Categories
Books Business

Amazon and the Perils of Non-Disclosure

Amazon - The Original Store
Amazon – The Original Store

George Packer discovers a truth about corporate America, including the faux Libertarian strain in the tech industry: namely, they are extremely reluctant to talk to outsiders about anything, consequential, or not.

To some degree, secrecy prevails in all American corporations, and in large institutions generally. No one at these places wants to get caught saying the wrong thing. A gaffe (famously defined by Michael Kinsley as inadvertently telling the truth) is more likely to get you fired than dishonesty, deception, or any number of other ethical breaches. And this situation keeps getting worse, as any reporter who has had to negotiate ground rules with phrases like “on background with quote approval” knows all too well. It was a great relief to read Will Blythe’s Times Op-Ed about refusing to sign a termination agreement after being fired from the digital publisher Byliner because it would have prohibited him from saying anything disparaging about the company. The inexorable inflation of ground rules, non-disclosure agreements, and other impediments to speaking and writing can only be stopped when people refuse to go along with them.

I was naïve about tech companies until I started reporting on them. They turn out to be at least as closed as companies in other industries. This seems backwards—aren’t they filled with hardcore libertarians who want an end to privacy as we’ve known it, a more open and connected world? Apparently for everyone except themselves. And perhaps a sector that monetizes information is more likely to become obsessed with protecting it than if the product were oil or cars. But even in this atmosphere, Amazon is reflexively, absurdly secretive—only giving the absolute minimum information required by law or P.R. In response to a host of fact-checking questions, many of the company’s answers were along the lines of “We don’t break out that number externally,” “We do not share Kindle sales figures,” and “As a general practice, we don’t discuss our business practices with publishers or other suppliers.”

But I would argue that a culture of secrecy is bound to end up harming the institution itself, especially when it’s firmly under the control of one leader, as Amazon is under Jeff Bezos. Without some permeability to the outside world, groupthink takes over, bad habits become entrenched, and a company, like a government, is slow to recognize problems that are apparent to everyone else. I saw this happening with American officials in Iraq, holed up in the Embassy in the middle of the Green Zone and beguiled by their own data points while the country outside spiraled down in flames.

(click here to continue reading Amazon and the Perils of Non-Disclosure : The New Yorker.)

Randy's Bookshelves Number 1
Randy’s Bookshelves Number 1

If you are interested in Amazon and the book publishing industry, you should also read Mr. Packer’s fascinating article, Cheap Words, with its byline, Amazon is good for customers, but is it good for books? which begins;

Amazon is a global superstore, like Walmart. It’s also a hardware manufacturer, like Apple, and a utility, like Con Edison, and a video distributor, like Netflix, and a book publisher, like Random House, and a production studio, like Paramount, and a literary magazine, like The Paris Review, and a grocery deliverer, like FreshDirect, and someday it might be a package service, like U.P.S. Its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns a major newspaper, the Washington Post. All these streams and tributaries make Amazon something radically new in the history of American business. Sam Walton wanted merely to be the world’s biggest retailer. After Apple launched the iPod, Steve Jobs didn’t sign up pop stars for recording contracts. A.T. & T. doesn’t build transmission towers and rent them to smaller phone companies, the way Amazon Web Services provides server infrastructure for startups (not to mention the C.I.A.). Amazon’s identity and goals are never clear and always fluid, which makes the company destabilizing and intimidating.

Bezos originally thought of calling his company Relentless.com—that U.R.L. still takes you to Amazon’s site—before adopting the name of the world’s largest river by volume. (If Bezos were a reader of classic American fiction, he might have hit upon Octopus.com.) Amazon’s shape-shifting, engulfing quality, its tentacles extending in all directions, makes it unusual even in the tech industry, where rapid growth, not profitability, is the measure of success. Amazon is not just the “Everything Store,” to quote the title of Brad Stone’s rich chronicle of Bezos and his company; it’s more like the Everything. What remains constant is ambition, and the search for new things to be ambitious about.

(click here to continue reading George Packer: Is Amazon Bad for Books? : The New Yorker.)

