716 posts • joined 24 Jul 2009
Re: Cunning Stunts
@ Brewster's Angle Grinder:
There are still possibilities, though:
How about implementing a maximum amount that can be claimed as a cost by a UK PLC as an "asset use charge" for IP such as names etc and set it at some low percentage of total revenue, then disregard any additional costs submitted by the company when calculating tax liability? Better yet, set that maximum amount as a % of profits declared in the UK? Ie if you want to be able to funnel out £5M as a cost, you have to have declared a profit of £50M (and paid tax on it).
Or placing an onerous burden of proof re: competitive tendering process for supplier choice (to be reviewed by independent auditors) when eg Starbucks claim they have to use Starbucks beans bought at a 5 Gajillion% markup compared to every other suppier, and where such proof is lacking only accept a cost declaration set by the average cost of said supplies from eg the top 5 suppliers per volume, and ignore any additional costs when calculating tax liability. It doesn't eliminate the problem, but it makes it cost them more to do it, and eventually the cost-benefit analysis will tip the other way.
For product-based companies in particular like Starbucks and Apple, the claim that they have to pay themselves for use of said assets is clearly bollocks. There's no actual business requirement for it, it's an accounting convenience. So limit the accounting benefit from letting them do it. No actual business model will operate in such a way that all possible profit margin is eaten by a cost to an exclusive supplier; if there's no *actual* profit, there's no reason to continue operating.
Alternatively, pass legislation whereby leaking corporate tax arrangements is permissible under law - and so is eg tasering company executives for approving such measures. (Just kidding, though it strikes me that a BOFH-like solution would be more effective in achieving changed behaviour...)
Re: No surprise here - It is DRM that increases piracy
Hmm, I should've chosen my words more carefully. I didn't mean to suggest that there's absolute parity end-to-end between ebooks and printed books, necessarily - I was trying to suggest that it's a fallacy to think "Ebook = no production costs, physical book = enormous production costs". Ebooks increase the workload for layout and platform proofing. I referenced Stross because his article is the best expression of the number of things done by a publisher as part of publishing a book that don't involve either the book being written or the words being put onto paper; the vast majority of those things apply regardless of format.
It's also relevant to mention that while I happen to know a bit about self-publishing and small press, I generally defer to people working full-time in the field when it comes to what is or is not true about that field.
I'm not sure you can ignore 16 and 17 For "shipping", you can substitute "file hosting & distribution", and for "invoicing and accounting" you can substitute...errr... "invoicing and accounting". Unless you are exclusively selling your ebook through your own channel (which reduces your reach substantially), you'll be dealing with partners. Ergo invoicing & accounting.
(You may be interested in CMAP #9: Ebooks, incidentally - not least for Stross's prediction that ebooks will end up replacing mass market paperbacks. A prediction that I don't like but suspect is going to be correct.)
I'm not convinced that your volume argument is entirely correct - it assumes that there are no per-transaction costs, for starters, which is generally not the case. On top of which, there's no guarantee that simply cutting the per-item revenue (presumably by slashing the "profit" bit) the total number of item sales will increase enough to keep total revenue standard, never mind increase it. There's so much content out there that price alone isn't the main determinant, especially when you talk about material in which you the reader may be interested, but of which you aren't aware - because the solution to that is marketing (either word-of-mouth which takes ages or the traditional kind which takes money).
I do agree that book publishers want to get reader's loyalty, which is why they tend to want to retain first refusal rights to a given author's next book.
It's worth noting that some publishers are still doing very limited edition high-cost items (eg small runs of individually-numbered signed books, and even smaller runs of individually-lettered signed books - I heard about this when reading about China Mieville's books, but I'm sure he's not the only one). As with the music industry, I suspect that the way to go is to use different formats to target different audiences. (Why turn down the extra money to be made from rich fans who want a unique physical artefact just because casual readers want a cheap ebook, when you can do both?)
Re: No surprise here - It is DRM that increases piracy
As one who held this same opinion for a long time, I feel compelled to link you to the relevant Charlie Stross Common Misconceptions About Publishing article.
The only way ebooks are cheaper is if they are an afterthought to the printed publication and therefore can be considered, as a format, to have no inherent sunk costs of their own. But that's simply not true, partly because format testing for the variety of devices and platforms out there brings proofing and layout costs to the e-edition, and partly because every publisher who wants to stay in business these days has to include ebook sales into their total sales projections.
Note that I'm not arguing for price parity here; but reading Stross's article and talking to some friends who work in publishing has convinced me that the case for ebooks being vastly cheaper than printed books requires either special circumstances or wonky financials.
