Archive for September 19, 2008

BBC News Critiques Sony Reader

September 19, 2008

Beautiful, perfect, supreme chunk of paper

The article is absolutely ludicrous, at one point comparing the Sony Reader (and by extension, all eBooks) to a frikkin luxury book with a price of — I. Am. Not. Kidding. — $155,000!

One book.

How many people have $155,000 libraries in their homes?!

There’s also a video, which should be watched instead. Although he raises some valid points about screen glare, it does seem as if he goes out of his way to find negatives.

He never points out, for example, that the text can be enlarged!

He also, in the video, makes the point about the Sony Reader being dropped in water or being a magnet for muggers.

Perhaps so. But what really can’t be ruined by water? He actually drops a printed book in water. As if he’d want to read the crinkled and bloated pages afterwards! Yeah, right!

And muggers will target people for any reason. But I think they’d especially target someone carrying around a $155,000 book!

What I suggest some of this latter resistance is about is the price of the Sony Reader. I want to see it at an impulse-buy price of US$99.00.

I’m hoping — probably beyond all hope — that on October 2, Sony will announce a new version of the Sony Reader. And also announce that the current model will remain on sale but with a true slashing of its price (down to US$199, at least — but US$149.00 would be thrilling!!).

And the last point raised in the video is just exasperating. He bemoans the disappearance of shelves of print books in homes.

Question: Did he make the same stupid complaint over music from iTunes downloads replacing shelves of Compact Discs?

Reviews like these are based in nothing more than fear. Fear of the future.

Dinosaurs!


OMFGZZZZ!!!! eBooks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #219

September 19, 2008

How Print Publishers Are Killing Writers

September 19, 2008

App Store is a Goldmine: Indie Developer Makes $250,000 in Two Months

Trism has made $250,000 for its developer, Steve Demeter, in just two months. A simple game, it looks to be as addictive as Tetris*, and it hits the right spot for pricing: $5.

[. . .]

[I]f you can generate a modest hit, you’re not going to care. Remember, Tris is the work of one man. If the game keeps selling at this rate for a year, he will have made $1.5 million.

Emphasis added by me.

I’ve said in Comments elsewhere that no matter what, devs will claw their way into the App Store for the simple reason it will make some of them millionaires. I wish I’d bothered to state that here in my own blog too!

And unwired view adds some more thoughts:

The combination of an easy way to pay (credit card/iTunes GC) and an easy way to install (app store) makes customers more comfortable at purchasing programs for their iPhones (and iPod Touch). At the same time, developers have it easy when it comes to iPhone app development. From getting started, actual development, and final deployment to the public through the app store, Apple provides the simplest of set-ups.

Let me add something else here that’s a factor being ignored: the Apple brand name.

Sure, all these are the products of different companies (I’d say “individuals,” but you need the correct business Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS to do this; your Social Security Number won’t do; so in IRS terms, you’re a business, which is why I say “companies”), but everyday people have the reassurance of Apple selling it.

I’ve called for Apple to get out of sales and turn iTunes into an eCommerce platform.

That is where things can get dicey for individuals; creators as well as buyers.

“Come buy my app at Mike’s website” doesn’t have the same appeal. In fact, I can foresee outright scams taking place that way. It’s inevitable. Millions and millions of cellphones that are eCommerce-enabled just like the iPhone are a magnet for fraudsters. That kind of fraud would be more likely when iTunes is a platform instead of an entrance to a single marketplace overseen/refereed by Apple (or Google or Palm or Nokia).

But that’s a risk that’s run right now, with anyone who risks buying from an individual website. The safeguard against that are people alerting everyone else — via blogs, via Twitter, via other means — to steer clear of the fraud.

iTunes becoming an eCommerce platform is something that will happen. Because if Apple doesn’t do it, Google will for Android. And if that happens, then Microsoft will jump in, as will Nokia. As will every cellphone carrier. But Apple has a chance to set an eCommerce platform standard that could richly reward its bottom line and lead to an explosion of eCommerce.

Now to tie this into eBooks and writers.

There are millions of iPhones out there now. All of them have the possibility of reading the standard the dying dinosaurs of print have rallied around: ePub. The Stanza eBook reader can do ePub. Publishers should have been flocking — should be flocking — to the App Store to sell ePub-formatted eBooks. How can they ignore millions of potential customers like this? It verges on the criminal!

