Tag Archives: money

Behold our dark, magnificent horror

Behold our dark, magnificent horror:

“As someone recently noted, the BP spill isn’t Obama’s Katrina, it’s actually Big Oil’s Chernobyl. Meaning: a disaster so appalling and devastating it might very well alter the industry and change the course of our energy policy forever. “

Tiered Bandwidth and the Cloud

I should preface this update with the following statement:  I hate the term and idea of “the cloud” for anything having to do with the internet.  It’s a buzzword that commits two major crimes:

  • glosses over the fact that there’s nothing fuzzy or rainbow-magic about it: it’s a bunch of servers in a datacenter somewhere.  A lot of engineers and programmers have put a lot of time into working on it.
  • encourages users shrug their shoulders instead of understanding and to put a lot of trust into some nebulous entity (and companies).

But this post isn’t about that.  Instead, it’s about some long-running thoughts brought to the surface by today’s big internet/tech news: AT&T Just Killed Unlimited Wireless Data (and Screwed Everybody in the Process).

This post isn’t even about whether this is good or bad for AT&T or their customers.

There’s a tug-of-war going on, and the two people in it are the “cloud” companies (grr) and the network companies.  Tiered bandwidth has long been rumored and suggested for broadband internet providers (what to speak of overloaded cell providers) and hated by the users themselves.  Yet pretty much any tech / software company on the map these days is trying to push all their applications into the cloud and Software-As-A-Service (SaaS) realm.  You don’t have a mail client, you have gmail.  You don’t have imaging editing software, you have site x or y or z.  Which is all well and good, except this:  the tiered bandwidth model and the cloud model are opposed to one another.

Try to push all your data and computing into the cloud and you’re going to need the bandwidth to support it.  But ah-ha!  That extra bandwidth is now going to cost you.  So you have whatever subscription fees are a part of your SaaS platform (because you no longer purchase a disc or licenses; subscriptions are, alas, the way of the future) plus the increased tier bandwidth courtesy of your internet provider.

Which one wins?  I’m not sure.  I can’t say I’m rooting for “the cloud”, but I’m sure as heck not rooting for tiered bandwidth pricing.

The Great Physical/Electronic Media Disparity

By now, many people–people both smarter than I am and in better positions to speak on it–have made clear their thoughts and feelings regarding the Amazon-Macmillan tug-of-war.  As I checked in with the world before I sat down to write, I see that Macmillan titles are returning to Amazon now (at least the dead-tree versions).

What concerns me most at this point is the stance of the publishers: “printing and shipping costs are only a fraction of a book’s production costs,” they say.

I can agree with that.  What I don’t agree with is them using this stance to justify higher ebook pricing.  “We have to pay the author and editors and typesetters and artists and…” goes the list.

To which I say:  so?

They’re already doing that–for the print copy.

You might have to adjust artwork a bit for an electronic copy, but that’s not the same as having artwork commissioned from scratch.  That work has already been done.

Same with the editing.  Considerations might have to be made, but the vast majority of that work has also already be done for the print copy.

About the only major cost in producing ebook copies of a print book would be the conversion into a digital reader format and fixing any mistakes that arise from that process.  No small task, sure, but justified because it opens up an entire new market for the book.

The only time the publisher’s cry of “printing and shipping costs are only a fraction of a book’s production costs!” rings true is if they produce an ebook–and only an ebook–and all that above-mentioned work is done specifically and only for an ebook.  Then I’ll believe it.

I believe that ebooks should cost less to the consumer than the physical product.  I feel the same way about CDs and MP3s.  I recently bought physical CDs because the price of the physical product was only $3 more than the price of the MP3 album on Amazon.

Why would I spent that much money on a digital product when I can get the meatspace version for not much more?

The same goes for books.  To me as a consumer, $10 is way too high for an ebook.  I can perhaps see $10 as the hardcover new-release equivalent of a book, but that’s as far as it goes and even that’s as stretch. Above $10 is absurd.  The deep discounts often given to new-release bestsellers narrows the margin between print and electronic copies.  Why would I pay $15 for an ebook when I can get the new-release copy for $25 or less?  By pure math, yes, I’m paying much more as a percentage, but you have to look at the actual value provided, as well.  My print copy will always be around.  I can read it, lend it, take it with me, and never worry about someone coming to take it away and tell me I can’t read it anymore.  Nor do I need eyes surgically implanted because someone decided to change formats or “replace” the current batch of readers out there.

The advantages of ebook copies are:

  • lower price
  • searchability
  • you don’t have to carry boxes full of them when you move

But beyond that, for me as a consumer, there just isn’t anything else there. Remove the advantage of a price lower than the meatspace copy and I’m left with no reason to buy it at all.