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Comment Re:Uncompelling Market Size (Score 4, Interesting) 185

Somehow, I'm pretty certain that in the rental agreement on page 15, in small print, in paragraph 7 section 5 of the Terms of Service, it will have something that a lawyer could interpret as allowing this sort of behavior and the renters will sign.

Sure, if the students are annoyed enough, they might not come back next year, but the wonderful thing (from their perspective) is there's a whole new year of students to fleece.

Thinking on it, it's not textbooks that they should go after, it's pizza places. Try and reach any local pizza place, and you get transferred to Frank's pizza special page, which has a student special of only $3 more for pizzas ordered from that page :-).

Comment Re:Uncompelling Market Size (Score 5, Insightful) 185

They're not going to extract money from the sites with millions of visitors. They *may* be able to extract money from sites whose entire revenue generating visitors are college students, like textbook stores.

I doubt 15,000 students is enough, but it could get very "interesting" if they offered to funnel any visits to a competing text book site to the highest bidder.

Certainly a maximum evil model. You make paying for Internet access mandatory (i.e. include it in rent), and see how far you can push the students before they consider it worth-while to pay *again* for Internet access. I'm going to guess pretty far.

Comment Re:Do we really need new books? (Score 1) 405

Your model is going out of business,

Indeed, it's true, there's probably not much that can stop the extinction of the paper book as a significant cultural and social phenomena. But for those of use who enjoy reading, and aren't really into cheap fan-fic, this isn't a cause for celebration.

I'm not really happy about trading 5-10 years of cheap fiction from authors established when we were willing to pay publishers for the discovery process for the opportunity to become a slush-pile reader myself. Once it becomes too much work to find interesting new authors, reading books for pleasure will die a slow death. It won't disappear entirely, of course. But it will be as relevant to the average person as poetry is now.

Luckily most e-readers play a decent game of Angry Birds.

Of course Amazon will probably make more money from selling listing fees and more importantly web presence than they currently do from selling books. After all, what's $10K to $20K to Amazon to promote your book when you've spent already $150K on a Master's of Creative Writing? And of course, once the traditional publishers are gone, I think we all understand that Amazon's royalties will drop like a stone. After all, they're not a charity.

Comment Re:PCI won't help...but will cost (Score 1) 56

PCI isn't the be-all and end-all, but I have to say that it's a set of metrics that a least prevent stores from assuming that everyone else is storing their PAN's in plaintext, etc.

I consider it like restaurant health inspections. Doesn't mean the restaurant can't poison you, but a lot less food poisoning occurs because of it.

Comment Security isn't always worth it... (Score 1) 56

I'm all in favor of security, but before we rip stores for bad security, I think we need to understand that many stores don't spend a fortune on security for the same reason we don't hire armed guards for our home. The cost simply isn't worth the decreased risk. And quite frankly, if we received a $100 bill for every credit card we owned to pay for that security, people would have a fit.

We'll get high security once the public is willing to pay for it, and not a moment sooner. Until that point, stores will only pay enough to avoid being especially vulnerable. After all, in crime, all that usually matters is not being the *weakest* link.

Comment Re:Good news for BN? (Score 1) 218

Wrong. Higher profits, not prices, attract higher quality authors. That's how you get them to quit their day job to focus on writing.

You are, of course, correct. However, as I mentioned before, we're not seeing any signs of new readers, nor are we seeing large increases in the number of books being bought per reader over the long-term.

In other words demand for books has shown itself to be (within limits) relatively price insensitive. Again, mostly because time is far more of a constraint than money. Evidence of this has been available for the last hundred years in the form of public libraries, which provide books for *free*, yet are not filled to the rafters with people desperate to read.

And yes, people are more willing to pick up a new series, but as I said, after the first 2-300 books on the "to-be-read' pile, the attraction of cheap books dims considerably and people back off adding any more, even at cheap prices. (The 400th app game that looks kind of interesting and is only a buck has the same problem getting downloaded.)

Of course, for my personal preferences, I take a double whammy. The type of book that has gone over well in the e-book world (and the ones that have been successful in e-only publishing) tend to be lighter books. And no wonder. A meaty book takes effort and concentration. It rewards those, but it does take the work. Unfortunately, most e-readers are also capable of playing games or videos at a touch, which makes doing the work about as easy as dieting in front of an open buffet.

The few e-only stars have mostly made it on lighter romance, pulpy thrillers, etc. I have no objection to the genre and enjoy the occasional one myself, but I do suspect that longer, deeper books that demand more of the reader are simply that much harder to read on an e-reader, which means fewer successes and a change as the new format dominates.

Again, a loss for me. Not much that can be done, except to mourn.

It's hard to predict the future, and certainly the publishers add some value to their products, but self-publishing is not going to kill the book industry.

