Tag Archives: Cory Doctorow

Mr. Sulzberger, Tear Down This Wall

Jeremy W. Peters at NYT:

The New York Times rolled out a plan on Thursday to begin charging the most frequent users of its Web site $15 for a four-week subscription in a bet that readers will pay for news they have grown accustomed to getting free.

Beginning March 28, visitors to NYTimes.com will be able to read 20 articles a month without paying, a limit that company executives said was intended to draw in subscription revenue from the most loyal readers while not driving away the casual visitors who make up a vast majority of the site’s traffic.

Once readers click on their 21st article, they will have the option of buying one of three digital news packages — $15 every four weeks for access to the Web site and a mobile phone app, $20 for Web access and an iPad app or $35 for an all-access plan.

All subscribers who receive the paper through home delivery will have free and unlimited access across all Times digital platforms except, for now, e-readers like the AmazonKindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook. Subscribers to The International Herald Tribune, which is The Times’s global edition, will also have free digital access.

“A few years ago it was almost an article of faith that people would not pay for the content they accessed via the Web,” Arthur Sulzberger Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company, said in his annual State of The Times remarks, which were delivered to employees Thursday morning.

Felix Salmon:

Rather than take full advantage of their ability to change the numbers over time, the NYT seems to have decided they’re going to launch at the kind of levels they want to see over the long term. Which is a bit weird. Instead, the NYT has sent out an email to its “loyal readers” that they’ll get “a special offer to save on our new digital subscriptions” come March 28. This seems upside-down to me: it’s the loyal readers who are most likely to pay premium rates for digital subscriptions, while everybody else is going to need a special offer to chivvy them along.

This paywall is anything but simple, with dozens of different variables for consumers to try to understand. Start with the price: the website is free, so long as you read fewer than 20 items per month, and so are the apps, so long as you confine yourself to the “Top News” section. You can also read articles for free by going in through a side door. Following links from Twitter or Facebook or Reuters.com should never be a problem, unless and until you try to navigate away from the item that was linked to.

Beyond that, $15 per four-week period gives you access to the website and also its smartphone app, while $20 gives you access to the website also its iPad app. But if you want to read the NYT on both your smartphone and your iPad, you’ll need to buy both digital subscriptions separately, and pay an eye-popping $35 every four weeks. That’s $455 a year.

The message being sent here is weird: that access to the website is worth nothing. Mathematically, if A+B=$15, A+C=$20, and A+B+C=$35, then A=$0.

Andrew Sullivan:

We remain parasitic on the NYT and other news sites; and I should add I regard the NYT website as the best news site in the world; without it, we would be lost. But like most parasites, we also perform a service for our hosts. We direct readers to content we think matters. So we add to the NYT’s traffic and readership.

But what makes this exception even more interesting is that, if I read it correctly, it almost privileges links from blogs and social media against more direct access. Which makes it a gift to the blogosphere. Anyway, that’s my first take: and it’s one of great relief. We all want to keep the NYT in business (well, almost all of us). But we also don’t want to see it disappear behind some Great NewsCorp-Style Paywall. It looks to me as if they have gotten the balance just about right.

MG Siegler at Tech Crunch:

There are a lot of interesting angles to the news this morning about The New York Times’ new paywall. Top news will remain free, a set number of articles for all users will remain free, there will be different pricing tiers for different devices, NYT is fine with giving Apple a 30 percent cut, etc, etc. But to me, the most interesting aspect is only mentioned briefly about halfway down the NYT announcement article: all those who come to the New York Times via Facebook or Twitter will be allowed to read for free. There will be no limit to this.

Up until now, we’ve seen paywall enthusiasts like The Wall Street Journal offer such loopholes. But they’ve done so via Google. It’s a trick that most web-savvy news consumers know. Is a WSJ article behind a paywall? Just Google the title of it. Click on the resulting link and boom, free access to the entire thing. No questions asked. This new NYT model is taking that idea and flipping it.

The Google loophole will still be in play — but only for five articles a day. It’s not clear how they’re going to monitor this (cookies? logins?), but let’s assume for now that somehow they’ll be able to in an effective way. For most readers, the five article limit will likely be more than enough. But that’s not the important thing. What’s interesting is that the NYT appears to be saying two things. First, this action says that spreading virally on social networks like Twitter and Facebook is more important to them than the resulting traffic from Google. And second, this is a strategic bet that they likely believe will result in the most vocal people on the web being less pissed off.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Here are some predictions about the #nytpaywall:

1. No one will be able to figure out how it works. Quick: How many links did you follow to the NYT last month? I’ll bet you a testicle* that you can’t remember. And even if you could remember, could you tell me what proportion of them originated as a social media or search-engine link?

2. Further to that, people frequently visit the NYT without meaning to, just by following a shortened link. Oftentimes, these links go to stories you’ve already read (after all, you’ve already found someone else’s description of the story interesting enough to warrant a click, so odds are high that a second or even a third ambiguous description of the same piece might attract your click), but which may or may not be “billed” to your 20-freebies limit for the month

3. And this means that lots of people are going to greet the NYT paywall with eye-rolling and frustration: You stupid piece of technology, what do you mean I’ve seen 20 stories this month? This is exactly the wrong frame of mind to be in when confronted with a signup page (the correct frame of mind to be in on that page is, Huh, wow, I got tons of value from the Times this month. Of course I’m going to sign up!)