 

 

Blogger’s Note:  I was working on this blog post, and had a few more sentences written than appear here. However, I typed relentless.com into my browser1, and my computer instantly crashed with a System Kernel Panic. So only Jeff Bezos knows what else I had written, I don’t time to recreate my blah-blah…

Footnotes:
  1. Safari []
Categories
Business

Amazon Affiliate Program Back in IL

https://i0.wp.com/farm6.staticflickr.com/5545/11213398444_0b931224a3_z.jpg?resize=580%2C580
Amazon dot com box

We’ve written about the Amazon Affiliate program in Illinois on a few previous occasions. Today I received this email:

Hello,

We’re pleased to announce that the Amazon Associates program is again open to residents of the State of Illinois. We’re now able to re-open the program because the Illinois State Supreme Court recently struck down legislation that had forced Amazon to close the program to residents of Illinois. Amazon strongly supports federal legislation like the Marketplace Fairness Act that’s now pending before Congress, which is the only constitutional way to resolve interstate sales tax collection issues.

Residents of Illinois who would like to participate in the Amazon Associates program can submit an application here:

http://affiliate-program.amazon.com/gp/associates/apply/main.html

Thanks for your past participation in the Amazon Associates program. We hope to see you again soon.

Well that was a big circle around the campfire

Categories
Links

Amazon Q4 profits fall 45 percent

Beasts_of_tarzan

Earlier today…

The company’s shares are down a bit today, but the company’s stock is taking a much less catastrophic plunge in already-meager profits than Apple, whose stock plunged simply because its Q4 profits increased at an unexpectedly slow rate. That’s because Amazon, as best I can tell, is a charitable organization being run by elements of the investment community for the benefit of consumers. The shareholders put up the equity, and instead of owning a claim on a steady stream of fat profits, they get a claim on a mighty engine of consumer surplus. Amazon sells things to people at prices that seem impossible because it actually is impossible to make money that way. And the competitive pressure of needing to square off against Amazon cuts profit margins at other companies, thus benefiting people who don’t even buy anything from Amazon.

 

Via:
Amazon Q4 profits fall 45 percent.
[automated]

Categories
Business

Last FU from Amazon.com

Amazon - The Original Store
Amazon – The Original Store

Amazon.com sent me a last fuck you for bothering to be an affiliate for Amazon in Illinois:

Dear Former Amazon Associate,

We have just sent you a payment for the amount of USD 5.40 for the remaining advertising fees less adjustments and fees on your recently closed account. This payment also includes any credit balance carried forward from previous payment periods.

If your billing address is in the U.S. and you selected payment by check, we will deduct a $15 processing fee from the check we send. (This charge does not apply to Associates with non-U.S. billing addresses, as direct deposit is not available to them.)

$5.40 – $15 = Fuck You for helping us sell our goods.

Gee thanks. Luckily, I recently jumped through all the hoops to give Amazon.com access to direct deposit, or else I’d really be pissed off. I truly hope that action is taken on a federal level to force Amazon.com to pay sales taxes, retroactively, so Jeff Bezos can choke a bit.

Categories
Business government

Amazon and Texas Taxes

Ready for a scotch

I guess Governor Quinn still hasn’t decided whether to sign the Illinois Amazon affiliate killing bill yet. Meanwhile, Amazon is in a fight with another state, namely Texas.

The planned closure of an Amazon.com Inc. distribution center in a suburb here has opened a debate about whether taxes or jobs is the better answer for Texas’ tattered budget.

The online retailing giant said last week that it would close its center in Irving due to a dispute with the state comptroller, who is demanding that Amazon pay $269 million in sales taxes it should have collected on goods sold to Texas residents.

The Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that businesses without a physical presence in a state are not obliged to collect taxes on the goods they sell there.

Since then, states have been trying to get Congress to change the law or have been seeking a way around it. A coalition of states has lobbied Congress to force online retailers to collect some taxes—so far without success. Some states, including Illinois and New York, broadened the definition of “physical presence” to include online retailers who pay commissions for referrals by local partners.

