* Posts by Tom 13

7611 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Publishers put a gun to our heads on ebook pricing, squeals Amazon

Tom 13

Re: The publishers were making MORE money under the wholesale agreement

Assertion without fact.

According to the published information, Amazon was consistently selling the books at a penny below wholesale. That means the only viable outlet the publishers had was Amazon. Mom and pop shops couldn't compete because who'd pay them wholesale + reasonable profit for mom and pop? That closes a significant revenue stream. Now, maybe that doesn't matter if 90% of your revenue is from ebooks. But when the ebooks are competing with the paperbacks, hardbacks, and special collectors editions it's a whole different story especially when the bulk of your profits are coming from those sales.

But then having been involved at least peripherally on the backend of the sales of dead tree books I know a bit more about the actual process than you do.

Tom 13

@Al N

For someone who believes the publishers possess and ought to possess so many varied powers over their product, you seem oddly unwilling to assign them the one power they ought to have over it: the power to set the price and terms on which they will make a sale. So far the only proof offered that there was collusion is that all of the distributors wound up selling at the same price. Markets do that all the time.

Tom 13

Thanks Mr. Stross,

I think the paragraph about the size of the damages being threatened, and the way in which the DoJ has conducted itself prove that this isn't about monopoly or cartel pricing, it's about shaking down private companies for politically well connected friends.

Nobody in this case except maybe Apple has the cash reserves to go up against the DoJ and win (and even for Apple it is maybe 50/50). So they picked off the smallest fish first. Which upped the price for the rest of the fish. Then they moved to the next smallest fish, and so on until only the big fish was left. And everybody assumes that because the small fish had to submit to the DoJ protection racket that they were guilty of the crimes claimed even though the settlement explicitly said there was no admission or claim of guilt.

Full Disclosure: The only Apple product I own is a refurbished iPod bought at a major discount on Woot (6+ years ago) . It mostly collects dust on a shelf. I currently have no intention of owning more Apple products. Generally speaking I prefer PCs. But I will defend their right to compete in the free market without government intimidation. Even if Jobs was a bit of a fascist leftist himself.

Tom 13

Re: The law.


There's a law against forming a cartel to conspire to fix prices. But you have to prove actual conspiracy to make that case. What the record shows so far is that the publishers were already pulling out of having Amazon in the price setting chair. Jobs gave them an alternate means of selling the books. They liked his deal and offered the same deal to Amazon. At no point was meeting and collusion required to make these changes. So far nothing DoJ has shown proves there was a meeting and collusion at the meeting. Even in email conversations. And that's the point the DoJ needs to prove, not that everybody wound up selling at the same price.

The market determined what the price was. In fact, each publisher sets the price for each book they sell. Any of them can change it. And Amazon could offer a different agency agreement to the publishers if they were willing to do so. Something like:

0-3,000 copies $12.99 with 30/70 split

3,001-10,000 copies $11.99 with 25/75 split

10,001-30,000 copies $10.99 with 20/80 split

30,000+ copies $9.99 with 18/82 split

Playing with the copy structure, pricing, and splits as they see fit. Also, any of the publishers could do so to undercut their competition.

Granted, the same pricing structure would immediately become available to Apple and anyone else with an MFN clause, but if your optimization is for mass distribution you can play to your strength and offer a better price.

Tom 13

AsI posted yesterday in another story:

The DOJ's Own PDF file Undercuts Their Case

But I guess nobody here bothered to read it. Ironically the key line is sandwiched between their highlighted quotes:

So even before Apple got on the scene, some booksellers were starting to withhold books from Amazon.

Essentially, the publishers realized they were being bled dry by Amazon and were looking for a way out. Jobs gave it to them. This suit is Bezos or his buddies trying to get even, and because the publishers already been bled out so much they didn't have the cash necessary to defend themselves from an intense government onslaught.

Microsoft parades Windows 8.1, the version you may actually want

Tom 13

Re: Nothing wrong with architecting

Some words should be removed from the language. This is one of them.