4. Which means that lots of people will take countermeasures to beat the #nytpaywall. The easiest of these, of course, will be to turn off cookies so that the Times’s site has no way to know how many pages you’ve seen this month

5. Of course, the NYT might respond by planting secret permacookies, using Flash cookies, browser detection, third-party beacons, or secret ex-Soviet vat-grown remote-sensing psychics. At the very minimum, the FTC will probably be unamused to learn that the Grey Lady is actively exploiting browser vulnerabilities (or, as the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse statute puts it, “exceeding authorized access” on a remote system — which carries a 20 year prison sentence, incidentally)

6. Even if some miracle of regulatory capture and courtroom ninjarey puts them beyond legal repercussions for this, the major browser vendors will eventually patch these vulnerabilities

7. And even if that doesn’t work, someone clever will release one or more of: a browser redirection service that pipes links to nytimes.com through auto-generated tweets, creating valid Twitter referrers to Times stories that aren’t blocked by the paywall; or write a browser extension that sets “referer=twitter.com/$VALID_TWEET_GUID”, or some other clever measure that has probably already been posted to the comments below

8. The Times isn’t stupid. They’ll build all kinds of countermeasures to detect and thwart cookie-blocking, referer spoofing, and suchlike. These countermeasures will either be designed to err on the side of caution (in which case they will be easy to circumvent) or to err on the side of strictness — in which case they will dump an increasing number of innocent civilians into the “You’re a freeloader, pay up now” page, which is no way to convert a reader to a customer

Yes, I was going to hate this paywall no matter what the NYT did. News is a commodity: as a prolific linker, I have lots of choice about where I link to my news and the site that make my readers shout at me about a nondeterministic paywall that unpredictably swats them away isn’t going to get those links. Leave out the hard news and you’ve got opinion, and there’s no shortage of free opinion online. Some of it is pretty good (and some of what the Times publishes as opinion is pretty bad).

Peter Kafka at All Things Digital:

The Times will put up its paywall in 11 days, on March 28th. It promises to comply with Apple’s subscription terms by making “1-click purchase available in the App Store by June 30 to ensure that readers can continue to access Times apps on Apple devices.”

And as previously announced, this isn’t a formal payall. Or, at least, it’s a porous one.

Anyone can use the Times’ Web site to read up to 20 articles a month for free. And if you’ve surpassed your monthly limit, you’ll still be able to read Times articles if you’ve been sent there from referring sites like Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else on the Web. The Times says it will place a five-article-per-day limit on Google referrals, however; it’s currently the only search engine with that limit, Murphy says.

To spell that out: If you want to game the Times’ paywall, just use Microsoft’s Bing. For now, at least.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Mainstream, New Media

Lemonade At Around The Sphere! 10 Cents! Today Only!

Terry Savage at The Chicago Sun Times:

This column is a true story — every word of it. And I think it very appropriate to consider around the Fourth of July, Independence Day spirit.

Last week, I was in a car with my brother and his fiancee, driving through their upscale neighborhood on a hot summer day. At the corner, we all noticed three little girls sitting at a homemade lemonade stand.

We follow the same rules in our family, and one of them is: Always stop to buy lemonade from kids who are entrepreneurial enough to open up a little business.

My brother immediately pulled over to the side of the road and asked about the choices.

The three young girls — under the watchful eye of a nanny, sitting on the grass with them — explained that they had regular lemonade, raspberry lemonade, and small chocolate candy bars.

Then my brother asked how much each item cost.

“Oh, no,” they replied in unison, “they’re all free!”

I sat in the back seat in shock. Free? My brother questioned them again: “But you have to charge something? What should I pay for a lemonade? I’m really thirsty!”

His fiancee smiled and commented, “Isn’t that cute. They have the spirit of giving.”

That really set me off, as my regular readers can imagine.

“No!” I exclaimed from the back seat. “That’s not the spirit of giving. You can only really give when you give something you own. They’re giving away their parents’ things — the lemonade, cups, candy. It’s not theirs to give.”

I pushed the button to roll down the window and stuck my head out to set them straight.

“You must charge something for the lemonade,” I explained. “That’s the whole point of a lemonade stand. You figure out your costs — how much the lemonade costs, and the cups — and then you charge a little more than what it costs you, so you can make money. Then you can buy more stuff, and make more lemonade, and sell it and make more money.”

I was confident I had explained it clearly. Until my brother, breaking the tension, ordered a raspberry lemonade. As they handed it to him, he again asked: “So how much is it?”

And the girls once again replied: “It’s free!” And the nanny looked on contentedly.

No wonder America is getting it all wrong when it comes to government, and taxes, and policy. We all act as if the “lemonade” or benefits we’re “giving away” is free.

And so the voters demand more — more subsidies for mortgages, more bailouts, more loan modification and longer periods of unemployment benefits.

They’re all very nice. But these things aren’t free.

The government only gets the money to pay these benefits by raising taxes, meaning taxpayers pay for the “free lemonade.” Or by printing money — which is essentially a tax on savings, since printing more money devalues the wealth we hold in dollars.

