In “Reading List,” we ask ecommerce professionals to name some of their favorite recent books and blogs and tell us why they read them. For this installment, we corresponded with Steven Nash of Open Study College, a Birmingham, U.K.-based provider of self-directed, home-study courses.
Nash’s Top 5 Books
Purple Cow by Seth Godin
My favorite of Seth’s books and one I tend to give as a gift with such regularity that I am tempted to buy in bulk. Easy to read in short bursts on your way to work, it’s loaded with inspiring examples of businesses that excel by being exceptional.
Confessions Of An Advertising Man by David Ogilvy
First published in 1963 and over 1,000,000 copies sold. It’s not hard to see why. Although Ogilvy’s ‘long copy’ style of advertising is long out of fashion, there are a lot of lessons that can be learned for your next landing page. Ogilvy’s carefully crafted headlines, split tested copy, and insistence on the accountability of advertising with coupons are comparable to landing pages and measuring a user’s interest with free downloads today. This book has paid for itself many times over.
The Alastair Campbell Diaries: Volume One: Prelude to Power by Alastair Campbell
This book from Tony Blair’s former Director of Communications covers the rise of New Labour, but because it’s a diary rather than a carefully polished retrospective account, it contains details that might have been forgotten or left out. The bickering, clash of personalities, and landslide election win show how hard but worthwhile it can be to get talented people to put egos to one side and work together as a team.
iCon – Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business by Jeffrey S. Young and William L. Simon
This compelling biography paints a picture of a strong-willed and demanding leader who has learned from his mistakes during his first spell at Apple and from his failed NeXTSTEP computer venture. Jobs isn’t a fan of this though, he subsequently banned any books from it’s publisher from Apple retail stores.
The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz
Neuro Web Design by Susan M. Weinschenk (another worthwhile read) referenced a University study in which two separate stalls sold Jam. One offered only 6 varieties, the other had 24. The one offering only 6 varieties sold to 30% of those who tasted the jam, but only 3% of those who sampled from the larger selection bought some. An interesting read, which should give you some useful tips on how to improve your marketing, and how to live a less stressful life.
Nash’s Top 5 Blogs
Copywriter Alastaire Allday overhauled his website and adapted some of David Ogilvy’s techniques. He wrote a fascinating blog post about it and I immediately bookmarked his site.
Avinash didn’t open my eyes to the power of analytics; he did something more important. His first book showed me how to take a bewildering and intimidating array of tools, metrics and reports and focus on the ones that offered actionable insights. His blog is just as useful and is a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest changes to Google Analytics.
I run a lot of split tests and this blog is a great way of getting ideas. All businesses are different and it would be wrong to suggest that what works on one of the sites featured on this blog will definitely work for you, but it shows the scale of improvement you can achieve if you run regular A/B or multivariate tests and also provide ideas about what kind of tests you can perform.
One of my two favorite SEO related blogs — along with SEOmoz.
The web is changing constantly. I read Think Vitamin to keep an eye on the latest trends in web design, development and associated technologies. The contributors reads like a who’s who of all things web. A very useful resource.