Stone is inspired by the RIM employees who got drunk on that plane.

A company which is shedding customers quicker than the Costa Concordia lost passengers, seeing its stock price fall week-on-week, and drafting in replacement CEOs, you’d expect to put some effort into advertising. Obviously not. RIM is completely out of touch. [Mobile Syrup via Pocket Lint]

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Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments


We all read reviews and check star ratings on Amazon before we buy stuff. We’ve already seen that companies sometimes write reviews themselves, and they’re easy to spot by the way they’re written. But there’s a new trend among some less trustworthy Amazon sellers: bribing customers to write favorable reviews.

Accorrding to a report by the New York Times a compnay called VIP Deals has been offering its customers a complete refund on their purchase — while still allowing them to keep the item — in return for a review.

The product in question is a Vipertek brand premium slim black leather case for the Kindle Fire — a fairly lucrative market given how many Kindles were sold over the holidays. VIP Deals have been selling the case for under $10 plus shipping (the official list price was $59.99). The New York Times explains what customers experienced:

When the package arrived it included a letter extending an invitation “to write a product review for the Amazon community.”

“In return for writing the review, we will refund your order so you will have received the product for free,” it said.

While the letter did not specifically demand a five-star review, it broadly hinted. “We strive to earn 100 percent perfect ‘FIVE-STAR’ scores from you!” it said.

Apparently VIP deals has no web site and uses a mailbox drop in suburban Los Angeles as a return address, and last week had received 4,945 reviews on Amazon for a nearly perfect 4.9 rating out of five. Since, Amazon has removed the product page.

Speaking to the New York Times, Anne Marie Logan, a Georgia pharmacist, said: “I was like, ‘Is this for real?’ ” she said. “But they credited my account. You think it’s unethical?” Just a bit, Anne. Just a bit. [New York Times; Image: MikeBlogs]

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Friday, January 27th, 2012 Uncategorized No Comments

Target Realizes There Are Only Two Ways To Compete With The Internet (TGT)



Target is sick and tired of customers who browse its stores and then go and buy products for cheaper prices from online retailers.

To reduce so-called “showrooming,” Target has asked its vendors to adopt one of two practices, according to the WSJ:

Last week, in an urgent letter to vendors, the Minneapolis-based chain suggested that suppliers create special products that would set it apart from competitors and shield it from the price comparisons that have become so easy for shoppers to perform on their computers and smartphones.

Where special products aren’t possible, Target asked the suppliers to help it match rivals’ prices. It also said it might create a subscription service that would give shoppers a discount on regularly purchased merchandise.

Target’s troubles with showrooming are shared by brick and mortar stores everywhere. Unfortunately small retailers may not have the clout to demand special products (see: Missoni) or help in price matching — and price matching without support from the supplier can be a losing proposition.

Don’t miss: See how big retails stores are spread across America >

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Monday, January 23rd, 2012 news No Comments

ZTE pays Microsoft around $27 for each Windows Phone made


How much does it cost to license Microsoft’s latest and greatest mobile OS? A fair bit it seems. While numbers have been bandied around before, this is the first time a per-handset figure was to an internal employee — this time, the portfolio manager for ZTE UK, no less. Pegged at $27 per ZTE smartphone, TrustedReviews managed to get those licensing beans spilled at the glitzy London launch of the company’s first Windows Phone, the ZTE Tania. The fee flies in the face of open-source Android, which requires no price to install on handsets. Microsoft, however, is still keeping an eye on its Google rival, collecting patent licensing fees from several major phone manufacturers. ZTE hasn’t yet commented on the figure.

ZTE pays Microsoft around $27 for each Windows Phone made originally appeared on Engadget on Thu, 19 Jan 2012 19:23:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, January 19th, 2012 news No Comments

Dr. Augustine Fou is Digital Consigliere to marketing executives, advising them on digital strategy and Unified Marketing(tm). Dr Fou has over 17 years of in-the-trenches, hands-on experience, which enables him to provide objective, in-depth assessments of their current marketing programs and recommendations for improving business impact and ROI using digital insights.

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