If we can’t teach our kids the basics of running a lemonade stand, how can we ever teach Congress the basics of economics?

Jason Linkins at Huffington Post:

You know, I say, “All hail the cranks of America, who are willing to put almost anything they encounter in the world on trial and find it guilty of destroying society!” But if I could offer a word of advice: maybe stop short of actually yelling at children, to make them feel bad about themselves. But that’s exactly what Chicago Sun-Times columnist Terry Savage has done, and she apparently wants a medal for it.

See, Terry was driving around her “upscale neighborhood” over the holiday weekend, when she encountered some of the upscale neighborhood children at a lemonade stand. And apparently, she has some sort of personal “rule” that compels her to always stop and get some lemonade, because of her unquenchable thirst for citrus or something. But, as it turned out, the three little girls at the stand were just straight up giving away the lemonade for free. And thus began the tirade!

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Get that, kids? The correct thing to do with the stuff you appropriate from others is sell it, not give it away! Sounds about right — companies take over our public aquifers and sell us the water they pump out of them; telcos get our rights of way for their infrastructure, then insist that they be able to tier their pricing without regard to the public interest. Corporatism in a nutshell, really.

Dan Mitchell at Big Money:

I’m truly not interested in how she leaped from little girls having fun in their front yard to the government extending unemployment benefits or bailing out banks. The answer would involve “bootstraps” or something, I presume. Something horrendously simplistic. No matter what her explanation might be, it would still be based on her belief that it’s bad to give away something you got for nothing, but it’s perfectly fine—in fact highly laudable—to sell it. And that this somehow teaches you that (she really used this phrase), “there is no free lunch.”

The irony here is that Savage could have written a good, perfectly sane column about why it’s better for kids to sell lemonade than to give it away. As she notes amid all the nutty John Galt stuff, it would teach them a lot about business—managing costs, pricing, etc.

But maybe they can learn that next summer. This summer, they learned about the satisfaction of giving someone a cold drink on a hot day. They learned about kindness and, yes, the spirit of giving. They learned, perhaps, that though we are economic creatures, we are not only economic creatures—that there is more to life than money, and that believing otherwise makes us shallow and soulless. And less fun.

And maybe they learned to be careful of strangers in the street exhibiting odd behavior.

And onto other subjects involving lemonade. Sam Stein at The Huffington Post:

Republican Senate candidate Sharron Angle has moderated a host of policy positions in her transition from a primary candidate to general election contender battling Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. One thing she has not backed away from has been her insistence that abortion should be outlawed universally, even in cases of rape and incest.

In a radio interview Angle did in late June, the Tea Party favorite re-affirmed her pro-life sensibilities (rigid, as they are, even within Republican circles), when she insisted that a young girl raped by her father should know that “two wrongs don’t make a right.” Much good can come from a horrific situation like that, Angle added. Lemons can be made into lemonade.

Stock: Let me bring up one other topic that I rarely talk about here, because it’s one of those topics that’s a lose-lose, but we’ve got to talk about it because it was brought up in your TV interview and that has to do with the issue of abortion, and whether or not abortion should be available in the case of rape or incest. The question to you at the time by the interviewer was that do you want the government to go and tell a 13 year-old child who has been raped by her father that she has to have that baby. And of course you responded ‘I didn’t say that I always say that I value life.’ Where do you stand on the issue of abortion, a consensual abortion, from a person who is raped or is pregnant as a result of incest?Angle: Well right now our law permits that. My own personal feelings and that is always what I express, my personal feeling is that we need to err on the side of life. There is a plan and a purpose, a value to every life no matter what it’s location, age, gender or disability. So whenever we talk about government and government’s role, government’s role is to protect life and that’s what our Founding Father said, that we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Stock: What do you say then to a young girl, I am going to place it as he said it, when a young girl is raped by her father, let’s say, and she is pregnant. How do you explain this to her in terms of wanting her to go through the process of having the baby?

Angle: I think that two wrongs don’t make a right. And I have been in the situation of counseling young girls, not 13 but 15, who have had very at risk, difficult pregnancies. And my counsel was to look for some alternatives, which they did. And they found that they had made what was really a lemon situation into lemonade. Well one girl in particular moved in with the adoptive parents of her child, and they both were adopted. Both of them grew up, one graduated from high school, the other had parents that loved her and she also graduated from high school. And I’ll tell you the little girl who was born from that very poor situation came to me when she was 13 and said ‘I know what you did thank you for saving my life.’ So it is meaningful to me to err on the side of life.

Jim Newell at Gawker:

Savvy.

It is actually more ideologically consistent for strictly pro-life people to not leave out exceptions for rape or situations where the mother’s life is at risk. If you see abortion as the murder of a human life, then you should not feel compelled to make politically appealing make cop-outs! But you should also not try to spin these things into positives, either, because they’re really hellishly bad.

Dan Amira at New York Magazine:

Nevada’s Republican, tea-party–backed candidate for Senate, Sharron Angle, is so against abortion, she doesn’t think it should be a legal option even for 13-year-old girls raped by their fathers. Because, after all, that’s just a great opportunity for them to turn “a lemon situation into lemonade.” Harry Reid, you are one lucky bastard.

Digby:

No word on what happened to the incest victim, but that’s really not something anyone should waste much time worrying about.

