“What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]
Bitcoin has been pretty quiet lately. But that doesn’t mean big things aren’t taking place behind-the-scenes for the digital currency. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell pulls back the curtain and shows you how Bitcoin is quietly slipping into the mainstream. He also shows you why now could be the time to buy now, or forever hold your peace. Read on…
In an odd mix of fate, protesters and corporations are holding hands. They both have one common goal: save the Internet from the evil cable companies. We all have a common hate for them. But what if the cable companies aren’t as evil as once thought? What if there’s an even bigger evil lurking behind them? There is. Read on…
Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…
Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…
All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…
Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.
Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…
The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.
Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...
When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.
When’s the best time to invest in something? When everyone else is trying to get their money out of it. It might go against conventional thinking, but following the crowd usually makes you miss the real opportunities. At one monetary metal conference recently, the smartest guys in the industry sat down to discuss where these real hidden gems lay.
Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...
In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]
When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]
Remember that correction we’ve been quietly talking about over the past couple of months?Well, it might be right around the corner. Stocks waited until the last day of the month to nose-dive. The S&P 500 posted its first 2% down day since April — and the Dow wasn’t far behind. Early this morning, futures continue […]
I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]
Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]
When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]
Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]
After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]
Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]
I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]
Whatever your views on the role of government, one thing is clear: There will be no way to pay for it if the economy doesn’t grow. And I’m not talking by a measly percentage point or two. If we can’t find our way back to 5% annual economic growth or above soon, America’s accumulated federal […]
What if I told you that the march of human progress could be traced in a direct line from the Epicureans of Ancient Greece… through the 18th Century’s cure for smallpox… to where Steve Jobs and Bill Gates found inspiration as scrappy teenagers… to the flying car of tomorrow?Stay with me and I’ll show you […]
Real progress happens through real people, ideas, and innovations. Not by legislation argued and debated in Congress. Right now, one of the most influential technologies is changing the way people do business. And reinventing the future in the process.
Innovation can change the world… if the world lets it. Unfortunately, society’s gatekeepers make it a point to constrain, regulate, and control these ideas. But their power is limited, and the power of innovation is too great. Unfortunately for regulators, there are some technologies they can’t control.
Get this: The federal bureaucrat who last month started the litigation against Apple and book publishers for e-book pricing is the same person who, back in the stone age, represented Netscape in its lawsuit against Microsoft.
Recall that Microsoft was trying to give away its Internet Explorer to computer users for free. Netscape went nuts and got the government to clobber Microsoft for being so nice to consumers. It put the company through litigation hell and even demanded that Microsoft change its operating system code to untie it from IE.
The person’s name is Sharis Pozen, and she is acting head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division and a political appointee of the Obama administration. She claims that she is threatening state violence against Apple and publishers for pricing collusion — and that it’s her job to protect consumers.
Interesting. She began her career trying to protect the rights of an old-line company to rip off consumers. To her, a price of zero was unfair competition. She was sure that a browser should be a paid product. The progress of history flattens that argument. Today, dozens of companies beg you to download their browser for free. Browser use is all over the place, sort of like a free market. There is no Microsoft monopoly, contrary to the overheated predictions.
Given that history, one might suppose she would retire from public life and maybe go into flower arranging or something. Instead, she is still at it. Last year, she denied a proposed merger between T-Mobile and AT&T that would have improved your cell service. This year, she says that a deal between publishers and Apple is harming consumers, so she has to act.
Government had absolutely nothing to do with inventing the e-book. It didn’t invent the e-reader, either. The Nook, Kindle, iPad, and all the others were purely the products of private enterprise. So too the distribution system that makes millions of titles instantly downloadable with a quick click, storing your downloads in the cloud. The whole apparatus has given new life to the book itself, and represents a bigger shift in publishing than even the printing press.
But we are supposed to believe that Sharis Pozen knows exactly what the prices of e-books should be. She knows how the contractual relations between publishers and distributors are supposed to work. She knows when there’s competition and collusion. She knows how to protect the consumer against high prices because, of course, we stupid consumers are all sitting here completely clueless about whether $9 or $14 is too much to pay. We’d just mindlessly let go of our money, scammed by private enterprise, were it not for Sharis Pozen looking after our interests.
There is no arrogance in this world to compare with the government bureaucrats’.
There is no way that any mortal can know in advance how e-book pricing should work. For years, people tried to create a profitable market in selling PDF downloads. Some firms succeeded, but only in a limited way by selling to large institutions, and even then, the product add-ons had to be pretty impressive: fancy searches, large collections, citation help, and more. This model never penetrated the retail sector.
Why? It’s hard to say for sure, but in hindsight, one might speculate that the PDF format just isn’t very consumer friendly. It is fine for many purposes, and miraculous by any historical standard. But in the end, it was not commodifiable on a mass scale.
Then came the e-book. It had an HTML structure that allowed fonts to be increased and decreased. It allowed instant search. Navigation was a snap. It mimicked the page turn of a physical book. It was lightweight. For all these reasons, and probably some reasons that I haven’t thought of, the e-book became commodifiable. I never would have believed it, but there it is.
I know that I’m hooked myself.
But how does pricing work? A conventional government model would examine costs and presume that prices are marked up along a preset path. This model has a superficial, if fallacious, plausibility with physical goods, but it is wholly irrelevant to digital goods. With digital goods, in which the marginal unit cost of each additional item is effectively zero, the price is, very obviously, nothing but a point of agreement between buyer and seller, having nothing to do with costs of production.
So it’s anyone’s guess what the final price of an e-book ought to be. The market dictates this. At first, publishers were selling on a wholesale model and letting the distributors determine the prices. As the distributors do with physical books, they were pushing prices lower and lower, and the publishers started to complain.
That’s when Apple shifted to an agency model of pricing. The publisher sets any price and the distributor takes 30 percent. That way everyone can make a profit. This also allowed smaller publishers to get involved. Even a sole proprietor can get involved and push out e-books to the world.
So what’s the problem? Apple and Amazon have made it part of their contractual relationships with those using their services that they do not want to be undersold by another company. And why? Of course they want the business, but more tellingly, they are trying to incentivize producers to bring down prices in the interest of making deals.
This is standard procedure in Web pricing. If you are using a service, the service wants to be able to offer the best deal available. Actually, Amazon and others have been doing this for many years. The service user can accept or reject the deal.
Here’s the thing. If this is not the right model, it will hurt the service it delivers. Others can compete. Authors and publishers can establish their own systems. Markets work these things out for themselves. In this case, it appears that Amazon is the only complaining party: it does not want Apple to gain a foothold.
The e-book market is brand-new, for goodness sake. It is going to go through many changes before it is settled — and actually, here’s to hoping it never settles! Ceaseless change in economics and life is a good thing.
But bureaucrats don’t see it that way. They want to freeze everything in place and make all things conform to their model. And if Sharis Pozen had her way, we would all be paying Netscape for the opportunity to surf the Web. So much for caring about the consumer.