Amazon e-book Price Dispute

The manufacturer’s cost of printing and reproducing an e-book, spread over several thousand downloads, is about zero. If e-books catch on, legacy book publishers would sell more titles and more books, but not at hardcover prices! This sounds like that old music industry deja vu, all over again. Shame on Macmillan.



By Dan Gallagher

3:26 PM ET Feb 1, 2010

SAN FRANCISCO (MarketWatch) — Shares of sold off Monday on news that the company has pulled several titles of a major book publisher in a dispute about prices for its Kindle e-book reader.

Reports over the weekend in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal said the company has removed several titles from Macmillan, one of the largest book publishers in the U.S., which had been demanding that Amazon raise the prices on its e-book titles above the $9.99 cap that has been the norm for Kindle titles on the site.

(Read the full article at MarketWatch)

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Amazon Heuristics

It’s all a matter of mining the shopping data. Amazon knows quite a bit more about me than I thought they did.

From the Wikipedia article on Heuristics:

Heuristic … (from the Greek … for “find” or “discover”) is an adjective for experience-based techniques that help in problem solving, learning and discovery. A heuristic method is particularly used to rapidly come to a solution that is hoped to be close to the best possible answer, or ‘optimal solution’. Heuristics are “rules of thumb”, educated guesses, intuitive judgments or simply common sense. A Heuristic is a general way of solving a problem. Heuristics as a noun is another name for heuristic methods.

From an email today: has new recommendations for you based on items you purchased or told us you own.
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Sound off: Digital Piracy

What’s happened to our old world of recorded music, floppy backups, and grainy VHS tapes? 

Historical perspective helps. It wasn’t so long ago that a “piracy” debate centered around whether we had the right to tape our record collection for personal use. Even after the “fair use doctrine” was promulgated, the record companies insisted on labeling their products with the warning: “reproduction without permission strictly prohibited.”
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Clock Radios For Troubled Times

“I’m so mad that I would write the Mayor a letter, if I could only write, if he could only read.” – Al Capp

We have one of those new clock radios that does almost everything.

It’s light, portable enough for travel, and it plays AM, FM and CD. For those who can figure out how to program it, it also offers built-in sound tracks for waterfalls, rain showers and a variety of natural sounds to sooth. The sound quality is good, and it’s reliable. It has a battery backup, which saves an hour of figuring out how to reset everything if the power goes out.

The function buttons are small and hard to read. Some of the programming function key sequences are diabolical. I keep the instructions in the nightstand drawer, folded upon to the page on “how to set the time”.
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Forces of Weed Wacker Evil

the rant is mightier than the sword …

I think weed-wackers are the most un-natural power tools ever invented. Everyone I have ever known, myself included, gets stiff as a board after an extended session with one of those damned things.

True, they exercise a whole new set of muscles, an effect we’re definitely familiar with. The product design is the really negligent part. A weed-wacker is a tool with a heavy weight extended criminally far out from the tool’s natural balance point.
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Letter: “Ford Kills”

Letter: “Ford Kills”

1984 Ford Bronco - TFI problem twiceFord TFI Ignition Recall – Tip Of The Iceberg? You’ll recall our article last year on the Ford TFI Ignition legal maneuvering. The syndrome: A Ford truck (certain year, make and model) inexplicably stalls on the highway.

Later, if there IS a later, it may seem fine. If there is no consequential accident, we’re talking about an allegedly defective ignition part. Ford is NOT voluntarily recalling vehicles for an “out of warranty” part that may be 17 years old and cost $99.

If there IS a consequential accident, it’s legally hard to prove liability even if the part is tested and found to have failed. A California judge finally secured a recall against 1.7 million vehicles last year, but this is scant consolation for people in other states, or for those left behind when the accident causes fatalities.

When a single-engine aircraft develops an unusual pattern of, say, excessive carburetor icing in low altitude climbouts when outside air  temperature is nearly equal to the dewpoint, we don’t have to wait around while pilots die and courts wrangle the fine points of carburetor heating. Fortunately, a highly competent FAA can step in when such public-safety issues become known.

It’s too bad the motoring public doesn’t have a counterpart agency for motor vehicles. Department Of Transportation, or CalTrans? Proactive insurance companies? Come on, you must be joking.

People are still being killed by consequential accidents when these thin-film ignition devices fail. Mechanics will tell you these semiconductor devices are mounted too close to the exhaust manifold, where thermal tolerances may be exceeded. Ford denies any wrongdoing or liability. The vehicles are far past the 1- or 3-year warranty and may be on the second or third owner. Ford is still stonewalling.

We received a letter from Angel Brown of Washington, whose husband was killed in March 2001 while driving a Ford Ranger. Ford basically told Mrs. Brown that the Ranger wasn’t on the recall list, so … (My 1984 Bronco wasn’t on the 1985-1995 recall list, either.) The Ranger isn’t even included in the California recall. In giving us permission to post her letter, Angel Brown writes:

I would be pleased if you post my letter and include my e-mail address for responses. People need to know that our whole family truly believes that my husband would not have gone off the Hwy and rolled, if the truck had of been running right. I believe that he was trying to get the truck started again. We have had several near accidents in the past due to these Fords stalling for no reason. My husband was a good mechanic and careful driver.

Please read the 5/19/2001 Letter From Angel Brown. If you have information you believe may be helpful to her, we have Angel Brown’s permission to include her email address in this posting, and we hope you’ll write her at Please do remember that she just lost her husband in March 2001.

We extend our sympathies and condolences to Angel Brown and her family.

May 20, 2001

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Ford TFI Ignition Recall

We’ve been Firestoned again …

Material posted on this topic is based on personal experience and opinion, not on independently authenticated technical data or legal opinion. It is posted as a matter of public interest. cannot say whether information posted here is applicable to the situations of others. may post reader questions and experience in the appropriate forums, but we are not a resource for research or diagnostics.

(10-13-2000) 19:50 PDT CHICAGO (AP) — Chicago lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit Friday against Ford Motor Co. two days after a California state judge, in the first such directive by any court, told the carmaker to recall 1.7 million Ford vehicles to check ignition systems.
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Made In The USA Ramble

confessions of a chameleon consumer

Elite Industries engineers quality into competitively priced kit furniture.

Once in a while, a product comes along that solidly debunks the notion that we Americans have completely forgotten how to make things. By “things” we mean hard goods: the designing, engineering, manufacturing, packaging and marketing of goods, starting all the way back with raw materials extracted or harvested from the earth, which in turn have weight, heft and inherent permanent physical properties.
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DSL Log October 2000

“Once Again, The Internet Is Your Worst Nightmare”

(Please bear in mind the caller needs to budget one hour for any initial call to Pacific Bell or parent company SBC. This is the phone company with a really serious phone problem. Expect 20-30 minutes of “Thank you for calling Pacific Bell, all agents are currently busy helping other customers; you call will be handled in the order received” holds, and two to three transfers before speaking to one person for 5-10 minutes).

 As in dealings with any other firm or organization, you’ll encounter good guys, bad guys and total asses. Toward (what we hope is) the end of this long saga, we encountered some good guys. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. 
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