And if we stop using them they will disappear.

Tom 13

Re: fugly tile screen

I'm not sure you should compare fugly tile screens to the Win 8 whatever they call it.

It's insulting to actual fugly tile screens, which are much more aesthetically pleasing.

Tom 13

Re: they can't distinguish between an OS and a UI.

Even more to the point, they don't care that they can't distinguish between an OS and a UI. They want an app that just works so they can do whatever their real job is (assuming work), or play their game (hardcore gamers) or video chat with their grandkids 300+ miles away.

And you know what? As a tech supporting them who does know the difference, I think they have a valid point.

Tom 13

@mmeier 05-Jun-2013 17:20

There aren't many posters here at El Reg that are quite as annoying as Eadon on an MS-rant. But if you work just a little bit harder at it, I'm sure you can get there with your Windows 8 shilling.

Tom 13

Re: Microsoft parades Windows 8.1, the version you may actually want


Especially after the Start Button fiasco.

Yes, if I want a system that will play most of the PC games out there, I may be forced to buy a copy or two. But it won't be because of an innate desire to buy it.

Copyright troll Prenda Law accused of seeding own torrents

Tom 13

Re: Carrying on the best traditions of American lawyers

Yes, but only because moving a nanometer below that level instantaneously crushes the bathysphere.

Tom 13

Re: Laywers making porn

Wrong icon. Granted El Reg doesn't actually have the right one. I'd try this one instead. Or maybe the troll even though you weren't trolling.

Tom 13

Re: Syfert is attempting to make the claim that

Oh, I wouldn't say that. That's small fish compared to what I think he's claiming.

He's saying Prenda engaged in entrapment, which is itself a criminal offense. And one that even if not true, is still likely to cost an attorney his law license because he failed to take the precautions necessary to prevent the appearance of impropriety in his actions as a lawyer.

So this is more like reaching down your opponents throat, pulling out a few yards of his intestines, and using it to string him up.

Leaked docs show NSA collects data on all Verizon customers

Tom 13

Re: contact your local member of the Legislature

I would, but I live in one of our People's Republics. So it would be more likely to result in a specific query about me than just taking my chances with the already long list of red flags I have.

Tom 13

If the suspect was actually "knocking off* his wife"

I'm glad he did ask for the info and kept her alive. Unless of course you're a Brit and that term has a different meeting there. I'd go with that thought except your second paragraph makes it sound like your a citizen from my side of the pond.

*in the US that's a term of art for murdering someone.

Tom 13

@AC 06-Jun-2013 09:22 GMT

While the warrant process you describe is the historically approved one, because of the way society is currently constructed, it isn't particularly useful. Because at each step you need a new warrant which takes a fair chunk of time to get, by the time you've connected the dots the plot is already unfolding on the 6:00 news. We know we had all the dots for the 9/11/2001 attacks. But nobody put them together.

You could also protect individuals by providing the raw call records to the NSA, but anonymizing the data with respect to connecting the phone number to the owner and/or his address. Search the data for the call connections you need, and then through the courts request the name associated with the phone. Other protections might be needed beyond the basics I've laid out. But you also need to be able to find the bad guys before they kill 3,000 people in a coordinated attack.

But in the end, even the most carefully constructed laws can't prevent the perversion of government if you don't elect basically honest people who in turn appoint and hire basically honest people to other government positions. We can see that in Benghazi, the IRS scandals, and Fast and Furious.

Tom 13

Re: Who I call and what websites I visit is private information...

No, it's not. Google knows. Even if you don't use their search engine or mail system. And they're already in bed with the current Marxist leader:


If this doesn't stop soon, Stalin is going to be a piker on the world's worst leader list.

Tom 13

Re: useless without having a body

wrong focus for the body. The body that is supposed to enforce it is the US electorate itself. But having been bought off or seduced with transfer payments from other parts of the electorate, that body has become as corrupt as the politicians who corrupted it. Until it recovers, there is no recovery elsewhere.