Waterstone’s in the U.K. makes it a point — and so does every publisher offering DRMed ePub files — to tell people they need to get Adobe Digital Editions to complete the sales process (ADE is required for DRM activation) for Sony Reader eBooks. But not every publisher is hampering their sales with DRM on ePub files. Pan Macmillan isn’t; theirs are free of DRM. So, it’d be very easy for publishers selling DRM-free eBooks at the App Store to tell people to download Stanza (it’s free!) in order to enjoy their purchases. It’s trivial!

The other point here is the price of that Trism game: five dollars. Would it have sold if it had been priced at $12.95, $15.95, or $19.95? Would it have even made six figures of sales if it was priced at ten dollars?

I doubt that very much.

It was priced as an impulse buy.

The same way eBooks must be priced.

While the small snooty We Know It All clique of meganational print publishing cries over their martinis at the Four Seasons, the people who actually create what they are supposed to sell are being killed by their inaction, by their stupidity, by their desperation to ignore the future.

Hershey’s Adulterates Some Chocolates

September 19, 2008

Chocoholics sour on new Hershey’s formula

Oh, milk chocolate. Wherefore art thou?

Apparently not in some Hershey’s products that contained milk chocolate for years, and that has passionate chocolate aficionados fighting mad.

Products such as Whatchamacallit, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbar and Krackel no longer have milk chocolate coatings, and Hershey’s Kissables are now labeled “chocolate candy” instead of “milk chocolate.”

What’s going on here? On Friday, TODAY consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman reported that Hershey’s has switched to less expensive ingredients in several of its products. In particular, cocoa butter — the ingredient famous for giving chocolate its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture — has been replaced with vegetable oil.

The removal of cocoa butter violates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s definition of milk chocolate, so subtle changes have appeared on the labels of the Hershey’s products with altered recipes. Products once labeled “milk chocolate” now say “chocolate candy,” “made with chocolate” or “chocolatey.”

Emphasis added by me.

Really, Hershey’s should be absolutely ashamed over this.

This is simply underhanded.

Kitty Hide-And-Seek

September 19, 2008

I don’t believe it. I thought I was the only person to play hide-and-seek with cats!

Ninja cat comes closer while not moving!

Chronicles Of Depression 2.0: #218

September 19, 2008

I had a short day yesterday and so had to pass up most of my daily Internet reading and blogging.

Today, financial events are changing literally each minute, so posting about that would be futile.

However, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard over at Telegraph.co.uk has his usual insightful — and enlightening — column that’s worth blogging:

Federal Reserve needs to rediscover power to shock and awe to ease crisis

The world’s central banks no longer seem able to shock and awe the markets with a blast of liquidity.

Yesterday’s move by the US Federal Reserve, the European banks and the Bank of Japan to douse the global banking system with $184bn (£101bn) may get us through the week without another catastrophic failure, but it does nothing to halt the downward spiral into debt deflation.

“The central bank action treats a symptom of the disease, not the disease itself,” said Stephen Lewis, chief economist at Insinger de Beaufort. “It is a palliative. At root, there is no way of imbuing worthless financial claims with value.”

The yield on three-month Treasury notes remains near zero – a level last seen after Pearl Harbour – reflecting a near total loss of confidence in all financial instruments. The five-year CDS credit default swaps on a great clutch of America’s biggest companies are flashing imminent bankruptcy signals: Washington Mutual (2638), General Motors (2284), MBIA Insurance (2187), Advanced Micro (1773), Ford Motor (1718).

We are dangerously close to a $3.5 trillion collapse of America’s money market fund industry. “It’s an incredibly serious issue. A tipping point in this crisis would be when you have a run on money markets, and we are right on the cusp of that,” said Paul McCulley, PIMCO’s portfolio chief.

Emphasis added by me.

Some interesting news there!

Imminent bankruptcy of General Motors, MBIA Insurance, Advanced Micro, and Ford Motor?

And a new multi-trillion-dollar figure: $3.5 trillion!

