Print Story All I need is the air that I breathe
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 04:31:47 AM EST) Reading, OBLF, ODGF, MLP, Consumerism (all tags)
Reading: "The Invention of Air". OBLF. Consumerism. Web.

What I'm Reading
The Invention of Air by Steven Johnson. Short biography of Joseph Priestly: scientist, religious and political reformer, and the (kind-of) discoverer of oxygen.

Interesting subject for a biography. I didn't know that Priestly was so involved with critical figures in American history like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Sam Adams; eventually fleeing to America after hostile reactions to his ideas while he lived in Birmingham.

The author makes a case that he was an important influence on them; though it's a little weak, drawing on his optimistic attitude. Johnson also makes a point that these Enlightenment figures saw science as integrated with politics; contrasting this with the isolation from science of modern American politicians. (He cites Mike Huckabee in particular).

However, the style of the book is irritatingly BoingBoingy at times: there's lots of enthusiastic handwaving over the Power of The Network and the importance of Energy Flows. For instance, he attributes the importance of London over Birmingham before the industrial revolution to it being further South and receiving more solar energy; the importance being reversed when Birmingham accessed coal energy. (Birmingham is 102 miles North-West of London).

Overall though, a pretty good account of an important figure.

Broken computer followup
Took it into the shop. Turned out it was just the graphics card that was broken, not the whole motherboard: replaced it and seems to be working now.

Have lost the weight I put on over the holidays now. Might keep going a bit longer if I've got the energy, to give myself some leeway.


After I complained about a printers error in the book "Perverting the Course of Justice", the publishers Monday Books read my diary and sent me an email offering a new copy.

I declined, don't like to spread my real address over the Internet attached to this name. But it seems like good customer service. Apparently it affected a couple of hundred copies, but most were recalled.

On a whim, grabbed some Marks and Spencers Best Value pyjamas, since pyjamas are in the news. Not sure they really work for me with the 5BX plan. Don't want to sweat them up, and there's not much point waking up and wandering around toasty warm when you've got to whip them off and start doing press-ups ten minutes later anyway.

Must be getting old though. My ten-year-old flip-flops broke, and I replaced them with a pair of slippers. There's no heater in my kitchen, and the lino's pretty cold on winter mornings.

I suppose a pipe is the logical next step...

Also ordered a surge protection tower in case that was what blew up my graphics card. (Happened while the computer was in Sleep mode and I was doing some vacuuming).

Video. Colour film of London in 1927. Douchebag Solidarity.

Audio. BBC report on the last appeal of Lord Haw Haw.

Science. Open Luna project (via DU on MeFi). Multi-tasking and the illusion of competence. Neuroskeptic on "Crazy Like Us" book.

Blogs. Disabled blogger Eva deals with bad review of dogwalking service. Fiona Phillips and the martyrdom of Andrew Wakefield. CEO sues after being sacked like one of the little people. Old Peter Oborne opinion on Islamophobia. Charles Stross: Amazon-Macmillan kerfuffle still ongoing? (I'm tending to think Amazon is the lesser evil: as a middleman they're more constrained in how hard they can rape you).

Random. My New Pink Button is a genital dye. Death cat edited comics. 25 mugs. Mass Affect hipster RPG. Gear ring.

Socioeconomics. "Guard Labour" skews the efficiency/equity tradeoff? (via) Wall Street Journal on London's continuing property bubble. Women eat more salad if with men. Osborne's AAA fetish? Kaletsky: the Beijing Consensus?

Politics. Video of EDL attacking policeman at Stoke demo.

Pics. A look into the past. Books not for sale.

< Sarah Palin is Pure Gold | I post when web traffic is light. The Tubes like it that way. >
All I need is the air that I breathe | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)
(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 3) #1 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 05:36:45 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

PJs by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 08:09:14 AM EST
PJs and slippers are what the UK has instead of heating and insulation.

[ Parent ]
Books not for sale by duxup (4.00 / 1) #2 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 07:58:05 AM EST
Well with the ipad and all...

I bought myself a pair of fleece lined moccasin by georgeha (4.00 / 1) #4 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 08:40:48 AM EST
LL Bean slippers, they're awesome for the winter. I do have to do out on snow covered porches often.

(Comment Deleted) by xth (4.00 / 1) #5 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 09:21:10 AM EST

This comment has been deleted by xth

[ Parent ]
jerry by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #7 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 12:12:50 PM EST
would love it.  He was much a capitalist as the next guy.

[ Parent ]
Amazon by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 11:48:31 AM EST
Note that that constraint goes out the window if they become dominant.  (See the way Wal-mart was able to make demands of the music industry before Apple took the market, and see how Apple can make such demands now.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
I don't think as much by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #8 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 01:30:53 PM EST
Because in the case of e-books in particular, Amazon is in competition with the publishers. If Amazon jacks up the price of Kindle books to absurd levels, the publisher has an incentive to produce their own e-books. That would give Amazon an incentive to cut their prices. There could be an equilibrium.

If the publisher holds the monopoly, there's no competition at all. You want the latest Harry Potter, they just have to decide how much to gouge you.

Moreover, in the current dispute it seems that Macmillan is the one wanting to raise the prices. I don't buy Stross' argument that they want to "raise the price of some and lower the price of others".

I remember going into CD shops before the MP3 revolution. If you wanted a new chart rock/pop/rap album, it was £15. If you wanted a Jazz album by a well-known artist like Miles Davis, it was £15. If you wanted a classical CD from an orchestra and conductor you'd heard of, it was £15. There were £5 CDs, but they were things like cover versions of greatest Show Tunes of the 1950s: stuff people would only buy because they wanted a "bargain". That seems to me more likely to be the pricing model that Macmillan are aiming for.

I'm also pretty skeptical about his fairy story about them lowering the price like they do from hardback to paperback, but far more gradually. Hardbacks are a bigger, more substantial item: people can feel they're getting more value for paying more money. I think they just want to keep charging more for e-books than paper books, and keep them DRM'd up the arse too.

So, while I think Amazon are still pretty evil, they're the lesser evil in this case. You get a duopoly not a monopoly on each book, and they have an incentive to keep e-books cheap since they're making money on the Kindle hardware.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"monopoly" by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #9 Sat Feb 06, 2010 at 03:28:28 PM EST
Copyright law is entirely based on the idea that the publishers have a's what makes them profitable.  It's also what allows them to handle the demand curve.

The idea that lowering the price for paperback items is hardly a fairy story.  You can go to Sony's store and buy many Tor published ebooks for less than $8 right now. 

Whether hardbacks are more substantial is really irrelevant.  If you really want to force the analogy, it'd be like Amazon saying "We want to charge $10 for paperbacks the day the hard back is released" while Macmillan is saying "if you want to make paperbacks available the day the hard back is released, you must charge at least $15 bucks".

Macmillan certainly wants to charge lots for new stuff and drop the price on the backlist.  This is precisely because the backlist has recouped its costs and therefore they can profit at a lower price point.  If Amazon successfully forces fixed pricing, it means that a given book will have to sell more copies to recoup costs.  This means that book publishing will be inherently riskier, which is very bad for midlist authors.  (The sorts who write the books I personally read.)

Your free market argument ignores the Kindle effect.  If Amazon is willing to sell at a loss and recoup with Kindle sales, there's no way a publisher can directly compete as they have no place to recoup when selling at a loss.  (What they can do is threaten to refuse to sell ebooks to Amazon in the first place, which is exactly what they did.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
All I need is the air that I breathe | 9 comments (9 topical, 0 hidden)