That said, I wish more publishers would do an O'Reilly on it and provide a bundle option at a marginal increase on the print edition price; I can see the value in both formats, and don't object to paying more for receiving a book in both formats to save me either printing out a digital copy or scanning in a paper one - but the pricing has to be better than "want both formats? buy two copies". Especially if DRM nonsense will be involved on the ebook side.
Not being funny, but as with every other blog out there, I haven't seen any actual statement from MS that Blue is going to bring back the Start button.
Is it a case of a click-baiting headline, or have I missed something from the article itself?
Re: Such as shame
Wipe? If he's very lucky he'll be in circumstances that allow for merely wiping to be appropriate.
My guess is that the poor bugger's gonna need a bucket and a hose, and possibly some wire wool, once his diet returns to some normality.
Still, it's all for a good cause, right? And he'll be able to walk normally (and sit down without wincing) after a few days...
(I'm sure I'm not helping here :D)
A prize of some sort is due for "colonal mass ejection".
Though from what you say about rumblings and imminent bowel explosions, I suspect you may be put off brown sauce for a while come Saturday...
HAH! Yeah, err, no thanks.
They can go and jump. And not just for the passport stuff but for the social network crap too. I don't see any reason for them to have either bit of info, and in particular deciding that they will simply require those of us living in countries with strongaer-than-the-US data protection laws to go along with their half-assed crap is a great way to get themselves consigned to the dustbin of history.
Given how much grief you effectively doom yourself to for the rest of your life for having a single instance of passport theft (be it physical theft or duplication/identity theft), the risks involved in letting some shower of twits with no guaranteed ability to provide a good level of security for the information they're demanding far outweigh any benefit likely to arise from doing business with them.
@Miek - he's more commonly known as Waylon Smithers these days...
Re: @Captain Underpants
@Neil - yes, fine, owned by The Crown and run for the public. However, in the context of the currently-fashionable instance of constitutional monarchy that ostensibly runs the UK, there's not really any difference between that and being state-owned - at least not that I can tell. (Well, aside from the fact that other state owned broadcasters tend not to be of the same calibre as the Beeb, but I think that's more a fluke than down to something special about the nature of The Crown as a corporate holder...).
Re: BBC Android developers are incompetent.
From the UK TV Licencing Terms & Conditions page:
"To use any TV equipment to watch or record TV programmes as they are being shown on television.
This includes watching or recording streamed services and satellite TV broadcast from outside the UK. If you only watch on-demand services, then you don't need a licence." (My emphasis).
For my next trick, I shall explain how to convince the licencing people that my nice Sharp screen is in fact a monitor only receiving video input from my HTPC and definitely not a television, no matter what it says on the box...
Think human, not technical - ie it's more a question of "What does the boss/account manager/MD/CEO use?" rather than "What's easier to develop for?".
Questions of cross platform support are greatly exaggerated, but given that iPlayer doesn't need to be as complex as eg some games - since it's just piping in video - the excuses ralating to different android handsets & versions have had the whiff of food after bovine digestion for at least 12 months now...
Re: What's the point of DRM?
The deciders are the content providers, not the platform providers. And the logic is usually "if you make it straightforward to grab the file for free from a stream/broadcast, you'll seriously damage your future ability to then sell access to the same content on disk - or charge other networks/foreign broadcasters for the rights to do the same".
If you make it unDRM'd on phones, you'd effectively be making it unDRM'd on all platforms. Which I agree would be a nice thing to have, but in the context of current financial models this is viewed as absolutely unthinkable by content owners (and the Beeb gets to have the fun of trying to rationalise the schizophrenic position of being a content creator/owner who's also a content distributor for third party creators who is also also state-owned and therefore has a different mandate to that enjoyed by standard commercial operators").
Re: It's a good job there aren't scripts to download iplayer streams.
The de facto ability to do something doesn't negate the desirability of an official, supported way of doing the same thing.
As for "We focus on iOS because of the challenge of supporting multiple Android devices" in the article... yeah, right. As with most other areas, I bet it's more like "The boss, and his boss, and his boss's boss, use iPhones. So you're going to do work that looks useful to them, and we can worry about porting it to that Android thing later, once we're sure they won't shitcan us to save money."
Re: why is it illegal?
Yeah, I noticed that the first time. I'm not personally convinced, though, because it's applied across the board and provides no exemption mechanism for those whose usage does not match the criteria. Hence, if it's a legislatively-mandated cost to be included in the price of all such items, it's no different in my mind to sales tax/VAT. (The more cynically minded might argue that the fact that the money gets funneled to a body who then pisses it away in a manner that most of its intended beneficiaries don't much like is yet another similarity to an actual tax...)