Tom 13

Re: Constitution and ammendments

Most of them have no idea what the it actually says, the structure it creates, or how this is supposed to enable us to govern ourselves without great risk government becoming totalitarian. Without those ideas, they freely read into it all sorts of "rights" that are really "wants" and don't exist.

I've also found this to be a problem with many of the people who thoughtlessly complain about the US Constitution being shit upon in the name of thwarting terrorism. There are legitimate needs to collect such information. A terrorist calling someone in the US from a disposable phone creates the need to collect more phone records to find the terrorist. If the constant in the equation is the US citizen with the landline, that's the best point to monitor. The problem is in constructing the proper oversight so the power is not abused. Constructing such governmental controls is frankly impossible in a government that thinks it ought to be able to require people have purchased health insurance, or that it must provide a social safety net for those too stupid to plan and save for retirement. The grounds upon which the anti-terrorism threat to social liberty are fertile mostly because those other abuses came first.

Interview: Steve Jackson, role-playing game titan

Tom 13

Re: computer technology largely supplanted

adventure books, and role-playing and table-top board games

Only for a little while. We await the arrival of the killer app that will return us to RPGs that no MMO will ever be able to create: the ORPG. This killer app will provide video conference combined with onscreen display for the GM for maps and room displays, fight screen for combat, direct chat to the GM and private character chats.

Thirty-five years ago today: Space Invaders conquer the Earth

Tom 13

Re: My Classics List

I'd never be able to get it down to 10. Hell I can't even remember the names of them all. I played a fair number of them. Space Harrier was another of my favorites.

On your anti-list I believe you are thinking of Draon's Lair. Cool graphics, lousy play. I watched other people play, It was 5 to 10 long seconds of staring at the screen, then a single sudden joystick move one way or the other to make it to the next interlude.

Tom 13

Re: Pole Position go the same way:

Yep. I could get one, maybe two time extensions on that one. It generally turned me off to those kinds of games forever. Yeah, I'll join in if the company has one of those team-building events at Dave and Busters, but only because it's required.

Spy Hunter was much more satisfying. In fact, I'd say the only one I played that was as bad as Pole position was something called Space Wars. It was two little ships that let two players shoot at each other. There was a star/black hole obstacle in the middle that could also blow up your ship. But at least on that one you knew up front you were only going to play for one minute and 30 seconds per coin.

Tom 13

Re: Both of those machines took a "thumping", fortunately they were solidly built machines.

That's what I really miss. Console games you just can't abuse the way you could a good standup machine in an arcade. Whether it was Space Invaders, Defender, Missile Command, Pacman or even Quix, you could really get into pushing that joystick around. And for the ultimate in frantic joystick jerking, it had to be Robotron.

Tom 13

Re: These games were MAGIC

That would have to be Tetris.

I don't count home PC games as they are a whole different species. Arcade games you played with your friends. If at most two could play, everybody else still gathered round and cheered you on. We'd have 6 to 10 people circled around any one of the two or three games they had in the dining hall. And Tuesday nights after the sf club let out, first it was Roy Roger's for food and conversation before finishing it off with pinball and arcade games. First at Campus Casino, and then down to Playland. It was maybe $15 for the whole night including food at Roy's.

Tom 13

Re: ohh.

Given that both of the arcades I frequented in the misspent time of my college years went bust about 10 years ago, I doubt it.

Dave and Busters claims to make a go of it. They will at least have a combination Ms. Pacman/Galaga machine in the joint. Possibly Joust. Maybe Quix. Definitely a Gauntlet II (but never Gauntlet I) machine. But yeah, after that it's all Time Crisis/House of the Dead XX shooters or multi-player road race games. But only in the half of the game room that isn't dedicated to those silly ticket dispensing gambling machines. Okay, skeeball can be fun for a little bit as can the laser shooting gallery, but not the games we enjoyed in our youth. Although I think I did see a Dig Dug machine on my last pass through.

