Posts tagged “amazon”.

The case of the 50mm f/1.8 price shuffle

February 11th, 2011

It’s a strange thing to try and wrangle the perfect prize for something you’re after on

With my new camera, I keep hearing that a prime lens is the way to go. Easy, no fuss, all about framing – stick on a prime lens, forget about zooming, and start taking pictures. For my needs, it’s hard to argue with Canon’s “nifty fifty” 50mm f/1.8 lens, the cheapest lens they offer at about $100.

One hundred dollars is not a big deal. But is $125? Or $119? Depending on what time of day or day of the week you check the nifty fifty’s listing on Amazon, you could pay any one of those prices.

50mm picture

My target price was $99, as seen above. This, combined with a gift card I received over Christmas, would put the 50mm in a very affordable range – especially for a rookie like me.

So I waited. And then…

50mm pic

Not more than a week later, the price jumps 20% to $120.

“Well,” I think to myself. “No sense in buying it for that price, even with my gift card.”

So I check Canon’s own refurbished lens listings to see if I could save any money there. The 50mm is prices very competitely at $80, which – when you combine my gift card and the new, higher price – makes it an appealing option. Sure, the lense is refurbished, but lenses don’t wear out like cameras do.

But by the time you figure in shipping, Canon’s refurbished price isn’t as much of a savings over the price. So I recheck Amazon’s listing.

50mm pic3

And what do you know – a $5 drop in price. So within a few days, the price for a Canon 50mm cheap-o lense rises and falls like a bouncy ball: unpredictable, wacky, and hard to catch it at the right time. Some Amazon users have experienced this price switch even after they add something to their cart. Amazon confirms this behavior as standard practice:

Items in your Shopping Cart will always reflect the most recent price displayed on the item’s product detail page. This price may differ from the price shown for the item when you first placed it in your cart. Placing an item in your cart doesn’t reserve the price shown at that time. It is also possible that an item’s price may decrease between the time you place it in your cart and the time you purchase it.

But they offer little in the way of explaining these ghost prices.

Finally, about a week ago, I watched the 50mm price rise and fall for an entire day until it hit $99 again, and then quickly hit the “Add to Cart” button. Might as well catch it while I can, I figured, and not be a slave to market conditions any more.

But what are those marketing conditions? And what logic do they follow?

50mm grey market

Complicating things was this “grey market” model of the same lens, on sale for $108. What was this thing doing in the store? What is its function?

The best I can put together, and from my past experiences with buying from Amazon (side note: I always use bloggers’ affiliate link, and I recommend that you do, too, to help out your favorite writers), it has something to do with using different suppliers from around the country. If one supplier runs out of, say, my 50mm lens, Amazon switches gears to another supplier who might charge a higher price.

“Supply and demand, you dummy,” I thought to myself. “This is straight economics.”

Reading Amazon’s own statement on shipping gives some clues:

Retailers like Amazon have the legal right to set their own prices independently, but some manufacturers place restrictions on how those prices may be communicated. Because our price on this item is lower than the manufacturer’s “minimum advertised price,” the manufacturer does not allow us to show you our price until you take further action, such as placing the item in your shopping cart, or in some cases, proceeding to the final checkout stage. The steps required depend on the details of the manufacturer’s minimum advertised price policy. Taking these steps allows Amazon to show you our price consistent with our goal of always offering you the lowest possible prices on the widest selection of products.

Right. So it’s all a shell game of sorts.

For me, it’s standard practice to him and haw over an item for weeks before actually purchasing the thing. Somehow, looking at an item over and over again helps me make consumer decisions. But it’s because of this behavior that I noticed Amazon’s goofy pricing switcheroo.

Knowing this, my neurosis is bound to get worse. If I’m never sure the price I’m paying is the lowest price possible, what sense can be applied to the world around me? It’s frightening in the deepest, most horrifyingly existential way.

Perhaps the point, in the end, is that I got the lens at the lowest price, I was able to take advantage of the my Amazon gift card, and I’ve been very satisfied with the results.

But now there’s an edge to my Amazon shopping that wasn’t there before. Am I getting the best price? Better check later…

Newton Spirits

May 3rd, 2009


Splorp (Grant Hutchinson) shares his copy of Newton Spirits on Flickr:

According to mujitra, this is “the bible for Japanese newton owner.” Flipping through the book, you can understand why. Published by NTT in 1997, Newton Spirits is an illustrated how to guide, product history, technology platform reference, and overview of all things Newton — including software, hardware, screenshots, prototypes, and specifically the use of the Newton in Japan.

Japan’s has it available, though you have to wade through the Japenese to order your own.

Morgan at Makkintosshu grabbed his own copy recently. So jealous.

[Photo by Splorp, and used with permission under Creative Commons license.]

