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Friday, 13 July 2012


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Hmmm, the Petroski book sounds interesting but gets seriously mixed reviews on Amazon. Apparently some people absolutely hate his writing style. Hmmm, to take a chance on it or not...

I'm also tasking myself with resisting getting the 25mm f1.4 for m4/3. It would go nicely with the E-M5. But then so would a grip, a bag, a wrist strap, a hood for the kit lens, and so on. Somehow having such a long list makes me feel better about not getting anything on it.

You can read pages 1-6 of the book right on the Amazon page, which should give you an idea of his writing style. Just click on the image of the book or on the line under it that says "Search inside this book." A new window will come up. Then on the left there will be a list of "Book Sections." Just go to "First Pages." You can also just scroll down from the image of the cover that appears in the window.

It's dense, and erudite, and tough going at times--in some of his books he goes into almost fanatical levels of detail. (How else do you write a whole book about the pencil?)

Rewarding, though. Before I read "The Book on the Bookshelf," I had NO IDEA how thoroughly such an apparently simple topic could be researched, or how much history there was behind such a simple system.


As an additional indication of the variety of items for which TOP can get a commission from Amazon, the July report should also show a purchase of 4 smoke alarms that were on sale earlier this month :-)

With best wishes,
- Tom -

Mike, can you clarify one more thing:

I maintain a wish list at B&H and Amazon. If I go to either site from your link then put items that are already in my wish list in my cart and purchase them do you still get some cash?


You might also make mention that if folks put something on their Amazon wish list when they go to purchase it they have link back to the product page and add it to their cart in order for TOP to get credit. Buying directly from the wish list doesn't credit TOP with the sale. Or did I get that wrong?



If you put a link to Amazon Japan, I will use it all of the time. I like your site and want to support you.

Paul Crouse
Kyoto, Japan


Apologies: I came incredibly close to buying a GX1 yesterday. In fact, I ordered it and then cancelled. But I did pick up the Steve Simon book, at least.

I just received my 25 1.4 two days ago from Adorama after waiting a couple of months for B&H to fill the backorder. That means I paid $30 more and missed a chance to support TOP. AARGH! There is no justice when Friday falls on such an unlucky day (though I would recommend you not resist unless you have a 20 1.7)

Do not resist the 25mm f/1.4. Just don't.

@ Andre

Hmmm, the Petroski book sounds interesting but gets seriously mixed reviews on Amazon.

Interesting. Reading your comment made me realize I didn't even think to look at the reviews before buying it.

I didn't look because Mike had praised the author, and the recommendation of somebody who I know (a little) and whose judgment I respect is worth more to me than 10,000 anonymous Internet reviews. I just clicked straight through and paid without thinking twice.

Not a criticism of anyone who is guided, to whatever extent, by those reviews; just an observation about my own weighting criteria.

EVERY time I go to Amazon or B&H, I get there thru TOP; enjoy the pennies, Mike. Until I added one DPR forum recently, yours was the only foto-related site on my panel of faves.

I'm one of those folks who can't get into Henry Petroski's writing style. The information is terrific; But reading it, to me, is like listening to a boring monotone teacher describe something.

I actually ordered a different book based on the great description, and only realized upon delivery that it was another Petroski. That was a couple of years ago; I haven't read it yet.

I think you need a new business model. These big things are not (or didn't used to be) annuity purchases. You need some sort of consumable that gets used up whenever you make a picture, something cheap but regularly bought. something like film, perhaps?

I have been thinking the last couple of days about the limited relationship I enjoy with the owner of my local camera shop. Because he sells digital cameras I have no need to visit as I already have one. Therefore, our relationship has no opportunity to develop and I have little reason for loyalty. If he sold film on a regular basis and I needed film for photography, there is a much better basis for a long term relationship.

I understand that the camera manufacturers have been wildly successful at turning camera purchase into an annuity business, but the frequency isn't high enough and the quality is now plenty good enough that economic hardship can cease their business altogether, and certainly that of the smaller (and some larger) outlets.

Pleased you made some cash:)


This is fascinating - I'm a complete novice when it comes to web kickbacks for referring blogs (i.e. TOP), and from Mike's text, I'm going to be very pleased to buy anything I may need via Amazon.co.uk by starting the process with a visit to TOP. Think of it as a "Community Charge" for the privilege of being part of the TOP Global Village.

But, how does it work? In your example above, TOP nets $205.40 from 1,848 click throughs, of whom 26 actually buy.

Would TOP still gain $205.40 if there were only 26 click throughs, of whom 100% bought? If so, I'm setting up my own blog and Amazon affiliation and using another computer to click through lots of times to get what I want for free. But that sounds too easy and Amazon would not allow that anyway. If there were 18,480 click throughs and still only 26 bought, do you still receive $205.40, or with an extra zero on the click throughs, do you gain $2054.00? In other words, is the $205.40 related to the total number of click throughs, or the total number of sales?