Illinois lawmakers recently passed a similar bill, which awaits the governor’s signature. Amazon has responded to the various laws with lawsuits or by cutting ties to the local businesses.

(click here to continue reading Amazon’s Exit Spurs Tax Fight in Texas – WSJ.com.)

Categories
Business Chicago-esque government

Tax Zealots – Amazon vs. Illinois

Amazon - The Original Store

Amazon just emailed me:

We regret to inform you that the Illinois state legislature has passed an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that, if signed by Governor Quinn, would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with Illinois-based Associates. You are receiving this email because our records indicate that you are a resident of Illinois. …

Please note that this not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Amazon Associates Program. But if the governor signs this bill, we will need to terminate the participation of all Illinois residents in the Associates Program. After that point, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for sales referred to amazon.com, endless.com and smallparts.com nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Illinois residents.

The unfortunate consequences of this legislation on Illinois residents like you were explained to the legislature, including Senate and House leadership, as well as to the governor’s staff.

Over a dozen other states have considered essentially identical legislation but have rejected these proposals largely because of the adverse impact on their states’ residents.

Governor Quinn’s office may be reached here.

I had heard of this happening in other states, but this is the first mention I’ve heard about it happening in Illinois. Frack. I don’t make thousands of simolians using Amazon links1, but I do make enough to pay for the hosting of this blog.

I guess it’s happening though:

A bill seemingly being fast-tracked by the Illinois General Assembly would add a new tax

Beginning July 1, 2011, a retailer having a contract with a person located in this State under which the person, for a commission or other consideration based upon the sale of tangible personal property by the retailer, directly or indirectly refers potential customers to the retailer by a link on the person’s Internet website.

This is widely known as the Amazon Tax. Supporters include the state’s retail merchants. They claim it will raise $150 million a year in revenues. But the Tax Foundation begs to differ

Word is that Illinois legislators are considering click-through nexus, also known as an “Amazon tax,” pushed by revenue officials who claim that it would raise $150 million a year in revenue. Such laws, nicknamed after their most visible target, require retailers that have contracts with “affiliates”-independent persons within the state who post a link to an out-of-state business on their website and get a share of revenues from the out-of-state business-to collect the state’s sales tax. They exist in New York, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and Colorado. […]

Illinois’s version is a traditional first-generation “Amazon” tax that targets affiliates. Contrary to the claims of supporters, Amazon taxes do not provide easy revenue. In fact, the nation’s first few Amazon taxes have not produced any revenue at all, and there is some evidence of lost revenue. For instance, Rhode Island has seen no additional sales tax revenue from its Amazon tax, and because Amazon reacted by discontinuing its affiliate program, Rhode Islanders are earning less income and paying less income tax. There’s no reason why Illinois wouldn’t suffer the same fate.

(click to continue reading Capitol Fax.com » Today’s lessons.)

What bullshit. Utter bullshit. Amazon isn’t going to pay the tax, and I’m not going to report the income anymore, because there won’t be any. How does this help close the monstrous budget gap in Illinois? It doesn’t.

Darth Vader

Bill Status of HB3659  96th General Assembly   Full Text Votes  View All Actions  Printer-Friendly Version

Short Description:  PROP TAX-PUBLICATION FEES

House Sponsors Rep. Patrick J. Verschoore – Dan Reitz – Brandon W. Phelps – Linda Chapa LaVia – Frank J. Mautino, Roger L. Eddy, Mark H. Beaubien, Jr., Michael K. Smith, Daniel V. Beiser, Harry Osterman, Mary E. Flowers, Greg Harris, Sara Feigenholtz, Lisa M. Dugan and Naomi D. Jakobsson

Senate Sponsors (Sen. John J. Cullerton – Christine Radogno – Jeffrey M. Schoenberg)

(click to continue reading Illinois General Assembly – Bill Status for HB3659.)

Idiots, all of them.