Former Fed chief Paul Volcker is now calling for a vast sink – underwritten by the US taxpayer, and modelled on the Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) – to soak up trillions of dollars of toxic debt and asset-backed securities once and for all.

Emphasis added by me.

I’d really, really like to know how Volcker developed that idea. Did it spring from his experience or by talking to the banksters? Volcker was chairman of the Fed during part of Reagan’s Dollar Uber Alles presidency. Wikipedia documents:

Volcker’s Fed is widely credited with ending the United States’ stagflation crisis of the 1970s by limiting the growth of the money supply, abandoning the previous policy of targeting interest rates. Inflation, which peaked at 13.5% in 1981, was successfully lowered to 3.2% by 1983.

However, the change in policy contributed to the significant recession the U.S. economy experienced in the early 1980s, which included the highest unemployment levels since the Great Depression[.]

Emphasis added by me.

Oh, that was a terrible time. That created the first big wave of homelessness during my lifetime.

Ambrose continues:

Such a Super-Sewer would put a floor under the collapsing value of CDOs, CLOs, HELOCs and all the myriad instruments of leveraged excess that lie at the root of this crisis. By doing so it would at last allow banks to lick their wounds and compute losses. Above all, it would mitigate the US housing crash, changing the whole profile of projected defaults now haunting the banking system.

How much would it cost? Prof Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the IMF, says the bill would run to at least $1 trillion. This would increase the US government debt from 48pc to 55pc of GDP (under IMF measures) – still lower than that of Germany, France, Italy or Japan.

Emphasis added by me.

“At least $1 trillion.” At least.

I’ve had CNBC on in the background today and one of the key questions has been, “How will the government value these assets?” That’s a critical question. Because what’s not being asked is, “Will the government then use the spread between current and projected future value as leverage?” In other words, will the government wind up being a crack whore with these assets just as Wall Street was? Will Dubya, for instance, see it as new funding for his foolish war? Will any possible profits be spent before they’ve been made, evaporating the entire point of this exercise?

More from Ambrose:

The Fed’s Tuesday statement suggesting that the risks of inflation and slowing growth are roughly matched is so tone-deaf, and so implausible after the $50 collapse in oil prices, that it should be framed for posterity. The central banks were too loose during the credit bubble. They are too tight now.

This crisis will not begin to abate until monetary gods at the Fed and the ECB make it clear at long last that they grasp the full extent of the crisis by slashing interest rates in a single concerted action. That will shock and awe.

Hours after Ambrose wrote this, things changed. The Super-Sewer is being crafted.

Too bad tomorrow is Saturday. I’ll have to wait until next week to get Ambrose’s opinion in his next column.

I don’t think this Super-Sewer is going to work. Because it’s not going to stop the behavior that created this mess. That behavior is going to continue!

All prior Chronicles of Depression 2.0 posts. Read them before you must.

Twitter As Survival Tool

September 19, 2008

Rex Hammock noticed a peculiar run on gasoline in Nashville, TN this morning. Cars lined up for blocks at some stations.

He quickly put together a Twitter account where people could exchange information about which stations still had gasoline.

Today people buy cellphones without much thought about their overall capabilities. Sometimes a purchase is made as a fashion statement.

However, it’s important to realize that a cellphone might be your only access to the Internet during a disaster, crisis, or weird social phenomena (such as Nashville this morning). Choose one with that in mind.

Previously here:

The Internet: Now A Fundamental Survival Tool

The Internet: Now A Fundamental Survival Tool

September 19, 2008

Taxman45 via Twitter alerted everyone to a post he did that illustrated to his parents the utility of the Internet. They had to flee Texas because of Hurricane Ike. Rather than me paraphrasing it, go read the post.

For all those eejit psychologists who are trying to define an “Internet addiction syndrome,” open your eyes: the Internet is now our information bloodstream.

I resisted Twitter for the longest time. Now I wouldn’t be without it.

Red Headlines For September 19, 2008

September 19, 2008

The New York Daily News has no financial coverage on its cover. The big picture is about the world’s smallest man visiting NYC! And I thought only Murdoch did shit like that.

It’s bad enough Murdoch’s big story is that cat murderer I posted about earlier:

At least Newsday gets it:

(Although, no. This is not the end. Hardly!)