No, I don't think it will. But I do think Amazon might, in the same sort of way that Walmart put an end to the American consumer good manufacturing industry. Except in this case, I don't think I'm going to be as happy with the price vs. quality trade-off...

Comment Re:Good news for BN? (Score 1) 218

Actually, if you pay attention to the self-publishing market, the primary problem is to get people to read the books at *any* price. People's time is money, and if 99% of the self-published books out there aren't even of "publishable" qualtiy (by current main-stream standards), then no-one is going to even try to read and evaluate the books. It simply isn't worth their time.

More than that, the general constraint on people's book purchases isn't money, it's time. Most people have time to read a dozen or so books a year. When prices drop, they can now expand their purchases to... a dozen books a year.

Now, the super-cheap books do tend to cause a big spurt of purchases at the beginning. But once people have 2-300 books in their unread pile, their purchase rates drop back to what they were before. Except instead of spending a few hundred dollars a year, if they're lucky, they can spend $50. That's not enough for publishers to survive.

Now it's true that known authors can self-publish, and actually make more money. But that's only if they've already been published by the mainstream press. For new self-published authors, it's incredibly hard. As a result, only a few dozen previously unpublished authors have made it to the "quit the day job" level, as opposed to the few thousand that join those ranks in traditional publishing each year.

Essentially, the discovery of new authors of reasonable quality is the seed corn of the industry. Without high enough prices, that process ends. Of course, the industry grinds on for quite some time, and no doubt people celebrate the odd author that does make it from obscurity. But unless you've got a decent sized pipeline, the industry is going to slowly die. Not with a bang, but with a "no, I gave up reading a while back - wasn't worth the hassle to find anything worth reading."

And yes, higher prices means a higher quality of entrant. Contrary to many people's opinion, authors are usually smart, educated people who actually have many options besides writing.

(And yes, with my previous hobbies, the people that were driving it forward and producing new goods left to do something that could pay the mortgage and feed their kids. The stores that were stocking the merchandise died, and that was the end of anyone new in the hobby. Within years, the hobbies were moribund. But yes, in both cases, there were cheap goods as we burned through our 'capital'.)

I don't know if it's a particular American thing, but boy do you see a lot of the sentiment of "people should be willing to work for nearly free for the privilege of serving me." Well, I'm telling you there's no free lunch. If it's not worth it to you to pay for quality, then it's not worth it for anyone else to produce quality.

Comment This is fairly standard for all departments (Score 1) 155

This phenomena is also why large-scale paradigm shifts in a field only tend radiate outward from top universities. As a professor, you disseminate wholly new ideas via your graduate students, who then take positions at other universities and influence others.

It's pretty much impossible to fundamentally change minds once they're established in the field - after all, who wants to embrace something that makes much of their past work irrelevant?) So paradigm shifts tend to occur by seeding your graduate students into lots of different departments and waiting for the older generation to retire.

As for why hire from top universities? Well, that's easy. Given any field where there's lots of uncertainty, human beings naturally gravitate to any metric we can. And a PhD from a top university is about as solid a metric as one can get. Of course, it helps that the secondary metrics that are used (papers published, cited, etc.) are also established by editors and readers who also use the same metric to judge whether something is worth publishing or reading. Like so many things, we *make* in-built biases become truth by our actions.

Elitism and trust in the elites is a completely human reaction to uncertainty. Doesn't mean it's optimal, but it is human.

Comment Re:Just noticing this? (Score 1) 253

True enough, but at least in the consumer line, a company that has higher prices in order to provide better technical support goes out of business pretty darn quickly.

Essentially the assumption is good technical support from everyone and thus the only true competition is on price. Now, when a customer has a problem and gets no support, they'll stop buying from you, but that's probably 5% of your customers at most. Meanwhile, your lower prices will bring in a *lot* more customers than you'll lose.

Now, if you've got a luxe image and price for other reasons (Apple), then good support is part of that image and you'd better provide it. But if you're in the commodity market, paying for good tech support will drag you under.

On the other hand, if I *am* paying $1,000 month for support, it better be pretty damn good.

Comment Re:Good news for BN? (Score 1) 218

> In summary: you want to veto the choice of consumers for cheaper goods, so that publishers can sell them books for a higher price.

I suspect you are projecting. Perhaps you can't imagine anything trend that you disapprove of that shouldn't be banned, but I am not under the illusion that the world revolves around me.

Nowhere did I say or even imply that Amazon's practice should be banned or sanctioned.

Now, I do think it will lead to books becoming essentially irrelevant in 10-15 years (and Amazon making *more* money from books by charging people for "publishing" books on Amazon and more importantly, getting them to show up on the virtual shelves), but that's too bad for me.

Over my lifetime, I've already had two of my hobbies die (one by mail-order and one by Internet) as the consumer's saved enough money that the industry couldn't survive. It's a natural impulse, like eating your seed corn and the first time, I thought it was great. Five years later the hobby was dead (small hobby, didn't take much).