And anyway it just shows that God provides many good alternatives to abortion for for young girls who are raped by their fathers — perhaps we could just bend the rules a little bit and the little girl could marry her daddy so they could make a new family all their own. Talk about lemonade!

I wonder if Third Way has found a way to accommodate these views inside the Democratic Party. There must be some common ground, here, right?

Leave a comment

Filed under Abortion, Mainstream, Political Figures

Two Internet Thumbs Up

Chris Jones in Esquire:

Roger Ebert can’t remember the last thing he ate. He can’t remember the last thing he drank, either, or the last thing he said. Of course, those things existed; those lasts happened. They just didn’t happen with enough warning for him to have bothered committing them to memory — it wasn’t as though he sat down, knowingly, to his last supper or last cup of coffee or to whisper a last word into Chaz’s ear. The doctors told him they were going to give him back his ability to eat, drink, and talk. But the doctors were wrong, weren’t they? On some morning or afternoon or evening, sometime in 2006, Ebert took his last bite and sip, and he spoke his last word.

Ebert’s lasts almost certainly took place in a hospital. That much he can guess. His last food was probably nothing special, except that it was: hot soup in a brown plastic bowl; maybe some oatmeal; perhaps a saltine or some canned peaches. His last drink? Water, most likely, but maybe juice, again slurped out of plastic with the tinfoil lid peeled back. The last thing he said? Ebert thinks about it for a few moments, and then his eyes go wide behind his glasses, and he looks out into space in case the answer is floating in the air somewhere. It isn’t. He looks surprised that he can’t remember. He knows the last words Studs Terkel’s wife, Ida, muttered when she was wheeled into the operating room (“Louis, what have you gotten me into now?”), but Ebert doesn’t know what his own last words were. He thinks he probably said goodbye to Chaz before one of his own trips into the operating room, perhaps when he had parts of his salivary glands taken out — but that can’t be right. He was back on TV after that operation. Whenever it was, the moment wasn’t cinematic. His last words weren’t recorded. There was just his voice, and then there wasn’t.

Now his hands do the talking. They are delicate, long-fingered, wrapped in skin as thin and translucent as silk. He wears his wedding ring on the middle finger of his left hand; he’s lost so much weight since he and Chaz were married in 1992 that it won’t stay where it belongs, especially now that his hands are so busy. There is almost always a pen in one and a spiral notebook or a pad of Post-it notes in the other — unless he’s at home, in which case his fingers are feverishly banging the keys of his MacBook Pro.

He’s also developed a kind of rudimentary sign language. If he passes a written note to someone and then opens and closes his fingers like a bird’s beak, that means he would like them to read the note aloud for the other people in the room. If he touches his hand to his blue cardigan over his heart, that means he’s either talking about something of great importance to him or he wants to make it clear that he’s telling the truth. If he needs to get someone’s attention and they’re looking away from him or sitting with him in the dark, he’ll clack on a hard surface with his nails, like he’s tapping out Morse code. Sometimes — when he’s outside wearing gloves, for instance — he’ll be forced to draw letters with his finger on his palm. That’s his last resort.

C-O-M-C-A-S-T, he writes on his palm to Chaz after they’ve stopped on the way back from the movie to go for a walk.

Roger Ebert continues on his own blog at Chicago Sun-Times:

I knew going in that a lot of the article would be about my surgeries and their aftermath. Let’s face it. Esquire wouldn’t have assigned an article if I were still in good health. Their cover line was the hook: Roger Ebert’s Last Words. A good head. Whoever wrote that knew what they were doing. I was a little surprised at the detail the article went into about the nature and extent of my wounds and the realities of my appearance, but what the hell. It was true. I didn’t need polite fictions.

One strange result was that many people got the idea that these were my dying words. The line Chaz liked least referred to the time he has left. A blog reader said he hadn’t realized I was so frail. Here’s how Romenesko’s Media News linked the item:
romanes.jpg
Well, we’re all dying in increments. I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, but I don’t want them thinking I’m dying. To be fair, Chris Jones never said I was. If he took a certain elegiac tone, you know what? I might have, too. And if he structured his elements into a story arc, that’s just good writing. He wasn’t precisely an eyewitness the second evening after Chaz had gone off to bed and I was streaming Radio Caroline and writing late into the night. But that’s what I did. It may be, the more interviews you’ve done, the more you appreciate a good one. I knew exactly what he started with, and I could see where he ended, and he can be proud of the piece.

I mentioned that it was sort of a relief to have that full-page photo of my face. Yes, I winced. What I hated most was that my hair was so neatly combed. Running it that big was good journalism. It made you want to read the article.

John Hudson at The Atlantic:

On Tuesday, a sensitive Esquire profile of ailing film critic Roger Ebert lit up the Twittersphere. The piece documents Ebert’s physical deterioration as he continues to battle cancer. Three years ago, Ebert’s jaw was removed and he lost the ability to speak. That didn’t, however, deter him from becoming a prolific Twitter user. On Tuesday, the micro-blogging service returned the favor.