The difference between a tax and a levy in semantic terms is irrelevant, in any case - the key fact here is that if you buy storage media, you are paying a per-amount-of-storage-space charge to a body which compensates musicians for the transcoding of their music that you are assumed to do, whether or not you do it. At which point, screw 'em. If they're allowed to pre-emptively charge you for something you may do just by virtue of buying hardware, then the same sort of logic legitimises users pre-emptively snaffling naughty free copies of $BAND's new album before deciding to pay for it or not, because apparently we're reversing the usual order of the payment | product handover process in retail transactions...
You're right to ask for numbers, but I'd also like to point out that there is a non-trivial amount of legitimately freely redistributed content out there in torrent form. I'm not going to argue that it's more popular than $USBILLBOARD#1ALBUM or $TENTPOLEHOLLYWOODBLOCKBUSTER, but it's certainly there.
There are also commercial operations using closed trackers to distribute their software.
There is also the ever-present warez issue of files being deliberately misnamed (as has happened not only by malware or dodgy smut merchants, but also with "poisoned" files released by record labels).
So without a clear and quite labour-intensive methodology (which will need to include some sort of anonymised data access to a large number of ISPs, as well as permission to retrieve and inventory every torrent identified from the anonymised ISP data, as well as some sort of magic to identify when non-free material is being legitimately torrented) there's no useful way of reaching any conclusion.
(I should clarify - this applies to the overall superset of torrent trackers; I suspect that the number of legitimate torrents on TPB is rather low as a proportion of the total number of torrents...)
Re: why is it illegal?
Well, I guess it can be argued that with TPB in particular there's a specific focus.
But generally, with torrent trackers, unless they're focusing on specific media and stopping people submitting legitimately free material as torrents, that's not necessarily the case.
It's going to be interesting to see how Google treat trackers in future, given that the emergence of Google Play (or should I say re-emergence of Google Video?) means that they now find themselves with conflicting interests, since taking the AdWords money from torrent trackers may well mean depriving themselves of film rental/sale revenue through Google Play...
Re: why is it illegal?
I have to say I don't love the idea that buying a CD and having the temerity to transcode it to a format that can be used by the only audio-playing equipment that I own should involve me paying an additional levy. Especially not since buying the storage media involves paying the levy even if you only ever buy digital downloads:ie where the payment you've made for the song already accounts for it being a digital file.
So no, they can screw off, it's a tax. If it's applied across all storage media sales (ie there's no way for me to say "I won't be storing any transcoded media on this device, therefore I am exempt from the levy) then I don't see how they can argue otherwise.
@m a d r a:
No, see, you're missing the point. Being excessively expensive and restrictive is a way of denoting the domain's exclusivity. Because we all know that when you think Internet, you think dot-ie. Never mind those tacky dotcoms, I heard anyone can have one of them for a tenner or less! Truly the filthy floozies of the internet world. Dot-ies, now - they've got standards. And class. And definitely aren't just yours because you had the money to spend.
(Don't forget the rule about how you won't get a .ie domain if you want to serve up smut! Because we all know that Ireland is a smut-free country. Yep. Definitely. *cough*)
It occurs to me that de Valera would likely approve of the nonsensical policies governing the sale & administration of the .ie domain. Which, if you know anything much about the man's policies and legacy, says about all that needs to be said...
Re: why is it illegal?
That's not the point. The point is that the levy is applied to storage media, and the legislature describing it states that compensating artists is the rationale.
The fact that the levy is incompetently administered does not reduce the potential problem of treating as criminal an activity for whose repercussions you are imposing a tax.
Re: why is it illegal?
I'm not sure that applies across the board - besides, if it were true, it would equally apply to every search engine ever made publicly accessible and probably every computer-based comms technology ever made.
Newsgroups are still going strong and, barring Newzbin, haven't been persecuted for being an easy way to get warez. I've never heard of an IRC server being chased over warez/piracy issues even though that's another fine long-standing avenue for naughtiness.
Meanwhile, BitTorrent is a fantastically useful protocol for anyone who wants/needs to distribute large files without bleeding money for hosting, which means that it gets used for both lawful and unlawful uses. (I saw "lawful" because the "illegal" aspect of torrenting is based on the "oooooh, that's redistribution, therefore we'll treat people running torrent clients in the exact same way as we would someone mass-producing knock-off DVDs that they sell for a fiver down the pub".)
I have a whole bunch of torrents that I regularly seed at home - many of them are legitimately free films ferom the likes of vodo.net; others are legitimately free software packages or game mods; others are non-free but private-tracker torrents for things like Humble Bundle game packs (as in, the torrents are made available by the Humble Bundle founders and I seed them to try and help HB keep their bandwidth costs down).
The fact that naughty material is available as a torrent doesn't mean that all torrents are naughty or that the existence of torrents predisposes people to be naughty. If anything was going to predispose people to be naughty, it would be the access they have to a networked machine that's very good at making copies of information structures....