The second time I saw it coming. Didn't participate in saving money, but the same thing happened.

Now books are a much larger deal, and I don't expect books to disappear, but it seems almost inevitable that that Amazonization of the industry will succeed, with more and more people self-publishing books, but fewer and fewer people reading them (even if books are $1 a piece, who has the time to read 100 books to find one that even has a chance of being entertaining?)

However, there will be a good decade of publishers and authors losing money while continuing to publish books with consumer's happily getting cheap books of decent quality. And once the publishers and the bookstores are gone, consumers will find something else to amuse them and I'll add a third hobby of mine to the list.

It's sad, but it's also life.

Comment Re:Good news for BN? (Score 3, Insightful) 218

You are certainly technically correct. Amazon is not a monopoly. However, they are the 800-pound gorilla, and we've seen this script before.

Essentially their market power allows them to dictate price and the price they demand is well below what the publishers can sustain themselves (as they currently exist) at. This means that they cannot (and will not) give the same price to the competition. This happened with the independent and the chain bookstores as well, and it pretty much drove the vast majority of the independents out of business.

And no, as has been made pretty clear, the strong majority of customers won't look anywhere else besides Amazon. Being unavailable in Amazon is roughly equivalent to having Google search delist your website. Sure, you still exist, and a small number of die-hards have you in their bookmarks, but you're essentially a dead-man (site?) walking.

So, effectively for the publishers, Amazon *is* the only game in town, regardless of legal definitions, and Amazon is playing the Walmart game. This might work well for consumers, unless they're looking for a certain quality of goods, in which case, the practice is deeply worrisome.

If you are interested in lots of cheap self-published fan-fic, then the "Amazonization" of the book industry is not a problem. After all, Walmart serves a significant audience as well. However, if you are well-served by the *current* book market, where books aren't cheap, but you are willing to pay the publishers for quality control (and assume that most good authors would find gainful employment elsewhere if they're asked to write for near-free) , then yes, driving the publishers out of business is not a positive development.

Comment Re:So someone didn't follow the practice ... (Score 2) 152


I see my analogy failed.

If my job is to write a program that does a sort, and I write a bubble sort, then if I really need it to work better, I don't tweak it, I redesign from scratch. Most people won't call that an optimization - they'll call it a redesign. Hence my original comment. (And yes, if we're being pedantic, *if* the sort is part of a larger program, then I would call rewriting the sort an optimization.)

My point was that if you don't *start* by taking all the strengths and weaknesses of the PS3 into account in the initial design phase, influencing or even dictating many of the the large scale design decisions (including the actual game play), you are unlikely to make maximum use of the machine.

You could call rewriting the design an optimization, but I don't think that's how most people think about it.

Comment Re:So someone didn't follow the practice ... (Score 1) 152

By bizarre, I mean that it has taken years for PS3 designers to be able to re-architect their games to keep all six SPE's busy because of limitations on the SPEs (as detailed multiple times in postings above by others). In other words, bizarre means "different", not necessarily bad. Essentially, there was not a lot of skills transfer between being able to program most machines out there and effectively programming the PS3.

Very briefly, the PS3 has one main core and six accessible Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs). The SPE's are wicked fast, but memory access restrictions and limited access to main memory means that it's really tough to get them all doing useful work. For example, when the PS3 first came out, the net was full of people criticizing games where 3 of the processors were essentially unused.

As programmer gradually learned to re-architect their applications (and from what I understand through reading interviews, it was re-architecting - if you weren't designing to address the limitations of the SPEs from ground up, you probably weren't going to make very good use of them), the programs seem to get faster and to get better graphics each year.

It's an interesting (if dangerous) strategy

Comment Re:So someone didn't follow the practice ... (Score 2) 152

I'd suggest that the PS3 is radically different enough that if your *reference design* wasn't PS3 specific, you've probably already failed.

You can't "optimize" a bubble sort into a quick sort.

(One interesting effect of both the PS2 and PS3 was that their design was so bizarre that it took years for programmers to be able to optimize effectively. This meant that games were consistently better every year even without any changes in the hardware. With a more conventional architecture, what you buy in the first year will essentially be state of the art for the life of the console. Makes it much harder to get people excited about "this year's version of xxx".)

Comment Re:Isn't hard drive access desirable? (Score 1) 361

Wow, now that's an analogy I didn't expect.

My analogy was chosen to refute "simply and natural => okay". Violence is simple and natural. Two year-olds can swap drives. They can also hit each other with them.

Likewise, the fact that you can probably get away with it does *not* have any bearing on how ethical an activity is.

Can we at least agree that ease of doing so and chance of getting caught has *nothing* to do with whether a behaviour is desirable or not? It may make a difference to enforceability, but that is completely different to whether a behaviour is ethical.

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