Amazon makes a lot of its own hardware these days, including tablets, smart speakers, eReaders, and media streamers. But every now and then the company releases a product that’s a dud (like the Fire Phone) or that may have limited appeal and don’t stick around long (like the Amazon Echo Look).

So the company has launched a new program called Build It, which helps Amazon hedge its bets when introducing wacky new products.

Amazon will introduce new items, make them available for pre-order at a promotional price for 30 days, and if enough people place orders then the company will produce the hardware and ship units to customers. If not enough orders are placed, then Amazon will drop the idea and move onto something else.

Basically Build It sounds like it’s Amazon’s answer to crowdfunding, except the idea is to gauge interest in a product before moving forward, not to raise the money to take it from concept to product.

The first three Build It items are now up for pre-order.

They include:

All of the devices are compatible with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, although you’ll need to pair them with compatible Echo devices in order for them to work, so these are products aimed for folks who’ve already bout into Amazon’s Echo/Alexa ecosystem or plan to do so.

The sticky note printer is a thermal printer that allows you to print reminders, shopping lists, or other items using your voice. It comes with a single roll of yellow sticky paper, but does not require any ink. If the printer reaches its goals, you’ll be able to order additional rolls of paper in yellow, white, pink, and blue colors.

Amazon’s Nutrition Scale lets you drop a quantity of a food item on the scale and then ask Alexa for nutritional details including calories, carbohydrates, or sugar content. When paired with an Alexa-enabled speaker, you’ll hear the results. But if you have an Echo Show smart display, you’ll also be able to see the nutritional info on the screen.

The cuckoo clock… is a cuckoo clock. It has analog clock face, a mechanical pendulum, and a mechanical cuckoo that pops out to sound an alarm. There’s a speaker that lets you set custom alarm sounds and chimes, and you can set reminders with your voice.


Support Liliputing

Liliputing's primary sources of revenue are advertising and affiliate links (if you click the "Shop" button at the top of the page and buy something on Amazon, for example, we'll get a small commission).

But there are several ways you can support the site directly even if you're using an ad blocker* and hate online shopping.

Contribute to our Patreon campaign


Contribute via PayPal

* If you are using an ad blocker like uBlock Origin and seeing a pop-up message at the bottom of the screen, we have a guide that may help you disable it.

Subscribe to Liliputing via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9,547 other subscribers

9 replies on “Amazon’s Build It program lets you pre-order weird gadgets if you want Amazon to build them (another name for crowdfunding)”

  1. I consider established companies being shady when they keep using crowd funding platforms (ie. GPD). But I guess the crowd-funding “platform” being owned by Amazon themselves makes this less shady.

    The initial devices seem like those that probably would have never made it into the market by themselves though…

    1. I agree with this when it comes to companies that refuse to leave the crowdfunding business model, and step into the world of retail distribution. GPD is a great example, because they’re essentially just staying in the crowdfunding world to minimize their financial risk of selling defective products through traditional vendors.

      It is obvious that Amazon isn’t using this to force buyers into assuming the risk of the crowdfunding.

  2. hopefully this will prompt some useful gadgets. Right now i’d love a value priced Kindle LTE phone, and some more LTE Fire tablets.

  3. This is basically Amazon copying the business model of (formerly called Massdrop).

    I like this idea when it comes to expensive electronics, because as a buyer I have more financial recourse if the product ends up being defective, or if the manufacturing never happens.

    For small and less risky things, I’d rather support independent crowd funders

  4. I wonder how long it’ll be before something happens and this starts competing with or influencing existing crowdfunding sites in some way. The first thing I’d expect them to try after the whole scheme gets proven viable is expand it so that “anyone” (not really anyone) can submit projects.
    Assuming Amazon is as hegemonic as I presume they are as matter of caution, I would assume that if you submit a project, Amazon will examine the viability before allowing it to be showcased. Then Amazon pays you for it in lump sum (possibly amortized) drawn from the initial crowdfunding phase and will actually secure supply/manufacturing/publishing contracts for you (so that customers can expect it’ll actually get built), but they keep all the intellectual property rights over that project and can make/do more of it at any time without paying you as much as you’d like them to.
    Meanwhile, if this takes off, Microsoft/Facebook/Google might try to buy Kickstarter and/or Indiegogo and/or try to start their own. Then the sites’ rules will be changed to try and make them fund more viable projects more reliably.

  5. The smart nutritional scale does sound pretty useful but I do not have an Echo Show.

  6. I’m assuming that unlike crowdfunding, you don’t risk your money though. Which makes this more appealing in a way. The downside is the selection will be more limited and any smart device will be geared towards Alexa and only Alexa.

    1. Haha you do. Engineers get zero dollars if it is cancelled. Basically engineers are now starving artists.

      1. I was talking for consumers. You often see people who “buy” something on crowdfunding and then get angry when the project fails and they lose their money, not understanding that they didn’t actually pre-order but rather invested in the idea with their POTENTIAL return being the product.

        It’s why I’m leery of crowdfunding projects. I HAVE invested in some but it’s always either been from established companies which are using it more to drum up interest or something that appeals to me but with an amount of money which I can afford to lose should things go sideways.

        As for the engineers…
        Well, they’ll have to pick and choose their battles and what behooves them. Just like starving artists 😉
        They can go the independent route and have higher risks but potentially higher rewards, or the safer route or just sell out completely. This will always be the case without a rich philanthropic patron who expects nothing (specific) in return or unless some country employs some sort of livable UBI scheme.

Comments are closed.