It's also worth noting that in certain countries, taxes are levied on storage media that are directly paid to performing artists collection bodies as "compensation" for piracy (Canada & Spain, for example). How easy is it to argue that an action is illegal if the state has already imposed a tax on you which asserts that you will commit the action and charges you accordingly?
Ah, .ie domain registrations, where the high cost is justified on the grounds of exclusivity and the reasons you'd want to get one offered are "well, it shows you're doing business in Ireland". It's almost as though .ie domains are being managed by people who don't have the faintest understanding of the technology involved...no, wait, it's exactly like that.
And here was me thinking that the solution to this issue was the long-standing "get a long thin rod, put a small blob of whiteout on it, and very gently pop it down the headphone jack to cover the offending pinkness"...
Re: White whines: Muh New Overpriced Shiny was a stolen!
From what I've seen of other similar software, it can configure the camera to take snapshots at regular intervals and upload them to a predetermined location. It also seeks out any available networks (either private ones to which access is provided, or public networks) for uploading info.
So yes, it depends on network access being available, but given the likelihood of such equipment being reused after the theft, it's not a terrible idea. Worst case scenario, your stolen shiny remains stolen.
Re: Wow - quicker than you can say "judgemental"
Well, that's the rub, isn't it?
On the one hand, if it was nicked it was probably stolen for a fair bit less than brand new pricing (though still more than a nicked laptop without a glowing fruit on the back). So there'd probably be an element of "This is surprisingly cheap" at play.
On the other hand, we don't know whether they bought straight from someone wearing a balaclava, black & white stripey jumper who was carrying the MBP in a burlap sack with "SWAG" written on it, or whether they bought it from the nth person in a chain with only the first person involved having direct contact with the thief.
Still handling stolen goods, I suppose, but not to the same extent.
There's a good article in the April issue of National Geographic about the current state of play of the technology involved in cloning extinct species, and as I understand it the current approach is to pick a similar species, modify individuals of that species so that their genetic payload corresponds to that of the species you want to breed, then have them mate. The idea is that it's possible to create certain gene sequences and implant them as required, but you need a suitable recipient for the idea to work.
Apparently there are folk working on the passenger pigeon and the sabre-toothed tiger, so while dinosaurs might be out we could at some point see formerly-extinct species revived through
the unholy artsscience.
(For those interested, the article is here.)
Unless they've got some solid statistical backing for that info which they're willing to make public (in suitably anonymised form) then their numbers will be treated with suspicion because the BSA's agenda derives entirely from the continued problem of piracy. They're hardly likely to come out and say "Turns out hardly anyone pirates anything any more, and there's really no reason for us to continue to exist", are they?
Better yet, in several cases the privatisation strategy decided that keeping the money within the national economy wasn't important so they sold them off to foreign owners, meaning that the profits derived from said companies are flowing out of the UK economy. Which is just excellent. (Source: http://metro.co.uk/2013/04/02/soaring-rail-profits-are-used-to-cut-fares-abroad-3567491/)
Privatisation, in theory and if enacted correctly, can let us all benefit from competition. The problem is that privatising infrastructure on which we all depend and which we cannot allow to fail is a tricky business, and the Post Office is a great example of how, when done wrong, there's a net degradation of service in many areas while costs continue to increase.
It's good to see that publishers have learned from recent history that introducing technological constrains on new media to enforce old licencing schemes always works and absolutely never backfires in a way that promotes growth of pirated content....
I like books. I spend a silly amount of money on the things. I also borrow books from my library. I want to give any publisher who thinks that expiring ebooks is a genuinely good idea a ding round the ear, because if they think that they're obviously thinking with the wrong organ and need a hard reset to their thinking organ.
I've no problem with the idea of extending the public lending right to ebooks - if it makes sense for physical media, it makes sense for digital media. But holding digital media to artificial constraints that don't apply simply to facilitate an outdated licencing scheme is a stupid idea, and should be treated as such.
Re: BBC for the headlines @Ledswinger
That's great, until you factor in the notion of whisteblowers. And whether or not you think they're needed very often, it's not necessarily a net improvement to the world to make it impossible for someone to report dodgy dealings or actions without effectively standing up and saying "I, Joe Bloggs of 123 Fake Street, would like to bring to your attention the following criminal *ack ack argh*", shortly followed by a takedown notice on the basis that the post is defamatory and a news story a couple of days later about how Joe Bloggs of 123 Fake Street has been found dead with two bullet holes in the back of his skull, and the police believe it to be suicide, and Definitely Not Shady At All.
I do think that an awful lot of comment sections would be improved if the very small but non-zero probability existed that saying something objectionable might get you a real-world kick in the danglies. (But then, who gets to define "objectionable"? Back to square zero...)
