Amazon released today its annual list of the “most well-read cities in America.” The ranking is established using the total sales of books, magazines and newspapers, both in print and in Kindle formats, since June 2012. The list works on a per-capita basis in cities that count more than 10,000 residents.
Just as last year, Alexandria in Virginia tops the list, followed by Knoxville, Tennessee. Knoxville was previously ranked at the 12th place, meaning it is the city that saw the biggest improvement in its ranking between 2012 and 2013. Books that fall in the Romance category, including worldwide literary sensation Fifty Shades of Grey, are most popular in Knoxville.
2011′s number one, and last year’s number two, Cambridge, Massachusetts, has fallen down to the fourth place this year. It is still the city in which business and investment books are most popular.
The most popular book sold in Alexandria was Gone Girl, followed by the Fifty Shades trilogy.
Here are the top 20 cities:
1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Knoxville, Tenn.
3. Miami, Fla.
4. Cambridge, Mass.
5. Orlando, Fla.
6. Ann Arbor, Mich.
7. Berkeley, Calif.
8. Cincinnati, Ohio
9. Columbia, S.C.
10. Pittsburgh, Penn.
11. St. Louis, Mo.
12. Salt Lake City, Utah
13. Seattle, Wash.
14. Vancouver, Wash.
15. Gainesville, Fla.
16. Atlanta, Ga.
17. Dayton, Ohio
18. Richmond, Va.
19. Clearwater, Fla.
20. Tallahassee, Fla.
Image credit: Thinkstock
After serving two markets in California, ride-sharing startup Lyft is getting serious about expansion into other markets. To do so, the company has acqui-hired the operations team behind Cherry, the on-demand car wash startup. And it’s got plans to launch in Seattle, making its service available there seven days a week beginning April 12.
The acquisition of Cherry comes as Lyft looks to add some operational experience ahead of its launch in the Emerald City and beyond. That means moving fast and getting into as many markets as possible. But it also means managing both supply and demand in whatever city the company launches service in.
Users in San Francisco understand that hasn’t always been possible, as demand frequently outstrips supply in the city, leaving riders with no Lyft drivers available during peak hours of the day. But as quickly as the company has been growing in its home market, it’s been growing even more rapidly in Los Angeles, where it launched just a few months ago.
“Having someone strong in operations was going to be really important,” Lyft co-founder John Zimmer told me. “We plan to win in every market that we launch in.”
As part of the Cherry deal, its founder and CEO Travis VanderZanden has joined Lyft as the company’s chief operating officer. He brings with him some serious business experience, having served as chief revenue officer of Yammer prior to founding his own company. Cherry’s senior director of operations, Stephen Schnell, has also joined Lyft to help the company expand into new markets. With VanderZanden coming on board, Zimmer will take the role of president.
Cherry launched last year to offer on-demand car washes to customers who were too busy to clean the vehicle themselves, or to take it out to be washed. The idea was to bring the car wash to them instead. But after introducing the service in a few markets, Cherry abruptly shut down over the holidays.
VanderZanden explained that while the service was growing in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, it wasn’t growing at the rate that venture-backed businesses are expected to. After raising more than $5 million from investors such as Shasta Ventures, Founders Fund, and the PayPal mafia (David Sacks, Max Levchin and Keith Rabois), the team began looking for other options.
“In Cherry and in Lyft, we saw two businesses that were operationally very similar,” VanderZanden told me. “Lyft has nailed San Francisco and is nailing L.A., and it’s ready to start scaling up.”
In Lyft, he saw an opportunity to help an emerging company scale up even more quickly. The primary challenge for Lyft is how to quickly grow its business while keeping the community that it has built intact and keeping the quality of the service high. After all, it’s the community that sets Lyft apart from other on-demand transportation services such as Uber, SideCar, or regular taxi e-hail apps.
Lyft has already served up hundreds of thousands or rides in San Francisco and L.A., and next has its sights set on Seattle. After a few more weeks of testing, the service will become generally available April 12. Unlike competitor SideCar, which does gradual rollouts in new cities by initially serving weekends only, Lyft will have seven-day service at launch. It’s hoping that will help it catch up in a market that already has a ride-share service available.
Of course, Seattle isn’t the only new city that Lyft is considering operating in. Lyft is looking at other markets which have serious transportation pain points. When examining new launch markets, it also considers the population density and how tech-savvy residents are. Zimmer told me that the company is looking to hit a new market each month, which he thinks is possible with the right people in place.
