Archive for January 2010
Well, now they’re at it again. The NY Times reports that Amazon has removed books published by Macmillan from its online bookstore due to a dispute with the publisher over the price of its ebooks. Macmillan wants the price to be bumped up to $15 from the current $9.99.
The Times says that Amazon’s only giving Macmillan a temporary trip to the penalty box to express its “strong disagreement”. No word on whether this is a two-minute minor or a five-minute major. (That’s hockey talk for nobody knows how long the penalty will last.) But even if it’s a short trip, it still hurts a lot of people, especially authors such as Cory Doctorow:
“When I woke this morning at 5AM UK time, I discovered an in-box full of emails from people asking if I knew what was going on with Amazon. My books — and all books from Macmillan and its many divisions, including Tor, my publisher — had disappeared from the Amazon webstore in both physical and electronic editions.”
It’s no coincidence that this issue has come to a head now. The iPad is gonna rock Amazon’s world, so they have to protect themselves. Sez the Times:
“Apple will allow publishers more leeway to set their own prices for e-books. Although the prices will be tethered to print book prices by a formula that will generally yield prices between $12.99 and $14.99 for most fiction and general nonfiction, that is significantly higher than $9.99 discount that Amazon offers on its Kindle.”
The best way to sum up this post is to simply quote the first comment on Doctorow’s post, by Avram Grumer:
“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. — Kikuyu proverb”
UPDATE, January 31: Amazon acknowledges that it “will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books.”
Just in case you’re one of the 13 people on the planet who didn’t notice, yesterday Apple introduced a tablet computer called the iPad. It wasn’t exactly a secret beforehand, and as you may imagine it generated quite a lot of buzz in the media. I could link to a bunch of articles, but I’ll limit myself to one — imho the best and most concise — the NY Times’ live-blogging post. That was a surprise to me, because I thought Engadget’s would have been much better. (Oops, I lied. That’s 2 links.)
- My first thought was, how many of them will get stolen?
- I don’t think the iPad will eliminate netbooks. If I want a cheap, small computer, I’d rather pay under $300 for a netbook — yes, I know it’s running Windows XP — than $500-$700 for an iPad. Brad Stone, in the Times live-blog, says that the iPad is “the perfect breakfast table companion.” I agree, but I’ll stick with my Acer for now.
- I *do* think the Kindle might be in trouble, especially if Amazon cannot compete with Apple on the price of eBooks. And if I was gonna spend bucks on an eReader, I’d go with the iPad. The Times’ Stone says “Apple and Amazon are on a collision course.” I’d like to take that further: Microsoft is on a collision course with Google, who is colliding with Apple, who is bearing down on Amazon. Four of the biggest tech firms have to invade each other’s backyards in order to grow their businesses.
- Will the iPad be the savior of print media like the NY Times? That remains to be seen. I’m not optimistic.
- 3G through AT&T — boy, Apple sure is tight with AT&T. Verizon is verboten. And while we’re speaking German, here’s the obligatory Hitler iPad parody. (He hates AT&T, too.)
The Pennsylvania budget signed by Gov. Rendell last October drastically cuts funding for libraries. How bad is it? The Pennsylvania Library Association gives us some specifics. Overall, library funding is down like $25 million. The Library Access program, which supports, among other things, the PA Power Library of online databases, lost $4 million in funding for 2009-2010. Is that a big deal? More than that — it’s fatal, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
“Everyone from auto repair troubleshooters to students of Japanese uses them. They offer online tutoring in subjects ranging from chemistry to writing, and they give advice to job seekers preparing resumes and cover letters. But many of the hundreds of subscription databases offered by Pennsylvania’s public libraries — and the convenient remote access many of them offer — will vanish this year, victims of slashed state and local funding. ‘We are talking about dozens of sources of reliable information, vital educational tools that reach tens of thousands of students with little money,’ said Glenn Miller, executive director of the Pennsylvania Library Association.”
Personally, I’ll really miss the Power Library databases, especially ReferenceUSA for people/company research and the auto repair guides. (Guess I’ll have to get busy and download the complete guide for my 1995 Subaru.)
Note that Mr. Miller called the PA Power Library a collection of “vital educational tools”. Governor Rendell doesn’t exactly share his view — here are 2 press releases from da gov last October:
- Governor Rendell Signs Budget that Cuts Overall Spending, Boosts Education Funding, With No Broad-Based Tax Increase
- Governor Rendell Signs Education Budget Preserving Pennsylvania’s Academic Progress, Keeping Property Taxes Down
Notice that he says education’s doing just fine, thank you very much, in PA budget land? Welcome to Pennsylvania,where learning ends when the school bell rings at 3:00.