Given that Andrew tends to have an agenda in this area, it would probably have been a good idea to link to some actual numbers to substantiate the "circulation is up since implementing the paywall" claim, rather than showing a screenshot of the Sunday circulation figures.
I won't say I'm necessarily delighted to see this happen, but I'm glad that a more rational model has arisen for the continued existence of newspapers. It makes sense to at least try and get some money in from readers. Though I wouldn't object if certain broadband tariffs included a fee that would be kicked back to newspaper publishers in exchange for access to their content....
Re: Kensington Lock?
Nah, Apple have decided those are aesthetically unpleasing. Besides which, allowing you to lock up your expensive new iDevice
deprives Apple of the profits from your replacement when it gets stolen deprives you of the privilege of visiting an Apple Store and buying a replacement if your original were to unfortunately be stolen.
Re: The idea is...
@Destroy All Monsters
Thank you for attempting to explain the issue. (My comment appearing directly below yours was in fact intended for Andrew, not yourself).
As I understand your post, the issue then is that Turing's Universal Machine is not the first example of a universal symbol processing machine? And/or that the Universal Machine is a hypothetical machine rather than an actual piece of engineering?
It would greatly help your odds of not coming across like a condescending bellend if you'd explain why you believe that to be the case here.
I may be having a stupid moment, but wasn't the entire point of Turing's Universal Machine precisely as described by Fry, ie that it's a generalised framework on which a specific program can be run to solve a specific problem rather than building problem-specific hardware which can only ever solve one type of problem? I mean, ok, perhaps he should have stressed that the Universal Machine was the idealised version of the programmable computer, but that seems a pretty flimsy reason to have a go. Not that I expect ironclad reasoning when it comes to El Reg looking for chances to have a go at Fry...
Re: I realise Google are crap at anything to do with customer service...
What part of "informing their employees about why things go tits up." involves telling someone at The Register about it?
Re: Was it just TIFKAM as this is easily replaced/avoided with the right add-ons
You're missing the point, I think. Which is that people hate change, period. (I remember hating XP because 2K was fine. I remember hating Vista rather more so, because by then I was accustomed to XP and it was fine. I remember disliking 7 for a bit, too. And I remember hating 8. In computing "New interfaces" means "new pain in the arse stuff to learn your way around", regardless of platform - just look at all the Unity/GNOME3/KDE4 stuff doing the rounds for proof that the penguinistas don't necessarily have it any better. One of these days, someone'll fuck about with the look & feel of XFCE and then we're all screwed.) But anyway - in the absence of Windows 365, Microsoft depends on regularly changing the OS version (and UI) sold on new computers to make money. So the joy for us in the field is to navigate this crap as best we can.
You and I are in firm agreement that TIFKAM is a bit silly on non-touch devices. However, after forcing myself to get to grips with it, I can say with confidence that if you're willing to spend a little time at the start of the machine's life getting the Start UI into a configuration that's useful to you (because the default configuration is worse than friggin' useless, and God knows how it got approved as is) and learn a couple of keyboard shortcuts, it's very straightforward to use. Seriously. I mostly spend my time on the desktop forgetting that I'm using Win8 unless I need to get at the settings on the system - for running applications, it may as well be 7.
If you don't want to do that, well, it takes less time to install ClassicShell and force the appearance of Windows 7 onto the thing than to do just about any of the other stuff you still need to do on any new Windows install ever releases, and you get something you're happy with.
Yes, I know, ideally you'd have a "enable Classic UI" button instead, but we're talking about perhaps 150 seconds of your life. You and I have both spent longer than that writing individual posts on the subject around here. Perhaps it's time to agree that it just isn't that big a deal? Or, if you genuinely think it is that big a deal, communicate this to MS in a meaningful way. Because I guarantee that "What those tossers moan about on the El Reg forum" will never be incorporated as part of feedback or UAT at MS. Politely-worded emails, on the other hand...
Re: More proof...
@Longrod_von_Hugendong (Now there's a username that doth protest too much...)
I wouldn't go making bets on that just yet; if it's large corporates we're talking about, anything bar the Surface Pro won't even be getting a look at Win8 for 12-18 months at the earliest. That's just the speed at which corporates roll. To pretend otherwise is to admit you've never worked support in one and don't really know of which you speak.
Even if the UI does prove to be a serious point of contention regarding the adoption of 8 within the corporate environment, Server 2012 is proving very popular so far with those who're testing it, and from what I've seen myself the improvements made to Hyper-V alone make it worthwhile. So between that and things like Windows To Go, I don't think it's quite as straightforward as the "irrefutable turd in punchbowl" story you'd like to have us all believe. Of course, I say this as one who finds Win8 at the desktop straightforward to use (who'd have thought, you learn some new keyboard shortcuts and it's just fine, same as every other version of Windows at the desktop) so feel free to disregard everything I say...