As it looks to expand, Lyft will likely fave competition in most new markets it enters, as SideCar has also been rolling out aggressively in cities across the U.S. SideCar is in nine cities now, three of which will overlap with Lyft’s service. And let’s not forget about Uber, which has had longstanding black car service in most major U.S. cities and is rolling out lower-priced options in many. That includes hiring community drivers itself in San Francisco.
Lyft will also likely face regulatory scrutiny in most new markets. While Seattle has so far had no qualms about SideCar’s operations there, other cities have been far less friendly. SideCar has faced issues with local officials in both Philadelphia and Austin, two cities which have tried to clamp down on community drivers — that is, people without taxi or limo licenses — giving rides for money. Before that, Uber had faced regulatory scrutiny in a number of cities, including New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. But for new transportation services, it seems dealing with regulators is just the cost of doing business.
Lyft, which is based in San Francisco, now has more than 50 employees. The company recently raised $15 million in new funding led by Founders Fund.
ZTE is honing in on increased investment in 4G networks by China’s major telecom operators as it struggles to catch up with domestic rival Huawei Technologies, reports Reuters.
ZTE and Huawei are expected to compete for most 4G network contracts with China’s three major carriers (China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom) because the two telecom equipment makers have support from the Chinese government.
Securing contracts is especially important for ZTE because its performance has been lagging behind Huawei. ZTE warned in January that it will post its first-ever annual loss for 2012 (its earnings release is scheduled for later this week). According to ZTE, its net loss for 2012 will be between 2.5 billion yuan and 2.9 billion yuan due to delays in network projects and a decline in handset revenue. That is the first annual loss for the company since it went public in Shenzhen in 1997.
ZTE’s strategy since the mid-1990s has been to focus on aggressively expanding overseas, taking on rivals Ericsson, Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, and Nokia Siemens in emerging markets such as India. The company’s expansion has often shaved away at its profitability because ZTE offers prices so low competitors often give up instead of matching the bids. But Huawei still holds an advantage over ZTE because Huawei’s larger size gives it an edge when offering lower bids on contracts with carriers. Huawei, the world’s second-largest telecoms equipment maker after Ericsson, has forecast that its 2012 net earnings will rise 33 percent to 15.4 billion yuan.
ZTE has said that it hopes to recover and make a profit in 1Q2013 by cutting costs and focusing on developed markets like the U.S., Europe, and Japan.
Though China’s 4G network expansion will also be a key part of ZTE’s strategy, it may have to wait a bit longer for to reap the rewards because TD-LTE is still waiting for approval from the Chinese government. But China Mobile, China Telecom, and China Unicom have already been busy building out their infrastructure. Together, the three companies will spend 345 billion yuan ($56 billion USD) on expanding their 4G networks this year.
China Mobile, the world’s biggest wireless network operator by subscribers, wants to set up trial networks in 100 large cities by the end of this year. In February, the telecom giant turned up pressure on the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) to start issuing 4G licenses soon by announcing that it was preparing to launch a “trial commercial” service in Guangzhou and Shenzhen with customized Galaxy S3 smartphones from Samsung. China Mobile chairman Xi Guohua said at the Mobile World Congress last month that his company’s 4G network would cover about 500 million people in 100 cities by the end of this year, and that his company is working with ZTE and HTC in addition to Samsung to develop smartphones that can run on TD-LTE networks.
Go here to see the original: ZTE Is Betting On China’s Nascent 4G Network To Bolster Its Flagging Profitability
Ride-sharing startup SideCar is getting serious about expanding into new cities throughout the U.S. The company just acquired Austin, Texas-based Heyride to help it improve its product and introduce service in that market, and is announcing plans to roll out ride-sharing in Los Angeles and Philadelphia this weekend as well.
SideCar offers a set of mobile app that allows users to electronically hail rides, basically connecting drivers and passengers with one another. It also manages identity and ratings of drivers and passengers, ensuring users aren’t getting into cars with drivers who are dangerous, unsafe, or otherwise creepy. And it facilitates payments (ahem, donations) for those rides, so that passengers can seamlessly give cash for the transportation provided.
After launching in San Francisco last summer, the startup has seen a fair amount of success. Now it’s looking to take its service into new markets. SideCar rolled out in Seattle in the fall, but plans to very aggressively enter a number of new markets over the next few months.
That expansion starts this weekend, as SideCar will being offering service in Philadelphia, Austin, and Los Angeles. At first, SideCar will only provide rides on the weekends, as it recruits drivers to support demand in those new markets. Not long after, the company expects to launch in other cities around the country, as it is actively recruiting drivers in New York City, Chicago, Boston, and Washington, D.C.
In addition to new launch markets, the company is announcing the acquisition of Austin-based startup Heyride. Like SideCar, Heyride has built mobile apps to enable ride-sharing services. While providing support in Austin is a nice bonus, SideCar founder Sunil Paul said the acquisition will help improve its own apps and service.
