The Wonderful World of Widgets

Cogs_2To paraphrase the famous line from The Graduate, "I've got one word for you: Widgets!"  If you need a nice reminder that widgets are the future, particularly in the world of content, read this article in this morning's USA Today.

Several book-oriented widgets currently exist but we're only scratching the surface of what can be done with this technology.  I use LibraryThing's widget on my blog.  If you hover your mouse over one of the covers in the left panel you'll find a link to that book on Amazon.  That's nice, but how about adding content access?  Wouldn't it be cool to add some functionality and have that same widget cycle through a few excerpts from the book?  Just hover over it and a pop-up appears showing a few sentences.  Want more?  Click on a set of horizontal arrows that will take you through all the excerpts the publisher wants to make available.

That's still pretty rudimentary.  How about making it more interactive and customizable?  Let's say I'm reading one of those books on a Kindle.  Shouldn't I be able to highlight a passage and have it added to the content I'm able to show via my widget?  Yes, the publisher would probably want to cap the amount of content someone could use for customized excerpts...or would they?

Better yet, let's say I'm reading that same book on my Kindle and I come across a paragraph I want to send to a friend.  With a few quick clicks I select the excerpt and send it off to them along with a note saying, "I immediately thought of you when I read this."  The excerpt shows up in your friend's e-mail in-box along with a cover image and link to buy the book.  Is there any better advertising than that?!

Take that last example a step further.  Let's say both of you are using the iRead app on Facebook.  One future option would be to enable your friends to post book excerpts and comments on Facebook.  So in the previous example, there would be a box you could check to automatically have this book, the excerpt and your comment posted on their Facebook page.

As the USA Today article notes, "there's no limit to what widgets can do."

Bookwrap Central

Bookwrap_2Here's a cool little service I stumbled upon this evening (thanks to the Big Bad Book Blog).  Bookwrap Central features video clips of authors talking about their book, what's unique about it, what inspired them, etc.

I like the idea but I have a hard time envisioning success as a standalone service.  If I'm looking to buy a book online I go right to the vendor (e.g., Amazon, B&N, etc.)  No matter how compelling the video content might be I'd almost never think to visit Bookwrap first.  And while you can buy directly off the Bookwrap site, they'll probably never have the breadth and depth of Amazon, for example.

Wouldn't this be a cool new feature for the online bookseller sites though?  I'd almost always click on a video or two as I'm making a purchase decision on an Amazon page, for example.  If you're annoyed by that sort of thing you would simply avoid clicking on the play button, but I'd get a lot of use out of it.

Widgets represent another excellent opportunity for this service.  I use the LibraryThing widget on my blog but the covers are fairly static objects on the screen.  I'd love to see LibraryThing integrate a video feature like this so that you could click on one of those covers and a small video screen would pop up with the author telling the story behind the book.

Amazon Widgets: What's Missing?

Amazon_blackI was glad to see that Amazon recently announced a collection of widgets that are ready for use on your blog or website.  The list includes some very useful tools and much of the functionality you'd expect from an Amazon widget.  I had one idea in mind and was all ready to install an Amazon widget to implement it on my blog.  The problem is it doesn't exist, at least not yet.

I was hoping Amazon would offer a widget that would display a list of 5 or 6 of the books I've reviewed on their site.  Covers would be displayed and as you hover over each one with your mouse a small pop-up window would appear and show the full text of my review.  No go.  This sort of widget wouldn't be that hard to create but I have no idea whether Amazon plans to offer one with this functionality.  I used their "What do you think?" link at the bottom of their widget page to suggest the idea.  I'll let you know what I hear back...

P.S. -- You could use the same widget to do some other cool things too.  For example, let's say you find another regular Amazon reviewer who you've grown to trust.  Why not feature their recommendations on your blog/website using the same widget?

Newspaper Widgets

Newspaper_stackNewspapers continue to see subscriber and advertising bases shrink but some are experimenting with news content distribution models.  This AP story was picked up by my local paper (The Indianapolis Star) today and is evidence that The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post are just three examples of papers that "get it" when it comes to widgets.

A critic could argue that there's no clear way to monetize this sort of model.  The optimist in me sees that these papers aren't content to sit on the sidelines and watch as their brands become even more marginalized.  So what if they can't make money right away?  As the article notes, at least they're getting their content in front of a much younger crowd, often the audience segment they're least likely to reach in print.

The irony in all this is that my local paper runs the story but offers no widgets for their own content distribution.  I'd like to feature a widget from The Indianapolis Star to give my blog a bit of a local feel to it but there are none to choose from.  OK, I'll bite...  I'm going to leave a comment about this on the Star's website to see if they respond...

edgeio's Paid Content Widget

EdgeioI'm always looking for new developments in the world of widgets.  I use a few on my own blog and I enjoy tinkering with ones I come across on other blogs.

edgeio is a company I hadn't heard of before, but this post about them on got my attention.  In a nutshell, edgeio is offering a widget that anyone can use to monetize their content.  The content can be straight text, downloadable files or streaming media.  The beauty is that you can leverage all the blogs and other websites that feature your widget. What's in it for those bloggers and website owners?  The edgeio widget includes an affiliate program so that bloggers and website owners can share in the revenue generated by the widget.  You'll find more details in this edgeio blog post.  Very cool.