If any of you are trying to tell me that large enterprises purchase their OSs as preinstalled OEM versions rather than rolled-in-house images based on a volume-licenced Enterprise edition, I question the assertion that you've got even half the minimum required amount of clue concerning how enterprise IT operates to be participating in this conversation.
This entire article reads to me like an attempt to claim that Win8 has failed in the enterprise, when the reality is that only the tablet editions will even have a look-in at the enterprise level for the time being. It's going to be at least another couple of years before any sane enterprise considers migrating to Win8 at the desktop, just as it would have been at the same point in Win7's lifespan, or Vista's, or XP's, or 2K's.
Re: OK, case study....
I'm really not so sure what you say is valid. Only the printing and shipping stuff is physically-specific; everything else pertains to both dead-tree and no-tree versions. I've seen what you get when people try to skimp on the copy-editing, proofing or layout sections and it substantially devalues the end product.
I'm wary of the assumption that the cost of providing hosting and bandwidth for ebook distribution (especially anything that might contain an abundance of high res images like tech manuals or education-oriented textbooks) would automatically be negligible compared to shipping, particularly since at this point the ebook sales model means that actually admitting you are charging your customer an "electronic delivery charge" of any kind is unacceptable. And with 200+ppi screens becoming more and more commonplace, larger filesizes and greater-resolution images will become the norm, so it's not something that'll go away.
Consider the dead-tree equivalent of your argument re: " sunk costs). Most of the production process isn't in the printing or shipping side; it's in the author's advance, editing, proofing, scheduling and marketing the book. Once you get to the point where a second print run can be justified, the only sunk costs are printing and shipping - this is why paperback editions are feasible even though their profit margins are much lower than initial hardback runs. But not every book gets as far as a second print run, especially not in the "niche" genres like "not paranormal romance" or "stuff that Oprah Winfrey hasn't promoted" or "stuff that doesn't count amongst the 3 books WH Smiths customers buy per year".
The sunk cost to produce an ebook version worth a damn is non-trivial (hence my reference to Stross' post, which I found eye-opening when I first read it) and has to be amortized against a given number of sales of that ebook before future sales are gravy with only distribution costs to offset. Even if the distribution costs are lower per book, they're still not zero, and I am willing to bet money that no profit-making publisher will view the return on the sale of a single copy of an ebook as, in itself, enough to cover the costs of producing it. That's simply not how breaking even works.
Re: OK, case study....
Here you go: http://xkcd.com/488/. It talks about audiobooks, but the principle applies across all media that can be digitized, really.
If it's only 5% they're bloody lucky, I'd say. I would have estimated it as more like 10%, with far more again being willing to pay a reasonable price and pirating when that's not an option.
The rise in legal useful services in the UK will almost certainly be a factor here, but as a film and music enthusiast who uses everything from Amazon through emusic to Bandcamp to get music and Netflix/Lovefilm through Film4OD/CurzonOnDemand for home viewing, I maintain the opinion that if I've checked half a dozen services and accounts to try and legally get at the product I'm seeking and the rightsholders have decided that I shouldn't be allowed paid access to it, then they lose nothing if I end up getting it elsewhere. (EG I'd happily pay up to £10 just for streaming access to Sky Atlantic, but Sky won't let me get that unless I switch to them as a provider - so they can sit and swivel, and those content creators who decided that giving Sky the exclusive rights to their contents get money from me only when they release their stuff on DVD. It's a net loss for all of us, but if they will insist on being bloody stupid there's only so much I can do....)
I happily pay for content, but I don't understand what sane individual would think that there's a difference between "Captain Underpants, in the UK, watches DL copy of eg current Big Bang Theory episodes, then buys boxset of that season 6 months later when it's released" and "Captain Underpants, in the UK, waits until that boxset is released 6 months after broadcast and buys it when it's released". They get the same money, at the same time, in both cases. If they want my money sooner, the way to do it is to give me DRM free access to paid-for episode downloads, at a reasonable price. The music industry eventually accepted this and, surprise surprise, is now reporting steady increases in digital music sales. I look forward to the day that the film and tv industry catch up.
Re: OK, case study....
In the specific context of DRM'd account-linked ebooks, I agree that they should be cheaper than dead-tree versions, but that's because you have fewer rights with those ebooks than the dead tree version.
In general, though, the production process for pbooks and ebooks are mostly the same, and the costings aren't as different as one might assume. Have a read of Charles Stross's Common Misconceptions About Publishing posts, particularly #2 "How Books Are Made" - http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/02/cmap-2-how-books-are-made.html
There's also the whole pbooks are VAT-free (for now) while ebooks are not to consider. That's a 20% difference right there.