On the upside, you can at least have a beer while you reminisce. Or in my case, a gin and tonic.

iPHONES and 'Pads BANNED in US for violating Samsung patent

Tom 13

Re: end of the word "justice" in the US.

Guess you missed it. That ended about 5 years back now.

I case of doubt, check out the current Congressional hearings on:

IRS intimidation of political speech

AP wiretaps


There are others waiting in the wings that probably won't get any attention. Like Fast and Furious to name just one. I would have expected that one to gain some traction since it killed a lot of Mexicans, but it seems they can be tossed under the bus too if it fits other political purposes.

Tom 13

Re: "paid-for property" is in this case the White House itself.

Not a chance. They don't believe in property rights in the first place.

Dell bucks PC market tumble with Haswell business systems

Tom 13

Re: Faster access to components?!

Yes, there are times that I curse Dell puzzles. But truth be told, I'd rather that than having to carry around a belt load of screwdriver bits: Philips, flathead, Torx, modified Torx, whatever those square things are called, etc. etc. And God help us all when somebody patents a new fastener.

That being said, the reality is they use the puzzles to reduce manufacturing costs. Seems counter-intuitive, but that's the root cause.

Jobs' 'incredibly stupid' prattlings prove ebook price-fix plot, claim Feds

Tom 13

Re: So the question is, how does Amazon make a profit?

They don't.

Which is normally your first indication of a monopolistic player in a market segment. They sell at a loss to drive all the competition out, then jack up the prices when they're all gone.

Tom 13

DOJ PDF undercuts their case

But I guess nobody here bothered to read it. Ironically the key line is sandwiched between their highlighted quotes:

So even before Apple got on the scene, some booksellers were starting to withhold books from Amazon.

Essentially, the publishers realized they were being bled dry by Amazon and were looking for a way out. Jobs gave it to them. This suit is Bezos or his buddies trying to get even, and because the publishers already been bled out so much they didn't have the cash necessary to defend themselves from an intense government onslaught.

Tom 13

Re: regardless of how effective a retailer is,...

Not at all.

If another retailer signed an agency agreement with different percentages based on sales volume, if he managed a better sales volume he could offer lower prices. The publisher would have to offer Apple the same agreement, but Apple would have to match the sales volume to get the discount.

For as much as I dislike Apple's my way or the highway approach to their hardware, I see nothing illegal about their agency agreement or the MFN clause.

Tom 13

Re: the closed market, not an enforced pricing scheme.

Wrong on so many points.

There are competitors to Apple's iPad. Kindle is one of the primary ones. You don't have to buy from Apple to get the ebook. The difficulty does sort of lie within the combination of the agency pricing and the MFN clause. But what happened is the publishers finally started making money again so they only offered agency contracts to their other distributors when their old contracts expired. So there is no collusion to set prices, the market just worked out that way.

Increasing demand NEVER reduces prices, that's a function of increasing supply. Even the MFN clause doesn't stop prices from going down if supply increases. If I started a publishing company and offered Apple or any of the other vendors ebooks at an agency price of $7.99 they'd probably take it in a heartbeat. And if I had the resources to do that and could make a living at it I would. That nobody else is either indicates to me that the prices are at about what they need to be to support the market. Sort of like $1000/standard PC was the screwdriver shop price point about 10 years ago and it was $5000/standard PC 15 years ago.

Tom 13

Re: those costs are normally in a single one off starting fee to buy the rights,

Wait a minute! You think a couple hundred bucks to an author who spent months working on a novel is appropriate, yet call me a greedy bastage for saying the publisher should be able to pay him a living wage?

Penguin chief: Apple's ebook plan 'dramatically changed' market

Tom 13

Re: there are more people reading books

Perhaps you should purchase an ebook on basic economics.

More demand = rising prices not falling ones.