In an outpouring of tweets, users across the country praised Ebert and the man who profiled him, Esquire’s Chris Jones. Here’s a small sampling:

  • vwyellowpress: A must-read on movie critic Roger Ebert: Looking for the meaning of life? I think it’s in a story I just read….
  • annehelen: If you still haven’t read the Esquire piece on Ebert, do. Now. A narrative fit for one of his beloved films.
  • AmyKNelson: if you read anything today, plese go to Chris Jones’ fabulous profile of Roger Ebert, who is dying:
  • jodyms: The piece on Ebert is outstanding. A tough read; one where each paragraph has its own revelations. Amazing.

Austin L. Ray at Paste Magazine

Nathan Rabin at Onion A.V. Club:

It is no secret that Roger Ebert is a hero to many of the writers here at A.V Club. He’s an inspiration to just about every film critic alive and now Chris Jones has written perhaps the definitive article about Ebert and his struggles with cancer and silence for Esquire. The deeply moving, incredibly insightful profile has been ricocheting through cyber-space as of late. We cannot recommend it highly enough.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Hal sez, “Near the end of his long and touching Esquire article about the career and illness of Roger Ebert, Chris Jones writes about Ebert’s discovery that somebody (probably Disney) had disappeared the YouTube videos of his tribute to Gene Siskel on his own freaking show:”

Ebert keeps scrolling down. Below his journal he had embedded video of his first show alone, the balcony seat empty across the aisle. It was a tribute, in three parts. He wants to watch them now, because he wants to remember, but at the bottom of the page there are only three big black squares. In the middle of the squares, white type reads: “Content deleted. This video is no longer available because it has been deleted.” Ebert leans into the screen, trying to figure out what’s happened. He looks across at Chaz. The top half of his face turns red, and his eyes well up again, but this time, it’s not sadness surfacing. He’s shaking. It’s anger. Chaz looks over his shoulder at the screen. “Those fu — ” she says, catching herself.

They think it’s Disney again — that they’ve taken down the videos. Terms-of-use violation.

This time, the anger lasts long enough for Ebert to write it down. He opens a new page in his text-to-speech program, a blank white sheet. He types in capital letters, stabbing at the keys with his delicate, trembling hands: MY TRIBUTE, appears behind the cursor in the top left corner. ON THE FIRST SHOW AFTER HIS DEATH. But Ebert doesn’t press the button that fires up the speakers. He presses a different button, a button that makes the words bigger. He presses the button again and again and again, the words growing bigger and bigger and bigger until they become too big to fit the screen, now they’re just letters, but he keeps hitting the button, bigger and bigger still, now just shapes and angles, just geometry filling the white screen with black like the three squares. Roger Ebert is shaking, his entire body is shaking, and he’s still hitting the button, bang, bang, bang, and he’s shouting now. He’s standing outside on the street corner and he’s arching his back and he’s shouting at the top of his lungs.

Amber Jones at Pop Eater:
In a new interview with Esquire magazine, famed movie critic Roger Ebert discusses what his life is like now, since surgeries stripped him of his lower jaw and the ability to speak and eat. The touching interview recounts Ebert’s days, which are regimented as his wife Chaz takes care of him, but one thing is for sure: Ebert does not want to be pitied. He is striving to keep publishing his legendary movie reviews and keep the film industry on its toes.
Ebert is a cinematic icon whose film reviews and reputation have become legendary. Ebert has held the film industry to a high standard, and it’s difficult to imagine modern movies without considering his opinion. There’s no question, he has the ability to make or break a blockbuster. As part of the once dynamic duo of Siskel and Ebert, he still holds his own today (despite the loss of Gene Siskel, who died 11 years ago from brain cancer.)

While not everyone has to agree with his reviews (four stars for ‘Me and Orson Welles’?), his cinematic critiques keep us talking. Examining each film, Ebert is a recognizable name who’s reputation precedes him.

Even A.O. Scott, a NY Times movie critic and co-host of ‘At The Movies,’ admits Ebert embodies our image of what a movie critic should be. “Anyone who is even slightly interested in movies comes across Roger… What makes him stand out is his ability to turn his technical knowledge of film and make it accessible and clear to the public,” Scott tells PopEater. “He is one of the best daily newspaper critics, and it’s because he can convey his thoughts and judgments about movies effortlessly with knowledge to back it up.”

UPDATE: Rod Dreher

UPDATE #2: Will Leitch at Deadspin

More Dreher

Sonny Bunch at Doublethink

2 Comments

Filed under Go Meta, Movies

Gone Baby Gone

Paul Boutin at Venture Beat:

Go to Amazon.com. Search for any publication by Macmillan, one of the world’s largest publishing firms. The Prince of Silicon Valley, perhaps, or Sarah’s Key. Or last year’s huge #1 bestseller The Gathering Storm.

Gone, mysteriously gone. We found Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, but his new novel Makers and his popular debut, Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, have been removed. Robert Jordan’s entire Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels is gone, except for 2005’s The Knife of Dreams.

You get links to other sellers. But Amazon has stopped carrying them.