Mike, Keep the book recommendations coming-- TOP is becoming my best source of book titles to read next. I don't think I would ever have stumbled across The Fortunate Fall http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/05/ot-five-books-that-will-drive-you-to-think.html or Touching the Void http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2012/06/random-excellence-ralf-dujmovits.html without reading this site. I will add To Forgive Design: Understanding Failure; as a practising engineer I have read and enjoyed several of his books.

Great to see Henry Petroski showcased again at TOP.
He makes the thrill of engineering and technology — old industrial technology, often — feel more vibrant than any fiction.

"It is failure that brings improvement."
A good one, but it has me wondering. How will the obvious and large-scale failure of Homo sapiens be improved upon?

Buying through TOP links does not increase the price of the item(s) that you buy. We pay the same either way, so why not reward Mike for his work?

Presumably, though, only amazon.com and not, unfortunately, amazon.co.uk?

Mike, do you get a percentage if we buy from Amazon sellers (as opposed to Amazon itself), as long as we go to Amazon via your link?

That's me if there's an X Pro-1 on your sales sheet.

Don't resist the 25/1.4! It's the perfect lens (for Micro 4/3). I'm just assuming you won't be disappointed, of course.


In the "About Us" (TOP's Masthead) you mention Adorama. Yet I can't find any direct link to them here. Are you still an Adorama affiliate? Adorama though is an Amazon seller.

Do you get a commission for (a) Amazon gift cards bought through TOP's links? (b) items paid for by a gift card (or gift card balance) which may or may have not been bought through TOP's Amazon link in a previous visit?

If I access my Amazon/BH wish list from your links and bought them on the same visit do you get your cut (even if said items in my wish list were placed there in prior visits)?

James B -

"Would TOP still gain $205.40 if there were only 26 click throughs, of whom 100% bought? If so, I'm setting up my own blog and Amazon affiliation and using another computer to click through lots of times to get what I want for free."

That doesn't seem to make sense. The answer to the question is "yes" I believe. But that doesn't mean setting up your own site would garner you anything. You'd have to spend the same amount those 26 buyers did to get your $205.40.

I only get a percentage of sales. Clicks don't count. I only mentioned it because the software keeps track of it.


I'm an Amazon associate myself, with MUCH lower returns (many fewer readers). I'm not absolutely sure there isn't another program than the one I'm in for high-volume sites.

That said -- the version of the program I'm in, and the only version that existed when I signed up (ages ago), pays me only for things purchased through the referrals, NOT for clicks or views.

This might have occurred to you, Mike...

Maybe it's time you updated the "business plan" section of your "About Us" page like you did the "Contact" page? Say, with a FAQ on how to support TOP through your links, among others. Then you (or us) can point a "newbie" to that page when he/she asks an "old" question that has already been answered. (I'm a newbie myself.)

And may I suggest that the FAQ be kept open (like a comment box) so it can be updated each time a new question comes up.

Maybe you can also keep the "About Us" comment box open like you did for a time with your "Publisher's Statement"? With 35K intelligent readers, who knows one of us might come up with a business plan tweak from time to time to keep TOP chugging along forever.

Are you still doing the Book Depository? You used to have some links for that too.

Refurb offers always puzzle me. First of all where do they all come from? How do Nikon (or whatever manufacturer is offering refurbs) get back so many relatively new cameras? How do they refurb them; wipe them with a microfibre cloth or take each one apart, measure and test each piece and replace those that aren't perfect or something in between? The cost of the latter must be more than making the original item. Doesn't it also hit sales of new items too.
So my question is are these really refurbs or just excess inventory sold off cheaply.

Mike, oh why you don't make me happy to make you happy? I live between Italy and France, and I could use either Amazon.fr or Amazon.it (and I do). Really can't you get an affiliation there?

Some time ago, I added TOP links to Amazon etc to my favourites, and assumed that would take care of it. Right or wrong?

I will say I looked at this, having just bought my first 4/3 Olympus body, but Panasonic, listen! I refuse to buy while you restrict image stabilisation to lenses only. No way. Olympus in-body I/S works with all my legacy lenses including Zeiss Contax G and next week, postage from HK permitting, my RF Minolta 250mm f5.6 MD mirror lens!

Nope, I like Panasonic a LOT, but you have chosen the wrong path for me.

Why no Adorama link?

I was one of those who clicked through and ckecked the deal, but just out of curiosity. I live in Spain, so the potential guarantee issues and the added shpping cost plus custom tax would make it a no deal for me. Any chances of TOP striking a deal with Amazon Spain soon?

Hi Mike,

Sorry I'm a bit late with this comment - just catching up with a couple of weeks' worth of TOP posts after returning from holiday.

The Petroski book sounds interesting, and it brought to mind another book - it's one I read last year & that I highly recommend - Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz. See: http://www.amazon.com/Being-Wrong-Adventures-Margin-Error/dp/0061176052/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1343137073&sr=1-1&keywords=being+wrong

Much broader in scope, but very interesting...


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