Tom 13

Re: At or below cost

He didn't say $9.99 was below cost, he said the prices Amazon was charging were below cost to the publishers. Jobs offered him a chance to make a profit. More to the point, whenever you have a sales agent consistently selling product below cost, you have the classic predatory monopoly situation: an agent who is able to indefinitely undercut a market segment because the agent is using profits from elsewhere to corner the market. Again I will point out it was Amazon exhibiting that power.

Also, you need to consider that ebooks aren't simply competing with ebooks. They compete directly with physical books. Maybe in the long run ebooks win out and physical ones go away (I hope not, but recognize the real possibility that before my life ends physical books will be artifacts of a bygone era), but until then the publisher needs both streams of revenue to survive. Indeed, the stream from the physical stream is currently more important to him. It's only price fixing if he colludes with other publishers to set the prices, not if he set prices in his best interest.

Tom 13

Re: physical cost of a book is only about 10% of the total cost of manufacture.

That depends on the type of book in question. Textbooks and other low volume books, yes. Mass market paperbacks are a whole other story.

Tom 13

Re: the fact that Apple forced the price up at a competitior.

Apple did no such thing. They gave the distributors a lifeline and the distributors took it. If the other vendors really thought a lower price would sustain the distributor they could have negotiated for it. Yes, the benefits would also have gone to Apple, but they'd still have a better price point. And they'd need to compete on convenience and internal cost effectiveness.

Tom 13

Re: Reading between the lines

Amazon might be selling at the price you want to purchase at. They might not be selling at a price authors or distributors can survive.

In fact, I've come to fear Amazon more than Apple or Google on the publishing front. If you want a company that can enforce real monopoly pricing, it's Amazon. They've already killed Borders here in the US. I don't doubt Barnes and Nobles is next.

Netherlands Supremes squash iPad design patent

Tom 13

Re: getting vast amounts of media coverage...getting lots of distribution in shops.

Right on the first point, not so much on the second.

I know someone who was involved in iPhone and iPad sales at a major US national retailer. He said Jobs actually limited the availability of devices at release which added to the snob factor (only he calls it the "coolness" factor). That supported the super-high margins Apple commands for their inferior hardware. On the other hand, he still bought the iPhone because even though the hardware is inferior, Apple supports it for a longer time. So he's expecting a lower TCO over the 4-5 years he plans to own the phone.

But overall you are correct that it was the media manipulation, not the engineering that sold the product.

Tom 13

Re: It's not a killer blow in the international patent war-of-running-skirmishes

If it isn't, that's only because a lot of judges want to make more of an ass out of the law than is usual.

Granted, it is unexpected to see a judge actually implementing a reasonable man standard, but now that it's been done once it should be obvious to everyone else.

Elon Musk pledges transcontinental car juicers by end of year

Tom 13

Re: solar panels all over the Mojave desert in the US don't generate anything

Well, the top Google reference says US electrical production figures are:

Coal 37%

Natural Gas 30%

Nuclear 19%

Hydropower 7%

Other Renewable 5%

Biomass 1.42%

Geothermal 0.41%

Solar 0.11%

Wind 3.46%

Petroleum 1%

Other Gases < 1%

So, yes, the shorthand reference would be 'No they don't.' More to the point, even with more real US dollars having been thrown at the so-called renewable energy source in the last 4 years than all of the rest of the electrical industry has over its lifetime they still make a negligible contribution and aren't likely to in my lifetime. And since the commie-green axis hates nukes, you don't get to count them with renewables.

Tom 13

Re: Alternative translation: "I hate adults. They don't know anything!".

That should probably be "I hate people who exhibit adult behavior."

I've known people 20 years older than me (I may not be over the hill, but I'm no spring chicken either) who exhibit behavior worse than your average teenager. Conversely, I've known some teenagers who exhibited more mature behavior than your average 35 year old.

Tom 13

Re: It's OK to be an optimist...