So "a "snapshot of calls from the same area as the complainant on the same day" is not enough to "support PC World's advertised promise", but a single complaint is enough to discredit it?
Seems a bit sketchy to me. I'm all for demanding statistically valid sampling to substantiate statements, but that goes both ways. One chap's problems do not equate to the entire service being mis-sold across the board.
Same as it ever was, then; unauthorised services demonstrate the demand and viability of new options, and after the same old squabbling and sky-is-falling nonsense, the industry eventually acknowledges that maybe if they stop with the lawsuits and put a bit of thought into selling customers the new thing they want, they'll probably make some money.
Now, if only we could get the film and television industries to catch on with this, it might feel like the entertainment industry in general was actually caught up with its audience and operating on a 21st century paradigm. (Eg why in the name of hell won't Sky see sense and eg let someone like me buy Sky Go access without making me switch to Sky for everything else? I don't want to switch, I just want to pay Sky for legal access to Sky Atlantic. Similarly, I'm happy to pay for I-own-it downloads of films or TV shows, but only if they're DRM free - same as with music. Until then, the existing players like Blinkbox and iTunes can suck it.)
The thing about telling people to ignore streaming, or free demos, or pay-what-you-think-it's-worth or all those other models is that the freedom to do that requires the backing of a label.
If you're someone who a record label thinks has the prospect of being a multi-million seller/the vocalist on the single for the new Bond film (for example), you can get them to back you and push you through the traditional retail model and chances are it will work out well for you.
If you're a proficient guitarist who made a name for himself with guitar-based covers of classic videogame soundtracks (for example), that's not so likely to work well. However, the variety of other options now open to independent musicians are, in a very real sense, the difference between being able treat music as something approaching a job and being forced to treat it as an expensive hobby.
It's a bit of a shame that the old bollocks of "chasing pirates has had a huge effect" on the bottom line, because a far more realistic explanation is that making it easily available with a reasonable price is easier and less hassle than cocking about with whatever source of NaughtyWare you care to name. When I think about what it was like trying to find (and buy) music I liked 12-15 years ago compared to now, the paradigm shift is obvious. I'm not really interested in streaming music, personally, but the analogy to TV services seems simple; more importantly, the big thing about streaming is that it's effectively a new version of radio and likely to be the common source of music for the time-rich/cash-poor like kids/teenagers/students. And, well, moving those groups onto legit services from the default "All the legal services are crap, I'll go pirate it" stance is still a win, even if it doesn't generate huge revenues - because if nothing else it predisposes them to use the legit services once they have money.
Well, I obviously disagree :)
The PS3 was, at launch, a games platform with Blu-Ray player and a £600 price tag. With Blu-Ray discs rare and stupidly pricey at the time, that was basically "A games console with some function I'll barely ever use". We're not talking "commoditisation of DVD playback" in the way that the PS2 achieved here - for many people this thing was the introduction to the technology. Hell, for plenty of folks today their Blu-Ray collection consists exclusively of discs that they've received as gifts.
At the time of the PS2 and its integrated DVD player, that was pretty much the only current form of contemporary home video option, with VHS already recognised as being on the way to its grave. It was good enough, and didn't drive the cost of the console up particularly. Whether or not the Blu-Ray playback function drives up the cost of the PS3 is irrelevant - because it appeared to do so, in no small part because Nintendo's console launched at 1/3 of the PS3's price. If the killer feature the PS3 offers is Blu-ray, but the value of that feature has been hobbled by the continued viability of the DVD and the rise of streaming/downloadable content (Blinkbox, 4OD, iPlayer, iTunes etc), then it stands to reason that selling it as anything other than the Sony Games Machine isn't going to work. And you can see this in the fact that they started to shift more units once the price came down to £250-£300 - because when it's more or less the same price as a Wii and can do other stuff as well, it gets people's attention. If it does other stuff as well but costs twice the price, people consider the other stuff and largely decided that they didn't really care all that much.
And this all before we talk about selling a £600 piece of home entertainment electronics with a horrifically high failure rate and several instances of functionality being removed during firmware updates...
People who aren't audio/videophiles do not see the value in buying a full media centre worth a damn, especially not one whose benefits may be lost on them if it turns out they bought a less-than-amazing-quality TV. A PS3 or PS4 won't be a compelling sales pitch at £600 as "not just a games machine" if the "not just games" stuff is stuff that customers view as unwanted/unneeded extras. That's not a comment on the quality of the other functions, but on whether people place value in them.
The tablet pricing thing is down to people seeing a large overlap between a laptop and a tablet, and thus being willing to apply similar pricing. (It still seems a bit barmy to me too, but then I've already got a netbook, a laptop and a desktop, so it's hard to see a niche for a tablet. If I just had the desktop, I'd probably see it differently...)
