Posts tagged with ‘permission marketing

Seth Godin, Apple, Rejection, and Permission Marketing

Seth Godin’s book, Stop Stealing Dreams, was recently rejected by Apple for sale in the iBookstore:

I just found out that Apple is rejecting my new manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams and won’t carry it in their store because inside the manifesto are links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography.

Quoting here from their note to me, rejecting the book: “Multiple links to Amazon store. IE page 35, David Weinberger link.”

A bibliography at the end of Godin’s book links directly to several books on Amazon. Amazon, in turn, competes with Apple in the ebook market. Apple takes a look at Godin’s links and says no dice. 

It’s worth noting, I think, that Godin partners (or at least used to partner) with Amazon on The Domino Project, a publishing platform. 

John Gruber suggests that Godin’s iBooks version could simply link to Apple’s iBookstore, instead of linking away to Amazon.

I’d second that suggestion, not as a way to appease Apple (assuming, of course, that it would), but because it seems like the common sense, consumer-friendly option. I’ve already made the decision to buy an iBook — don’t be cute and link me away to Amazon for follow-up purchases. 

Out of curiosity, I checked the price and availability of the books Godin links to, both on Amazon and on the iBookstore:

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow | Amazon: $15.00 | Apple: $12.99
  2. Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling | Amazon: $11.41 | Apple:$11.99
  3. Free Range Learning: How Homeschooling Changes Everything | Amazon: $16.30 | Apple: $8.99
  4. Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track | Amazon: $25.54 | Apple: $23.99
  5. Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education | Amazon: $9.95 | Apple: $2.99
  6. Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About Colleges | Amazon: $10.88 | Apple: $12.99
  7. Horace Mann’s Troubling Legacy: The Education of Democratic Citizens | Amazon: $28.59 | Apple: NOT AVAILABLE
  8. The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It | Amazon: $14.94 | Apple:$12.99
  9. Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength | Amazon: $16.06 | Apple: $14.99
  10. DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education | Amazon: $9.90 | Apple: NOT AVAILABLE 
  11. Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? | Amazon: $11.85 | Apple: $9.99
  12. Civilization: The West and the Rest | Amazon: $21.50 | Apple: $16.99
  13. Too Big to Know: Rethinking Knowledge Now That the Facts Aren’t the Facts, Experts Are Everywhere, and the Smartest Person in the Room Is the Room |  Amazon: $17.15 | Apple: $12.99
  14. Born to Rise: A Story of Children and Teachers Reaching Their Highest Potential (Preorder) | Amazon: $16.97 | Apple: $12.99

The Amazon links I’ve used come from a freely-available HTML version of Godin’s book. I don’t know if the version Godin submitted to Apple contains different links or different versions of the same links, though I think the answer to that may be an important consideration.

Out of fourteen books, all but two can be purchased through Apple’s iBookstore. Of those twelve, ten are cheaper (in some cases, a lot cheaper) to buy from the iBookstore than they would be by following Godin’s existing Amazon links.

Clearly, a hypothetical customer who purchases Stop Stealing Dreams from the iBookstore 1) prefers (or at least enjoys) ebooks and 2) has chosen Apple’s offering over utilizing the freely available Kindle app. Common sense, then, says you cater to that customer’s established preference, right?

My first thought was to investigate whether or not Godin was using Amazon affiliate links, which would at least provide a monetary explanation for his desire to carry over those links. (Apple would definitely frown on that, though.)

As it turns out, he’s not (or at least he doesn’t appear to be) but that doesn’t mean he’s using standard Amazon links:

According to the internet, permission marketing is a term that was coined by Godin in the late 90s. Fast Company published a lengthy article on the subject in 1998: 

Seth Godin’s company, Yoyodyne Entertainment, is all about fun and games. But its mission is serious business. Godin and his colleagues are working to persuade some of the most powerful companies in the world to reinvent how they relate to their customers. His argument is as stark as it is radical: Advertising just doesn’t work as well as it used to - in part because there’s so much of it, in part because people have learned to ignore it, in part because the rise of the Net means that companies can go beyond it. “We are entering an era,” Godin declares, “that’s going to change the way almost everything is marketed to almost everybody.”


The new model, he argues, is built around permission. The challenge for marketers is to persuade consumers to volunteer attention - to “raise their hands” (one of Godin’s favorite phrases) - to agree to learn more about a company and its products. “Permission marketing turns strangers into friends and friends into loyal customers,” he says. “It’s not just about entertainment - it’s about education.”


I honestly don’t know what it means, if it means anything at all, that “permissionmarket” appears in Godin’s Amazon links and, as I mention above, I don’t know if it appears in the links that were included with the version of Stop Stealing Dreams that Apple ultimately rejected.

I do know that Apple, citing privacy concerns, is notoriously picky about letting 3rd parties use its platforms as a vehicle for collecting customer data. As an example, Apple doesn’t allow magazine publishers access to valuable customer data without explicit consent from the customer.

For what it’s worth, the above link — without the permissionmarket bit — seems to work just fine:

More from Godin:

And there’s the conflict. We’re heading to a world where there are just a handful of influential bookstores (Amazon, Apple, Nook…) and one by one, the principles of open access are disappearing. Apple, apparently, won’t carry an ebook that contains a link to buy a hardcover book from Amazon.

I have a lot of respect for what Seth Godin has to say, and I think the Domino Project remains a laudable and important undertaking.

With that said, Godin’s idealism (as it relates to this rejection) is a bit hard to swallow given his past connection to Amazon and the fact that he seems to exclusively favor Amazon links whenever he links his readers away to purchases. I’d be more inclined to sympathize with his position if he’d taken the time to provide links to a broader content ecosystem, when possible, especially given that it wouldn’t be particularly difficult to do so. (It took me about 20 minutes to compile the above iBookstore and Amazon links.)

From a customer service standpoint, it just doesn’t make much sense to link me away to Amazon when I’ve already opted to patronize Apple’s iBookstore. That is, unless permission marketing plays some role in Godin’s decision to do so?

Given that I’ve confessed a certain level of ignorance on the subject, I’ll update if and when I learn more.