Brad Stone at NYT:

I’ve talked to a person in the industry with knowledge of the dispute who says the disappearance is the result of a disagreement between Amazon.com and book publishers that has been brewing for the last year. Macmillan, like other publishers, has asked Amazon to raise the price of electronic books from $9.99 to around $15. Amazon is expressing its strong disagreement by temporarily removing Macmillan books, said this person, who did not want to be quoted by name because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Macmillan is one of the publishers signed on to offer books to Apple, as part of its new iBooks store. Its imprints include Farrar, Straus & Giroux, St. Martins Press and Henry Holt. The publisher’s books can still be bought from third parties on the Amazon site.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

* If true, Amazon draping itself in the consumer-rights flag in demanding a fair price is even more farcical. Though Amazon’s physical-goods sales business is the best in the world when it comes to giving buyers a fair shake, this is materially untrue when it comes to electronic book sales, a sector that it dominates. As mentioned above, Amazon’s DRM and license terms on its Kindle (as well as on its Audible audiobooks division, which controls the major share of the world’s audiobook sales) are markedly unfair to readers. Amazon’s ebooks are locked (by contract and by DRM) to the Kindle (this is even true of the “DRM-free” Kindle books, which still have license terms that prohibit moving the books). This is not due to rightsholder-demands, either: as I discovered when I approached Amazon about selling my books without DRM and without a bad license agreement for Kindle and Audible, they will not allow copyright owners to modify their terms, nor to include text in the body of the work releasing readers from those terms.

Concentration in media is nothing new — as far back as the eighties, activists have been sounding the alarm about mergers and acquisitions in publishing and bookselling (and, of course, in film we have the antitrust decisions of the 1940s). In the eighties, we worried that mergers would create corporate giants that would dictate unfair terms in distribution, sales, contracts with writers, pricing, and so on.

But today, we have a deeper worry. For no matter that a giant distributor or a massively agglomerated publisher could distort the market to the detriment of readers and writers — we could bounce back, through competition and new technology and innovative marketing and sales (and we did, by and large).

Jim Henley:

Of the links above, I think Doctorow makes the most sense. Some reactions of my own follow:

1. There’s a lot we ordinary readers don’t know about the sequence of events here. The NYT’s Bits blog says Macmillan “asked” to increase the price of some of their Kindle books to as much as $15. Other sites say Macmillan “demanded.” Apple’s courting of Macmillan for their planned iPad bookstore plays in somehow. (Apple is luring publishers partly with the promise of higher price points.) For the cheap seats out here in reader and business-observer land, sorta-yanking Macmillan’s books seems pretty extreme for an “ask,” less so for a threat.

2. People are rightly passionate about books, which can obscure the fact that this is fundamentally standard corporate hardball, likely to be revised one way or another fairly quickly. That’s not guaranteed – corporate honchos are people mammals eukaryotes too. Their emotions can get the better of them and get into a downward spiral of pride and vindictiveness. But the truth is that from time to time producers and distributors get into arguments that lead to the producer temporarily withholding or the distributor temporarily deleting a set of products.

3. Amazon hasn’t stopped direct sales of all Macmillan titles. (You can get Pirate Freedom as of Saturday morning.) In particular, they haven’t taken down third-party sources of Macmillan titles, which they could surely do. This is a slap in the face, not a murder attempt.

4. It’s also a negative-sum game. In the short term, Macmillan and Amazon are both losing sales because of the move. Both have an incentive to settle.

Ben Parr at Mashable:

Amazon’s clearly worried, which is why it’s launching an app store and used its earnings report to remind us that the Kindle is far from dead. But if publishers decide to abandon the Kindle, then Apple will have won the war by default.

That’s why Amazon decided to use its biggest weapon, Amazon.com itself, against Macmillan to send a message to every publisher: If you don’t play by its rules, then you can’t be in its store. While a publisher can likely survive without the Kindle, the same cannot be said for Amazon.com. Publishers simply cannot afford to leave the world’s largest online retailer.

The Kindle and the iPad offer different experiences. The Kindle’s battery life and e-ink are strong selling points for the device as a reader, but the iPad offers so much more. Apple’s banking on those extra features and its undeniable reach to turn the Kindle into an endangered species.

Publishers now have to either choose a side or walk the tightrope between the two companies. The end result will be a long, drawn out war that will both help and hurt consumers. How it will end is anybody’s guess.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Technology

Steve Jobs Will Come Out… Tomorrow… Bet Your Bottom Dollar… That Tomorrow… There’ll Be Tablets

The Tablet is almost here!

David Carr at NYT:

This Wednesday, Steven P. Jobs will step to the stage at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and unveil a shiny new machine that may or may not change the world.

In the magician’s world, that’s called “the reveal.”

And the most magical part? Even as the media and technology worlds have anticipated this announcement for months, Apple has said not word one about The Device. Reporting on the announcement has become crowdsourced, with thousands of tech and media journalists scrambling for the latest wisp and building on the reporting of others.

However miraculous the thingamajig turns out to be — all rumors point to some kind of tabletlike device — it can’t be more remarkable than the control that Apple and Mr. Jobs have over their audience.

“The reason that we all write about Apple is because we are, of course, interested, but also because everybody likes to read about Apple,” said Matt Buchanan, a contributing editor at the technology site Gizmodo. “Even if they hate Apple.”

Joel Evans at ZDNet:

To be clear, I’ve been doing an informal survey of consumers, including friends and random people that know me as an early adopter. According to my survey, people want the Tablet because it will do everything. This goes along with what also gets me excited about the soon to be released Kindle Development Kit, since the kit will allow the Kindle to be a lot more than an ebook reader.

