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Comment The Agency Model is a racket! (Score 3, Informative) 99

The Agency Model is a racket that takes away a seller's ability to price ebooks how they see fit.

This is bad for the consumer since it means that market forces have less sway and there is little to distinguish one store from another. You will not find ebooks on sale and there is no point in "shopping around" since the price is the same everywhere.

If similar agreements were in place for other products, it would cause lawsuits. Imagine if all of the oil products sold by Shell or BP were given fixed prices. Media companies would love to have their own profit-guaranteed cartel and will push for illegal agreements to defend their aging business model.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 1) 123

I never said that DRM and the agency model were related. I was merely pointing out that Apple's entry into the ebook market removed seller freedom and empowered publishers. This was in contrast to the parent post which stated that Steve Jobs brought freedom to music by removing DRM from music formats.

I personally think that Apple was afraid of losing too much of the ebook market to Amazon so they made a behind-the-scenes push for publishers to adopt the agency model to thwart Amazon's price advantage. This enabled them to enter the ebook market using their shiny iDevices and sell content at the same price as Amazon. Apple's policy change to require a 30% cut of in-app purchases further pushed their advantage and forced the Kindle app (as well as other ebook apps) to remove their "Store" button that launched Mobile Safari to the Kindle web store.

As to whether the agency model is better for consumers is arguable. It is good that there are more choices in the market. Having an Amazon monopoly on ebooks would be bad, but Apple's tactics to bully their way into the ebook market are pretty ruthless. Such ruthlessness can only be attributable to Steve Jobs' desire to have Apple control all consumer content on iDevices. iBooks is still somewhat of an afterthought compared to iTunes' offerings in terms of music and video. For example, why can't I read iBooks on my MacBook Air? Why can't I access my iBooks by a web browser (ala Kindle Cloud Reader).

I'm not an Apple hater. I own a MacBook Air and an iPhone. I think iDevices are very nice, but I don't think that the agency model is good for the consumer. It drives prices up and reduces the ability for ebook vendors to compete in the market.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 1) 123

Hmm. It seems that O'Reilly has two types of ebooks:

1) Ebooks obtained through their Safari Books Online website (using download tokens) are marked with email address and account name as I described in my above post.

2) Ebooks purchased through their website,, are not marked this way.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 3, Informative) 123

Yes, I too think that DRM-free ebooks are a good thing.

If you read technical books, O'Reilly offers DRM-free ebooks from their website in several formats, including PDF, ePUB, and MOBI (Kindle-compatible).

They do this by marking your ebook: "Prepared for [your_email_address], [Your Name]" on the bottom of the pages. I think this is okay since it discourages piracy and marks the book as yours the same as if your wrote your name in the front cover of a paper book.

I hope that other publishers will adopt this practice or something similar.

Comment Re:DRM (Score 4, Informative) 123

You can thank Steve Jobs for the fully locked-down and now ubiquitous agency model that practically all publishers use.

"In the agency model, publishers set the price and designate an agent--in this case the bookseller--who will sell the book and receive the 30% commission. Adopting the model for e-books tends to mean e-book prices will rise, something both publishers and independent retailers applaud. Publishers believe low e-book prices devalue their books and cannibalize hardcover sales. Under the agency model once a price has been set it cannot be changed or discounted by the retailer and independent e-book retailers believe the higher prices of the agency model allow them to compete with big e-book vendors. " (from this article)

At least Amazon was selling ebooks for reasonable prices and encouraging competition in the market. Now we have a racket that is enforced on all sellers. Neither he nor Amazon have been able to dissuade publishers from using DRM.


Submission + - The (Big) Problem with RIM

An anonymous reader writes: Research in Motion, by all accounts, had a terrible week. But things might get even worse.
The Canadian technology company posted dismal quarterly earnings numbers, missing revenue and sales targets, while margins continued to shrink.
Co-CEO Mike Lazaridis conceded the PlayBook had been thwarted by a lack of apps and content, not necessarily by a weak platform. Like Apple with its iOS, and Microsoft with Windows, creating a successful platform will be dependent on the eco-system it supports, but RIM hasn't shown ability to foster that.

Submission + - Replacing Your Cell Plan w/ G-Voice & a 4G Hot (

An anonymous reader writes: I recently replaced my family's cellular service plan with a WiFi based solution that uses an iPhone w/o a service contract, Goolge Voice, a Verizon 4G LTE MiFi Hotspot and a free application called Talkatone, saving us over $100 per month in cell phone charges. In an article on my blog I describe how I did it.

Submission + - US to become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas? (

An anonymous reader writes: For those opposed to natural gas drilling in the United States, fracking is a dirty word. But the public needs to have a serious discussion about whether the costs and risks (like methane contamination) outweigh the considerable benefit of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and turning the US into an energy exporter. In “The End of Country” Seamus McGraw aims to jump start the debate by examining the issues at ground level, describing what happens when Big Energy comes to small town USA.

Comment Re:The problem: the event-driven model (Score 3, Interesting) 631

Most languages still handle concurrency very badly. C and C++ are clueless about concurrency. Java and C# know a little about it. Erlang and Go take it more seriously, but are intended for server-side processing. So GUI programmers don't get much help from the language.

In particular, in C and C++, there's locking, but there's no way within the language to even talk about which locks protect which data. Thus, concurrency can't be analyzed automatically. This has become a huge mess in C/C++, as more attributes ("mutable", "volatile", per-thread storage, etc.) have been bolted on to give some hints to the compiler. There's still race condition trouble between compilers and CPUs with long look-ahead and programs with heavy concurrency.

We need better hard-compiled languages that don't punt on concurrency issues. C++ could potentially have been fixed, but the C++ committee is in denial about the problem; they're still in template la-la land, adding features few need and fewer will use correctly, rather than trying to do something about reliability issues. C# is only slightly better; Microsoft Research did some work on "Polyphonic C#", but nobody seems to use that. Yes, there are lots of obscure academic languages that address concurrency. Few are used in the real world.

Ada 2005's task model is a real world, production quality approach to include concurrency in a hard-compiled language. Ada isn't exactly known for its GUI libraries (there is GtkAda), but it could be used as a foundation for an improved concurrent GUI paradigm.

This book covers the subject quite well.

Comment Re:!sales (Score 1) 111

Kindle books are almost always cheaper than the new print equivalent (used print books are cheaper).

There are many good books available on Kindle offered for free on a promotional basis. Usually these books are the first in a series. I grabbed a copy of Manifold: Time for free during a promotion and ended up buying the other two books in the series, Manifold: Space and Manifold: Origin for $6.99 each.

There are also sample chapters available for most books so you can read the book before deciding to purchase or not.


Submission + - Flight Of The Navigator: When CGI was HARD! (

An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Kleiser brought cinema its first photo-real, reflection-mapped CGI in 1986. A full five years before James Cameron's apparently ground-breaking 'metallic' visual effects in Terminator 2, Kleiser was trying to make a silver spaceship out of pixels for Walt Disney's Flight Of The Navigator.

Kleiser tells Den Of Geek just how hard it was to render CGI back when the 'jumping lamp' seemed like a landmark:

"To render the spaceship and get it onto film (along with a matte for the optical printing department), they had their own rendering software running on a prototype supercomputer called the Foonly F-1, which had formerly been used by Information International, Inc to drive their film recorders. The Foonly had very little disk space, so we had to render on the fly and send the data directly to the film recorder as it was being computed. That meant we had no way of reshooting a scene other than re-rendering it from scratch each time..."

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