The key resource is *money*. I moved to London from southeast Ireland about 6 years ago, doing a very similar job here to the one I did there, and surprisingly found the cost of living here (rent aside) to be more or less the same - but I earn about £10K more here than I did there. Now consider that when I lived there, it was entirely normal to see most retailers dealing with media like DVDs, CDs and games keep products at their launch price for their entire lifespan. So many games remain €60 games, CDs remain €25 cds, and DVDs remain €30 DVDs. Over the last 7 or 8 years, a bunch of those retailers wondered why so many consumers in Ireland collectively told them to shove it, and started shopping online. But many of them failed to adjust their prices accordingly (Hello HMV, hello GAME) and have unfortunately since gone bust, which is bad for everyone. But to blame the consumer is a shortsighted and incomplete conclusion which fails to fully account for the root cause of the problem.
But let's shift focus to the UK.
The UK national average salary based on the most recent census is about £24600; knock off say 30% for tax, that's ~17200. Knock off say 8400 for rent, that's 8800 left - for travel, heating & electricity, food, insurance, and discretionary income.
Now say to someone "That record shop down the road will sell you a great album for £10, but Amazon has it for £7.50". Or "The specialty DVD shop has that film you wanted for £15, but it's available online for £5 + postage". Or "Gamestop has the game you want to buy, but it's on Steam at 75% off". Because for a massive chunk of the population, those are the choices. The numbers are pretty simple, but the context is not.
Amazon vs the bookshop is a good example of this - I've used Amazon for a good while and find that as far as online retail experiences go, they set the standard. I also have a very real problem with their attitude of not paying any tax in the UK, and have for some time been making an effort to limit how much stuff I buy through them if it's at all possible to get it elsewhere. In particular, I make an effort to regularly visit actual bookshops (including the small one a couple of streets away from me) and spend money on whatever they've got in stock that looks interesting (rather than seeking out specific titles). I like them, and I figure I can afford to spend more on the same books there and the "extra" cost is worth it for the convenience and pleasure of having them available (I've had my bacon saved on more than one occasion for late-purchase gifts, for example).
The point I'm trying to make is that it's not quite as simple as saying "support local retailers if they're available" - because for a lot of people the cheaper prices offered by online shops are the difference between "I can afford it" and "I can't afford it". Some of the time, people don't realise what they lose from not going to a local shop - but other times, the local retailer simply isn't offering a compelling or realistically priced option.
Consider the way that the Hugh Fernley-Whittingstalls of the cooking world will exhort people to buy everything locally and on the day - which is awesome if you actually have the time and option of going to a locally-supplied greengrocer, butcher, baker, fishmonger ect - but a bit of a fucker if like many of us you work 8 or 9 hours a day and have to spend 1-2 hours a day travelling to and from work. There's a reason that the supermarket concept gained traction in the first place.
That's well and good, and it's genuinely always nice to hear about musicians pushing for proper mixing and sound engineering.
However, his "manifesto" is still a load of poorly-informed twaddle that assumes that everyone in the world has the same resources as he does; which, given that he's an internationally famous musician with a number of well-received albums and singles to his name, strikes me as somewhat unlikely. Sadly, not all of us have the time and cash to be able to buy everything we need or want exclusively through local suppliers. Through internet forums I've found more friends who share genuine interests and outlooks with me than I've ever found through traditional social outlets; I've also found far more about niche bits of culture (be it film, books, comics or music) in which I'm interested which it's vanishingly unlikely I would've found through normal retail chains. So dismissing all of it because some consortium of retailers asked him to be their poster boy is, on the face of it, not a move that deserves much response beyond "that's nice jack, now piss off ".
I'm all for serious discussion about the future of the local retailer, but Jack's twaddlefesto is not the way to go about starting such a discussion.
Meh, there are many things that will get me to a record shop (or indeed any other brick & mortar shop) when I've actually got money to spend.
Dismissive bellendery from Jack White isn't one of those things.
In terms of getting specific products brick & mortar shops can be less straightforward than online shopping, but they have their own pleasures (especially when you're in a shop where the staff actually know about their products). And that's before you factor in the immediacy. But that doesn't mean they're perfect for everything, and if Jack White really wants to be taken seriously in his twaddle-passing-off-as-manifesto perhaps he should start by explaining how he squares his stance with the ongoing availability of his records via the likes of iTunes.
(On another note, whatever genius decided that World Record Store Day should fall 3 weeks into a 4 week month, ie at the point where anyone on a monthly salary has likely already burned through most of their discretionary income for the month, may want to reconsider their logic or lack thereof...)
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