Building on the point that the Apple tablet will do everything, the consumers I spoke with were excited about reading websites, playing games, sending and receiving e-mails, watching TV, and whatever else Apple offers up as an option on the Apple tablet. And if the report posted by Flurry is to be believed, this new Apple tablet will definitely play games, and is being tested with more than 150 of them.

The results of my informal survey seem to go against my earlier thought that consumers wouldn’t want to add another piece of technology into their lives. Instead, it seems that they are ready to embrace this new technology as long as it does everything they can think of.

From the early days of the Palm and Pocket PC devices, one complaint I heard time and again was that the form factor was just too small for extended use. This was either because your eyes would be fatigued after a certain amount of time or that a certain age group would have trouble both reading the screen and manipulating the tiny stylus. Now we have manufacturers working hard to bring a tablet into everyone’s hands, and they’re finally the size that everyone can enjoy.

As with most technology, the concept of the tablet is nothing new, but with consumers now using their phones for just about anything you can think of, the time is finally right for a device like the tablet to enter into everyone’s home.

Matt Buchanan at Gizmodo:

The Apple tablet is almost here. We hear. Actually, we’re hearing a whole lot lately. With this exhaustive guide to every tablet rumor, we’ve got the clearest picture of the Apple tablet yet. Updated constantly.

1/25/2010: 9to5Mac claims to have talked to some publishers who have the scoop on the tablet, and they say the cost will be “[nowhere] near $1000, as has been reported elsewhere.”

1/25/2010: The LA Times reports that the NY Times has been cooped up in Cupertino for the last few weeks developing a version of its paper for the tablet. The article also has a quote from a Conde Nast press release in which the publishing giant just comes out and says it: they will develop “more content for the iPhone and the anticipated tablet from Apple.”

1/25/2010: Tech Crunch heard through the grape vine that Steve Jobs said of the tablet, “This will be the most important thing I’ve ever done.”

1/22/2010: Fox News’ Clayton Morris has heard Apple’s “in talks” with both Verizon and AT&T to provide data for the tablet.

1/22/2010: iLounge has a an oddball that they’ve “double-confirmed”: Double dock connectors, so it can be charged in both portrait and landscape mode. Making more sense, a tablet-wide plastic stripe for decent connectivity (plausible),

1/21/2010: A truckload from the WSJ: Apple “envisions that the tablet can be shared by multiple family members to read news and check email in homes,” and has experimented with facial recognition through a built-in camera, along with virtual sticky notes that can be left behind. Also backing up our earlier report, the WSJ Apple’s in discussions with newspaper, mag book publishers like the NYT, Conde Nast and Harper Collins, and has “exploring electronic-textbook technology.” EA is apparently on tap to demo video games for it.

Also curious: The WSJ says Steve Jobs is “supportive of the old guard and [he] looks to help them by giving them new forms of distribution,” referring to old media companies, which echoes a quote in the NYT that in the battle over ebook pricing with Amazon, apparently “Apple has put an offer together that helps publishers and, by extension, authors.”

1/19/2010: Apple’s shell company, Slate Computing, has also filed for a trademark on the name iPad. Oh God help us.

Kirk McElhearn at PC World:

Apple’s tablet (and the copycats that will follow it) will be a game-changer, just as the iPod and iPhone have been. Because of Apple’s aura, this tablet will get more attention than the plethora of e-book readers we have seen recently. And I’m betting that Apple will get it right, as far as features, interface and usability are concerned. It will also be an excellent tool for reading the news. Newspapers and magazines will be able to package their content in multimedia bundles (either as apps or something similar to the iTunes LP) that will be designed for reading on a portable screen; this won’t simply be web pages viewed on a smaller screen.

The key to hardware being successful is the software that supports it. One of the main advantages to Apple’s tablet, as far as the press is concerned, is the iTunes Store. Since Apple already has this platform to sell and deliver that content, even on a subscription basis, readers will be able to easily buy their favorite newspapers and magazines and get them delivered instantly. They’ll be cheaper than the print versions, and they’ll be a lot greener too. And the iTunes Store will be able to provide a better selection than readers can find by going to individual Websites. Whether by subscription or by single issue, it’ll be extremely simple to buy newspapers and magazines to read on the Apple tablet.

This change won’t happen overnight. Apple’s tablet will probably be priced so that only the most tech-lusting among us will run out and buy version 1.0. But it will be a bellwether for the future of such devices and how they will change print media. New publishing experiments will be part of the attraction for this new device, and, in the near future, most major newspapers and magazines will offer tablet versions. And with them, a return to being able to provide the news we need.

Daniel Dumas at Wired:

We’ve taken a lot of time to track down the rumors, innuendo and even a few sparse facts about the device since the first whispers of its existence some two and a half years ago.

But now we’re going in a separate direction. Admittedly the five features below are are a little crazy — but their inclusion in the tablet would make it a whole lot more fun. Hey, a gadget journalist can dream, right?

Why it’s a pipe dream: When was the last time Apple offered anything for free, besides truckloads of reality-distorting hype at its press conferences?

UPDATE: Of course, now we know it is the iPad.