—-

I was going to make this into an info-graphic, but never got around to it. Anyway, here’s the text-only version:

Old system:
1. I see a film I like (or book, or musical instrument, or whatever), write about it, post a link to Amazon’s DVD, partially because they host an image of the DVD cover, partially because I want other people to watch the film too.
2. My aunt in California sees my post, clicks the link, and buys the DVD
3. Amazon (in Seattle) sends her the disc via UPS
4. I get a 3% commission
5. I report this income in my yearly federal and state taxes (and I do)
6. State of IL makes a little bit of tax revenue

New proposed system
1. I see a film I like, write about it.
2. my aunt in CA sees my post, goes to Amazon and looks for the DVD, buys it.
3. Amazon sends her the DVD
4. I get zero commission in IL
5. I don’t have this income to report on my taxes, so I don’t.
6. State of IL gets zero

Why is the proposed system better for the State of IL?

Footnotes:
  1. if you click a link I put up, and purchase an item from Amazon in the same web session, I get around 3-5% of the purchase price as commission []
Categories
Business

Companies Slowly Join Cloud-Computing

Cloud Computing: buzz word of 2009, and apparently going to be the buzz word of 2010 too.

Sunset number 8704

This year, Netflix made what looked like a peculiar choice: the DVD-by-mail company decided that over the next two years, it would move most of its Web technology — customer movie queues, search tools and the like — over to the computer servers of one of its chief rivals, Amazon.com.

Amazon, like Netflix, wants to deliver movies to people’s homes over the Internet. But the online retailer, based in Seattle, has lately gained traction with a considerably more ambitious effort: the business of renting other companies the remote use of its technology infrastructure so they can run their computer operations. In the parlance of technophiles, they would operate “in the cloud.”

Ah, the cloud — these days, Silicon Valley can’t seem to get its head out of it. The idea, though typically expressed in ways larded with jargon, is actually rather simple.

Cloud providers, large ones like Amazon, Microsoft, Google and AT&T, and smaller ones like Rackspace and Terremark, aim to convince other companies to give up building and managing their own data centers and to use their computer capacity instead.

[Click to continue reading Companies Slowly Join Cloud-Computing – NYTimes.com]

Clouds and meat

I actually do see the usefulness of cautiously outsourcing the creation and maintenance of data centers, as long as certain privacy oversights are part of the process.

Almost every big company is cautiously testing the waters these days. 3M, the St. Paul, Minn., conglomerate, is using Microsoft’s new Azure cloud service to allow advertisers and marketers to tap into a service that mathematically analyzes promotional images and evaluates how visually effective they are likely to be. “It took a lot of the risk out of whether to commercialize it or not,” said Jim Graham, a technical manager at 3M.

But most big organizations say they are wary of placing more critical software and business operations on another company’s computers.

Government agencies are looking at it too. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab currently runs various experiments on the computers of Amazon, Microsoft and Google — to avoid committing to a single company, said Tomas Soderstrom, the I.T. chief technology officer there. Among other experiments, the agency is using Amazon’s servers to process vast amounts of telemetry data coming from the rovers on Mars.

But NASA executives also tell of the seven months it took to reach its licensing agreement with Amazon. NASA wanted, among other things, to be able to inspect the hardware it was using; Amazon declined.

Categories
Advertising Business

Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos

Amazon has said it is purchasing Zappos for over $800,000,000. Why so high?

Bob's Repair Shine

Pete Blackshaw of AdAge speculates:

Zappos is a game changer, and it found value — and ferocious word-of-mouth and brand advocacy — in a place most of us leave for dead and certainly don’t consider even close to being a media channel: customer service. They took this “cost center” input and turned it into an unassailable asset, fortified by the founder-CEO’s sometimes “cult-like” (arguably irrational, by the typical marketing book) obsession with serving the consumer at all costs. It wasn’t flaky. He approached this with focus, discipline, real incentives and an obsession over a “different” set of numbers.

Zappos did this at a critical juncture for all of us. We know word-of-mouth matters. We suspect “advocacy” might be the metric that truly moves the needle. Even separate from the Amazon deal, Zappos probably did more to shape our collective mind-set around the importance of “paid” vs. “earned” media, and it titled us much toward the later.