All the money he made at PayPal is gone. And he's had a good number of companies go bankrupt that nobody talks about. Neither Tesla nor SolarCity would even be running now without heavy government subsidies. Maybe not directly to his company [although word is that's how he "paid off" his loan early (even though he has larger loans still outstanding)], but certainly to the purchasers of his electric vehicles.

And while this might be a news flash for you, NASA is not a private entity.

Maybe he does win. But never overlook the very high risk businesses in which he is engaged. I haven't played at his money level, but I have successfully engaged in high risk undertakings (unfortunately never for my own personal gain). When I did, I never pretended those activities were anything other than very high risk.

Tom 13


That $5 billion price tag is the one given by the bought politician to make it sound plausible. Multiply by 5 before it actually makes it through the government to start the project. Then another 10 times for the inevitable delays, unforeseen obstacles, environmental impact statements, and various and sundry lawsuits.

Hell, they can't even build an itsy-bitsy $300 million transit facility (read: parking garage only actually a through-way building for buses) in my neck of the woods.

Tom 13

Re: The more important question is what are you smoking?

Well, whatever it is, it's killed fewer brain cells than whatever you're shooting up with.

The US grid has had significant rolling brownout problems the last two or three years running. There is no excess generating capacity and the grid runs at too high an efficiency percentage during waking hours. The hours which are precisely the ones that will be used for those high capacity charging stations. Running the 110v line to the garage overnight may work in the rural and the less dense 'burbs, but move into any of the high density housing areas and there are no garages, which means you aren't running cords out the front door of your apartment/townhouse to charge your street parked car overnight.

Tom 13


I suppose you're one of those people who will never let a few facts get in the way of a good rant:


Tom 13

Re: Try thinking a bit more. Don't dismiss without thinking.

You really ought to practice that before posting such drivel.

1. Pure drivel with no bearing on the current discussions.

2. Maybe in the UK they track with inflation, certainly not in the US. Even in the case of the UK, I expect that to the extent they aren't increasing in at the meter costs, it is because it is increasing in at the VAT costs. Here in the US we've seen year on year increases ranging from 3 to 7% for the last three years at least with more coming. The only deflationary pressure on this has been the huge influx of natural gas that has resulted from fracking operations on privately owned land. Now maybe a lot of that price pressure is because they've been artificially depressed over the previous 30 years, but that doesn't change the fact that they are going up. Increasing demand for them won't make them go lower.

3. We've needed more generating capacity for a good 15-20 years now. It's been systematically stymied by the commie-green axis. Wind, solar, and thermal simply can't make that up. And don't talk to me about nukes. The only thing the green-commie axis hates worse than coal or gas (petrol to you Brits) is nuclear. So no, those aren't coming online either. They can start building them (it's important to keep the rubes' hopes up), but they'll never produce an mw of power that feeds the grid. And that's assuming the grid can keep up with it. The only thing in worse shape than our power plant situation is the physical grid itself.

4. Probably, but again that's mostly because the commie-green axis won't let any new real power sources come on line. They may be willing to sacrifice a couple flocks of seagulls to placate the rubes about bringing new sources online, but that won't relieve the price pressure. And since the real goal is to depopulate the rubes, that pressure has to stay high.

Finally – mind-controlled limbs without brain surgery

Tom 13

Re: The robot will either be a butler, or a war machine, guess which?

I'm thinking a cross between Strax and Jeeves myself.

Doctor Who? 12th incarnation sought after Matt Smith quits

Tom 13

Re: OK, what about

As a crazy 'Merkin, normally I'd say the new Doctor needs to be from the British Aisles, or at the very least an Aussie. But for Larry the Cable guy...Yeah, go for it.

Tom 13

Re: he's done Shakespeare

Any other Shakespearean actors come to mind?

I think there's something about doing Shakespeare live that lends itself to the roll of The Doctor. Not sure exactly what and why, but it's there in a way that doesn't exist for other playwrights.

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