John Hudson at The Atlantic

UPDATE #2: Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing

Ann Althouse

Roger Simon at Pajamas Media

Joel Evans at ZDNet

UPDATE #3: Allah Pundit

David Frum at CNN

Darren Murph at Engadget

2 Comments

Filed under Technology

Take Off Your Shoes, Belt, Open Your Bag, Post Procedures On The Internet

Christopher Weber at Politics Daily:

The Transportation Security Administration says secrets about airport screening practices were inadvertantly posted on the Internet as part of a contract solicitation.

The TSA’s 93-page Standard Operating Procedures manual went online with some sections redacted, ABC News first reported. But hackers were able to easily undo the redactions and top secret passages were distributed across the Web.

The details revealed involve special screening rules for diplomats, CIA agents, and police.

The manual provides easily copied images of credentials used by members of Congress, the Federal Air Marshals, the CIA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. It also reveals that only 20 percent of checked bags are hand searched for explosives, and it details limitations of x-ray screening, ABC reported.

“This is an appalling and astounding breach of security that terrorists could easily exploit,” said Clark Kent Ervin, the former inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security. “The TSA should immediately convene an internal investigation and discipline those responsible.”

News of the security breach comes one day before the Senate Homeland Security Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on preventing terrorists from traveling.

Ed Morrissey:

Part of maintaining a security protocol is securing the protocol itself.  Those wishing to breach security for whatever purpose maintain a constant watch on procedures and training, looking for chinks in the armor.  Normally that takes a lot of trial and error, with plenty of risk for the malefactors for detection and capture.  Overcoming that intensive dedication to lost resources would be a prime goal of any terrorist network, but especially those whose numbers have been greatly reduced by a full-blown war conducted by the US on them — primarily al-Qaeda in this instance.

The publication of this data removes the requirement to throw lots of resources against the security protocol to learn its weak points.  That means that people flying now are at higher risk, thanks to the exposure of this information.  It almost certainly means that TSA will have to change these procedures, which will mean longer waits at security checkpoints for the foreseeable future, as they attempt to close the breach they themselves created.

Israel Matzav

Ed Oswald at Technologizer:

TSA officials are claiming that the document is “outdated,” however critics argue that the screening process has likely not changed that drastically that the procedures detailed here are worthless to terrorists and other interested parties.

Certainly this breach is a threat to national security, and I tend to agree with those critics who say this one is pretty serious. 9/11 was a product of terrorists understanding the loopholes in our airport security procedures, and this breach now threatens to give our enemies insight into how we’re keeping them out.

Not good at all.

James Joyner:

Some of what’s now been revealed would have been easy enough to guess.  Presumably, al Qaeda isn’t going to send people with Saudi and Yemeni passports to blow up planes, anyway. And that a wheelchair and orthopedic shoes would likely lessen the suspicion with which you’re viewed by security officials isn’t exactly shocking — although that doesn’t mean TSA won’t now start aggressively screening wheelchair-bound grannies.  Thankfully, there are seldom more than 2 or 3 of those on a flight, anyway, so the additional delays and stupidity will be modest.

Nor am I terribly concerned that photocopies of CIA credentials have been published. Presumably, people skilled enough to counterfeit them already have more useful models from which to work.   And the average terrorist plotter, even those who consider themselves al Qaeda operatives, lack the skillsets to make use of this information.

More troubling is the detailed information on the limitations of screening equipment.  Again, that’s information for which there were surely alternate paths for well organized terrorist cells.   But would-be terrorists now have a pretty good idea of how TSA deals with those limitations.

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing

Leave a comment

Filed under GWOT, Homeland Security, Infrastructure

Joshua Fit The Battle Of Jericho And The Walls Come Tumbling Down

Kevin Drum explains it:

When the fire chief of Jericho, Arkansas, finally got fed up and went to court a few days ago to challenge his second traffic ticket in as many days, the town’s entire 7-man police force showed up for the hearing.  And then shot him.

Seriously.  Apparently a scuffle broke out and one of the cops pulled out his gun and shot the guy in open court.  He’s OK, but the police department, which was already in deep trouble for its habit of ticketing everything on wheels that rolled through Jericho, has been disbanded and all outstanding tickets have been voided.  The town’s part-time judge has quit too.  And nobody knows what’s happened to all the ticket revenue.

Megan McArdle

Steve Verdon:

So lets do a quick recap.

  • The police shot an unarmed man from behind when in scuffle with 6 other police officers.
  • No charges will be brought against the police officer from the local prosecutor.
  • Nobody knows where the money from the various speeding tickets went.
  • The police were writing tickets outside their jurisdiction.
  • City Hall is shut down.

Anyone doubt that the cops saw this as their own private racket and were using the tickets to line their own pockets? And what is up with the police officers in Jericho? Are they all totally out of shape morons that couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag? Six of them are scuffling with one man and they can’t subdue him and the seventh feels he has the justification to shoot the “perp”?

Joseph Lawler at AmSpec:

That’s right — the police chief straight-up disbanded his police force. Is there any precedent for that?

MadisonConservative at Hot Air

Debra Cassens Weiss at ABA Journal

Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing:

Matt sez, “This story has it all: a tiny, flyblown town rising up against their own draconian police force, a gang of cops shooting a fireman in front of a judge, it’s utterly unbelievable. I’ll never drive through Jericho, Arkansas, that’s for sure.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Crime