[Click to continue reading Is Customer Service a Media Channel? Ask Zappos – Advertising Age – CMO Strategy]

At least for now, Zappos will still be an autonomous subsidiary, remain headquartered in Las Vegas, and maintain its same executive leadership.

I’ve been a long-time customer of both corporations for a long time, and if any of Zappos culture rubs off on Amazon, Amazon will be well served. Amazon is a fine company, but they are a faceless corporate behemoth, a Wal-Mart of the internet, selling a little bit of everything. Zappos on the other hand still feels like it is run by somebody who personally cares for its customers, a sort of mom-and-pop corner store that knows everybody on a first name basis. The kind of place that gives little Johnny candy when he goes by. Poor metaphor, bottom line, Zappos customer service is just spectacularly friendly in all interactions we have had with them.

Amazon, on the other hand, occasionally is bit Orwellian. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who upon hearing the news of the acquisition immediately twittered:so will Amazon steal into my house at night and reclaim shoes I’ve bought from Zappos.

I do hope Zappos maintains what it is that makes it Zappos.

Categories
Business

Amazon pulls a 1984 on its Kindle clients


“Amazon Kindle Leather Cover (fits 2nd Generation Kindle)” (Amazon.com)

Sounds like an April Fools joke, but it isn’t.

This morning, hundreds of Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers. These were books that they had bought and paid for—thought they owned.

But no, apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price.

As one of my readers noted, it’s like Barnes & Noble sneaking into our homes in the middle of the night, taking some books that we’ve been reading off our nightstands, and leaving us a check on the coffee table.

You want to know the best part? The juicy, plump, dripping irony?

The author who was the victim of this Big Brotherish plot was none other than George Orwell. And the books were “1984” and “Animal Farm.”

[Click to continue reading Some E-Books Are More Equal Than Others – Pogue’s Posts Blog – NYTimes.com]

This is a really really compelling reason to avoid purchasing a Kindle, no?

In George Orwell’s “1984,” government censors erase all traces of news articles embarrassing to Big Brother by sending them down an incineration chute called the “memory hole.”

On Friday, it was “1984” and another Orwell book, “Animal Farm,” that were dropped down the memory hole — by Amazon.com.

In a move that angered customers and generated waves of online pique, Amazon remotely deleted some digital editions of the books from the Kindle devices of readers who had bought them.

An Amazon spokesman, Drew Herdener, said in an e-mail message that the books were added to the Kindle store by a company that did not have rights to them, using a self-service function. “When we were notified of this by the rights holder, we removed the illegal copies from our systems and from customers’ devices, and refunded customers,” he said.

[Click to continue reading Amazon Erases Orwell Books From Kindle Devices – NYTimes.com]

I don’t see how this can be covered in PR pixie-dust. Amazon is going to be the butt of a lot of jokes for a long time. Sneaking in and deleting 1984 of all books? Seems like there could have been a less obnoxious way to handle this, perhaps a note to those Kindle owners who had downloaded 1984? a coupon? Something, not just zapped down the memory hole…

We almost bought a Kindle a few months ago, thinking it might be a way to subscribe to periodicals without all the paper waste, no longer would we consider it. Annotating articles is a work-product, and Amazon could just remove it without asking.

Amazon’s published terms of service agreement for the Kindle does not appear to give the company the right to delete purchases after they have been made. It says Amazon grants customers the right to keep a “permanent copy of the applicable digital content.”

Retailers of physical goods cannot, of course, force their way into a customer’s home to take back a purchase, no matter how bootlegged it turns out to be. Yet Amazon appears to maintain a unique tether to the digital content it sells for the Kindle.

Justin Gawronski, a 17-year-old from the Detroit area, was reading “1984” on his Kindle for a summer assignment and lost all his notes and annotations when the file vanished. “They didn’t just take a book back, they stole my work,” he said.