Retro Kindle: eBooks on Newton

June 26th, 2008

Newton was the original eBook reader

Depending on who you ask,’s Kindle is a either a hit or a waste of electronics. The free web and book browsing, where you can find it, is a good thing. The outrageously-priced electronic books, however, are not good. And some think the Kindle won’t actually make people read more books, but simply attract those already-book-readers that have been dying to clear some shelf space. At most, the Kindle is a handy “information device.”

For those who aren’t willing to shell out $399 for a eBook reader, you can rely on your Newton to do the same darned thing – for free.

You see, before there was e-ink or Wikipedia, there was the Newton eBook. Every Newton released has the ability to read an eBook: a Unicode-based, read-only electronic document that supports tables of contents, some images, and internal links.

Downloading Newton eBooks is as easy as downloading a “.pkg” file from a site that provides eBooks, like Newton’s Library or Matt Howe recently offered the Newtontalk list a free copy of Robert’s Rules of Order for anyone who asked. Even the venerable has a list of available books.

Applications like Newton Press allow you to make eBooks and package them as “.pkg” files for download (here’s a handy tip site).

Now you don’t even need a Newton MessagePad to read your eBooks. Newton’s Library has provided a Firefox extension that allows you to read them on your browser. The effect is pretty cool:

Newton\'s Library Firefox eBook reader

The Firefox extension lets you read Newton eBooks in a little window, and converts the “.pkg” files to readable text.

The Kindle has the ability to seek and find free eBooks as well, as Merlin Mann over at points out (after he did so on the terrific podcast, MacBreak Weekly). Plus Project Gutenberg is a worthy project that is putting its library of 100,000 eBooks (HTML or plain text) into the hands of readers. All they ask is for a donation.

So if you’re looking to dive into the world of eBooks, you have options. Yes, you can opt for the Kindle – a modern, capable book reader that has a steep up-front cost but freebie options available. But this is Newton Poetry, and for more of a “project” or unique feel to your eBook reading experience that’s sure to turn heads, opt for the MessagePad version.

Cisco / Linksys iPhone putts along.

December 15th, 2007

Today at work we had a Santa visit thing, and a dad whips out an iPhone to take a picture of his daughter. It got me thinking: “What ever happened to that OTHER iPhone?”

Turns out it’s still being sold by Linksys, who got bought out by Cisco – and for a pretty decent price (it’s even on sale at

What is that other iPhone? Back when Apple was announcing their iPhone, Cisco said they had owned the rights to the name since 1996, and were planning on releasing their Skype-based model back in January. Then they sued Apple for trademark infringement, and the two agreed they could both use the iPhone name as long as they didn’t step on each other’s lawn (but I’m sure some of Steve Jobs’s excellent negotiation skills have something to do with it).

Cisco’s iPhone sounds like a pretty cool deal: hook up with Skype over wifi without needing to hook up to a computer. It’s not as fancy as the Apple iPhone – no music or touchscreen or PDA-like options – but it was never meant to be a direct competitor.

I searched around Amazon to see what actual buyers were saying about it, and it was a mixed bag. Some complained about dropping wifi connections and missing calls, especially with Vista, while other glowed about the “other” iPhone:

We have a lot of family all over the world, and this phone frees us up completely from our computer. With WiFi, we can get all our Skype calls anywhere in our home at any time. The only drawback is the battery life, which lets the phone last only 2 days max between charges. Otherwise, we operate it virtually the same as any cell phone…Without a doubt, the Skype phone has allowed us to keep in touch with people all over the world for virtually free. All our calls are free, and the sound quality is excellent.

So there you have it. Linksys/Cisco keeps cranking them out, and Skype users keep calling grandma in Poland.

And guess what? There’s yet a third iPhone out – this one by e-blue. Only it’s spelled “i-Phone.” See that dash? That stands for originality.

Newton wanna-be, via

November 19th, 2007

Turns out the playa-hatas over at Amazon have launched an e-book reader, named “Kindle.”

Only $399 (the price of an iPhone), high-res (“just like real paper!”), no syncing required, cheaper prices for books ($9.99), no service plans to worry about – the thing seems like a mixed blessing.

The no-syncing part is really interesting, since you don’t need to be at home with your computer to buy a book – kind of like what Apple is doing with the iPod Touch. That’s cool. So is the fact that you don’t have to carry around a shit-ton of books to read them – just this…thing.

So, again, the Newton delivers first. PDAs, portable computers, and now eBooks.

Fake Steve Jobs has an interesting take:

I know what you’re thinking. Wouldn’t it be just kick-ass super duper if, say, Apple came along and finally delivered the ultimate product in this category? Because you just know if we did it the thing would look gorgeous and have a beautiful feature set and would just kick everyone’s ass.

And there’s already a comparison with the iPhone.

But seriously, lots of luck Amazon. You don’t have a beautiful machine, but any way to promote reading is a good thing.