“We are bringing on this talent to improve our design and user experience in the app and in the vehicle,” Paul told me by phone. “If you play with the [Heyride] app, it’s really beautifully done.” SideCar is adding four Heyride employees to its roster, including two who will become part of the San Francisco team, and two who will stay on in Austin. The company will also have a city manager to handle local operations in that market.
(As a side note, SideCar plans to be fully operational in time for SXSW, which will be a blessing for anyone who has ever had to get from one place to another in that city during the week-long convention.)
SideCar’s expansion comes not long after raising $10 million from Lightspeed Venture Partners and Google Ventures. But it’s also being announced as competition heats up in the urban transportation market generally, and among ride-sharing services in particular. After raising $15 million of its own, San Francisco-based competitor Lyft entered a second market by launching its ride-sharing service in parts of Los Angeles late last month.
Meanwhile, emboldened by a deal with the California Public Utilities Commission, on-demand car startup Uber said it, too, would get into the ride-sharing business. And that’s not mentioning the fast emergence of taxi e-hail apps like Flywheel and Taxi Magic, all of which will provide a number of alternatives for residents in urban areas.
But it’s not just the competition that SideCar has to worry about: Like Uber before it, the company is also likely to face regulatory scrutiny in many of the new markets it enters. It’s notable that local authorities in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. all took issue with Uber when it launched in those cities.
While SideCar has briefed local officials in many of the cities it intends to enter, Paul said he is lawyered up and ready to fight any regulatory battles that the company will face. “This is a new idea and just like other technological battles in the past… new innovations almost always have to battle against the status quo,” he said.
That said, SideCar continues to stress that it is a legal service, according to ride-share provisions in most locations. For one thing, drivers aren’t supposed to make a profit over and above the cost of operating and maintaining their vehicles. Also, unlike some other services, both driver and passenger have agreed on a destination that they’ll travel to before the passenger is picked up. “We’ve always maintained that what Sidecar does is legal and we’ve set up a system that enables drivers to comply with ride-share rules in all 50 states,” Paul told me.
We’ll see if regulators and local governments agree. In the meantime, isn’t it fun to watch all these startups battle it out, and at the same time, fundamentally change the way we all get around?
Click A Taxi has launched its redesigned mobile apps today and expanded its coverage to 50 countries in total – up from nine before – to clinch the record for the app with the largest global network of taxi drivers.
It’s quite a claim, and should help the app to differentiate itself from regional competitors such as Uber in New York and Hailo in the UK. The company, founded in Denmark, says that the free app should now allow more than one billion people to order a taxi “almost anywhere” – including not only cities but also parts of the countryside.
Søren Halskov Nissen, CEO of Click A Taxi said: “We all have great free apps that work anywhere we travel: e.g. Google Maps, Airbnb and Yelp are essential tools and we expect them to work wherever we are. Click A Taxi is the first taxi app built on the same principles. We will help get you a taxi wherever you are.”
Click A Taxi says they’ve spent the last nine months mapping as many cities as possible in the 50 countries. To mark the achievement, they’ve also redesigned the app from the ground up for a release in all app-stores worldwide today. The new version is still in beta, but covers more than 5,000 cities and a fleet of 300,000 taxis.
It’s still a very simple interface, that takes advantage of Google Maps to show you where you are and where you want to travel to. Based on your current destination, it then will display a suggested taxi company with a corresponding star rating. Users can also move the marker by sliding across the map, or hit the address bar at the bottom to search for a new location where they would like to be picked up from.
Click ‘Book’, and the app automatically contacts the preselected taxi company. A quick confirmation window can then be used to select when the driver should arrive – now, today, or tomorrow – along with a specific time in case you want to book ahead. You can even specify the type of car and number of seats, as well as add additional comments for the driver.
In our tests it all worked without an issue. The design isn’t drastically different to the previous iteration, but it looks clean and is very simple to use, which is perfect if you’re looking to book a taxi after a few pints at the local bar. The fact that it can also send you updates on the booking via push notifications, keeping you in the loop for the driver’s estimated arrival time, is a nice touch in particular.
Of course, Click A Taxi has a long way to go to build the sort of presence and brand recognition enjoyed by Hailo and Uber. But with a truly global rollout, it’s got a good chance of becoming the universal, go-to taxi ordering app.
Disclosure: This article contains an affiliate link. While we only ever write about products we think deserve to be on the pages of our site, The Next Web may earn a small commission if you click through and buy the product in question. For more information, please see our Terms of Service.
Image Credit: John Moore/Getty Images