retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Two interesting news notes that are eye-opening in terms of the cultural and technological shifts that are affecting us all ... even if we don’t know it.

• According to eWeek, says that it is selling more Kindle e-books than it is paperback books - 115 e-books for every 100 paperbacks. The news comes six months after Amazon said it was selling more e-books than it was hardcover books.

And here’s the kicker: eWeek also notes that “research firm Gartner estimates that e-reader sales will increase 68.3 percent in 2011, to more than 11 million units.”

Which means that considerable growth - not just in the Kindle, but in all of its competitors - remains.

• The other story is from the Wall Street Journal and seems almost unfathomable:

“The Internet is about to run out of new addresses, a milestone that is spurring Web giants like Facebook Inc. and Google Inc. to develop new versions of their sites and prompting carriers like AT&T Inc. and others to upgrade networks.

“This week, the organization that oversees Internet addresses is expected to dole out its last batch of existing Internet protocol addresses, a step akin to telephone companies running out of numbers to give customers.”

The Journal writes that “Internet protocol addresses are numerical labels that direct online traffic to the right location, similar to the way a letter makes its way through the postal system. Such routing is generally invisible to users—when they type in, for instance, they are actually connected to a computer located at the numerical address It is those numbers that are in dwindling supply.

“While there is a new Internet addressing system ready to go that greatly expands the number of addresses, it isn't compatible with the existing system. So in June, Google, Facebook, Yahoo Inc. and others will switch over to the new addresses for one day in the first wide-scale test of the new network, dubbed IP version six, or IPv6.”

A permanent shift to the new network, the Journal reports, which is akin to the move to 10-digit telephone numbers, “is necessary because of a quirk in the way the Internet is designed. The Web is made up of networking equipment like routers and servers that decode electronic signals using an addressing system developed more than 30 years ago.”

It is not as if the web is in danger of collapsing from its own weight ... but it is a reflection of precisely how enormous the internet - which many of us take for granted - has become, and how fast.

These stories paint an unmistakable picture of a cultural and technological shift with profound implications for how consumers shop, how people sell, and the very nature of ongoing communications between buyers and sellers. And if you’re not paying attention, trying to figure out how to keep up, then you really are operating with your eyes closed.
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