Amazon hasn’t changed the wording of their terms of service, yet

Use of Digital Content. Upon your payment of the applicable fees set by Amazon, Amazon grants you the non-exclusive right to keep a permanent copy of the applicable Digital Content and to view, use, and display such Digital Content an unlimited number of times, solely on the Device or as authorized by Amazon as part of the Service and solely for your personal, non-commercial use. Digital Content will be deemed licensed to you by Amazon under this Agreement unless otherwise expressly provided by Amazon.

[Click to continue reading Amazon.com: Help > Digital Products Help > Amazon Kindle Wireless Reading Device > Amazon Kindle Terms, Warranties, & Notices > License Agreement and Terms of Use]

Categories
Advertising Business

Is Free the Future?

The New York Times allowing one of its staff to advocate stealing images from Flickr is one thing, but Chris Anderson wants to expand upon that equation.


“Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Chris Anderson)

Malcolm Gladwell of The New Yorker reviews Chris Anderson’s new tome to the mantra, information is going to be free, bitches, so relax and enjoy it.

At a hearing on Capitol Hill in May, James Moroney, the publisher of the Dallas Morning News, told Congress about negotiations he’d just had with the online retailer Amazon. The idea was to license his newspaper’s content to the Kindle, Amazon’s new electronic reader. “They want seventy per cent of the subscription revenue,” Moroney testified. “I get thirty per cent, they get seventy per cent. On top of that, they have said we get the right to republish your intellectual property to any portable device.” The idea was that if a Kindle subscription to the Dallas Morning News cost ten dollars a month, seven dollars of that belonged to Amazon, the provider of the gadget on which the news was read, and just three dollars belonged to the newspaper, the provider of an expensive and ever-changing variety of editorial content. The people at Amazon valued the newspaper’s contribution so little, in fact, that they felt they ought then to be able to license it to anyone else they wanted. Another witness at the hearing, Arianna Huffington, of the Huffington Post, said that she thought the Kindle could provide a business model to save the beleaguered newspaper industry. Moroney disagreed. “I get thirty per cent and they get the right to license my content to any portable device—not just ones made by Amazon?” He was incredulous. “That, to me, is not a model.”

Had James Moroney read Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Hyperion; $26.99), Amazon’s offer might not have seemed quite so surprising. Anderson is the editor of Wired and the author of the 2006 best-seller “The Long Tail,” and “Free” is essentially an extended elaboration of Stewart Brand’s famous declaration that “information wants to be free.” The digital age, Anderson argues, is exerting an inexorable downward pressure on the prices of all things “made of ideas.” Anderson does not consider this a passing trend. Rather, he seems to think of it as an iron law: “In the digital realm you can try to keep Free at bay with laws and locks, but eventually the force of economic gravity will win.” To musicians who believe that their music is being pirated, Anderson is blunt. They should stop complaining, and capitalize on the added exposure that piracy provides by making money through touring, merchandise sales, and “yes, the sale of some of [their] music to people who still want CDs or prefer to buy their music online.” To the Dallas Morning News, he would say the same thing. Newspapers need to accept that content is never again going to be worth what they want it to be worth, and reinvent their business. “Out of the bloodbath will come a new role for professional journalists,” he predicts, and he goes on:

There may be more of them, not fewer, as the ability to participate in journalism extends beyond the credentialed halls of traditional media. But they may be paid far less, and for many it won’t be a full time job at all. Journalism as a profession will share the stage with journalism as an avocation. Meanwhile, others may use their skills to teach and organize amateurs to do a better job covering their own communities, becoming more editor/coach than writer. If so, leveraging the Free—paying people to get other people to write for non-monetary rewards—may not be the enemy of professional journalists. Instead, it may be their salvation.

[Click to continue reading Malcolm Gladwell reviews Free by Chris Anderson: Books: The New Yorker]

After the Revolution is Over
[After the Revolution is Over]

So is it true? Are paid content creators going to be the 21st century version of hansom cab drivers? I’m still not convinced. If I have the choice, I’d rather pay The New Yorker for a subscription to their magazine1 so they can pay writers like Malcolm Gladwell instead of paying nothing and reading hacks like the writers of B12 Partners Solipsism on my kindle-like device. I would not assert there are zero non-hack writers who write for free, but if one made a list of all the blog writers who do their own original reporting without relying on the resources of paid journalists and journalistic institutions, the list would be surprisingly short. Especially since billmon retired.

Ballad of the West Loop - Kodachrome version
[Ballad of the West Loop – Kodachrome version]

Malcolm Gladwell is skeptical as well:

Anderson is very good at paragraphs like this—with its reassuring arc from “bloodbath” to “salvation.” His advice is pithy, his tone uncompromising, and his subject matter perfectly timed for a moment when old-line content providers are desperate for answers. That said, it is not entirely clear what distinction is being marked between “paying people to get other people to write” and paying people to write. If you can afford to pay someone to get other people to write, why can’t you pay people to write? It would be nice to know, as well, just how a business goes about reorganizing itself around getting people to work for “non-monetary rewards.” Does he mean that the New York Times should be staffed by volunteers, like Meals on Wheels? Anderson’s reference to people who “prefer to buy their music online” carries the faint suggestion that refraining from theft should be considered a mere preference. And then there is his insistence that the relentless downward pressure on prices represents an iron law of the digital economy. Why is it a law? Free is just another price, and prices are set by individual actors, in accordance with the aggregated particulars of marketplace power. “Information wants to be free,” Anderson tells us, “in the same way that life wants to spread and water wants to run downhill.” But information can’t actually want anything, can it? Amazon wants the information in the Dallas paper to be free, because that way Amazon makes more money. Why are the self-interested motives of powerful companies being elevated to a philosophical principle? But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Keep reading

Footnotes:
  1. as I have done for nearly 2 decades []
Categories
Business government

Amazon Threatens Cuts Over State Taxes

Hey, Illinois legislators, don’t do this, ok?

Darth Vader

Cash-strapped states trying to force retailers to collect taxes on online sales are spurring efforts by Internet retailer Amazon.com Inc. to avoid being swept under the proposed laws.

North Carolina is close to passing a law that would force online retailers to collect the state’s 4.5% sales tax from marketing affiliates, people who get a sales commission from online customer referrals. Amazon, of Seattle, Wash., told its North Carolina marketing affiliates on Wednesday that it would stop doing business with them by July 1 if the law takes effect. Cutting the affiliates would enable Amazon to avoid collecting tax on sales in the state.

“We believe the way North Carolina is going about collecting the sales tax is unconstitutional,” said Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith. “It isn’t appropriate for us to have to comply with an unconstitutional burden.”

[Click to continue reading Amazon Threatens Cuts Over State Taxes – WSJ.com]

I don’t make much money on Amazon affiliate linkages, but I make enough to pay for my hosting fees, and would be quite saddened if that revenue stream dried up. North Carolina ought to stop subsidizing tobacco farmers if they are so concerned with their budget.

Categories
humor Links Music

Reading Around on May 6th through May 7th

A few interesting links collected May 6th through May 7th:

  • Amazon.com Knee-Jerk Contrarian Game – Waxy.org – “Kenny G., for instance. His rythmic session is much more regular, whereas Coltrane’s session seems sometimes to loose the beat.

    FAIL!!

    Umm, for one, “lose the beat” instead of “loose the beat”. And for second, bhwah-ha-ha-ha, Kenny G!!

  • MenuPages Blog :: Chicago: The Green City Market Is Open! Celebrate at Bonsoiree – “The Green City Market opens for outdoor business today! ”

    photo by me

  • BLDGBLOG: How the Other Half Writes: In Defense of Twitter – “Again, I fail to see any clear distinction between someone’s boring Twitter feed – considered only semi-literate and very much bad – and someone else’s equally boring, paper-based diary – considered both pro-humanist and unquestionably good.
    Kafka would have had a Twitter feed! And so would have Hemingway, and so would have Virgil, and so would have Sappho. It’s a tool for writing. Heraclitus would have had a f***ing Twitter feed.”