Friday, 29 July 2011

08:45 – It’s interesting, in the same way that watching a train wreck is interesting, to watch the maneuvering of FIGS (France, Italy, Greece, and Spain) versus FANG (Finland, Austria, Netherlands, and Germany). The former, along with Portugal and Belgium, are pressing for fiscal union so that they can pillage the wealth of FANG to support their own spendthrift governments and moribund economies. FANG legislators and voters are perfectly aware of this, and very unlikely to allow it to happen. Smart money is on the Eurozone and then inevitably the EU itself fragmenting into one group of rich, productive northern nations and a second tier of poor, unproductive southern nations. Look for that to happen sooner rather than later, possibly even before the end of this year.

On a related note, I see that the ratings agencies have downgraded regional Spanish debt, a likely preliminary to them downgrading Spanish sovereign debt itself. Spanish and Italian bonds are already selling at historically high yields, and their most recent auctions have failed to sell out. They’re both at the point now where one or two more straws will break their backs. And the EU bailout fund has insufficient resources to stabilize either of them, let alone both. Nor are Germany and the other wealthier EU nations willing to throw more money down that rat hole. I suspect that the FANG nations have already decided to let nature take its course with the weaker nations. Everything the FANG nations are doing now is aimed at damage control for their own economies and their own citizens.

Work on the biology book continues.

12:21 – Apple has finally carried through on its threat to disable ebook reader apps that allow purchasing ebooks from within the app, bypassing Apple’s store. Talk about the height of arrogance. Apple demands 30% of revenue for doing nothing, and further insists that publishers and distributors price their works on the Apple store no higher than elsewhere. In effect, Apple demands 100% of the profit (or more) on all sales.

For example, let’s say I publish an ebook on for $3.00 list price. For each ebook they sell, Amazon pays me 70% of that $3.00 and keeps the other $0.90 to cover its own costs. If Amazon updated its reader app to meet Apple’s requirements for in-app purchasing, Amazon would still pay me the $2.10 royalty, but would have to pay the remaining $0.90 to Apple as Apple’s 30% cut, leaving Amazon with $0.00.

So, as of last night, Amazon updated its iOS app to remove the in-app purchasing option. Someone using an iOS device now has two options. First, they can purchase a book from Apple’s store (which was the whole idea all along; Apple was embarrassed because almost no one was purchasing ebooks through their crappy store). Second, the iOS user can fire up a browser, navigate to, and purchase the ebook manually. Way to go, Apple. Nothing like screwing your users in a money-grab that has no justification.

A lot of bloggers seem to think this change will let Apple grab a lot of ebook market share, on the theory that iOS users will take the easy way out and just buy from the Apple store. I don’t think so. It’s easy enough for an iPad user to buy the book directly from the Amazon or B&N site, and I think Apple’s going to see some pushback over this nasty little scheme. Furthermore, I have purchased hundreds of books for my Kindle over the six months since I bought it, and I have purchased none of them using the Kindle itself. In every case, I’ve ordered the book from the Amazon web site on my office or den PC and later downloaded it, via Wi-Fi or USB, to my Kindle. Every Kindle owner I know does it the same way, and I don’t know any smartphone users who buy directly from their smartphones. They all buy from a browser running on their PCs and then sync the book to their smartphones and other reading devices.

So, Apple may get a few more ebook purchases from iPad users, but probably not many more. IIRC, Apple to date has sold via the Apple store an average of about one ebook for each Apple unit capable of displaying ebooks. Their nasty little scheme may bump that to maybe two or three ebooks per device, but I doubt that it will threaten B&N’s market share for ebooks, let alone Amazon’s.

14:03 – Ruh-roh. I just shipped the last of the chemistry kits I had already made up and boxed. I have the sub-assemblies necessary to make up another batch quickly, but I’m not sure that batch will last me until the backordered component arrives.

Meanwhile, I do have all but one of the components necessary to make up another 60 or so kits. That means we can put together the main sub-assemblies (chemical block and small parts bag) and assemble and box up 60 more kits, missing only that one component. Once it arrives, it won’t take long to add that one component to each box and then tape them up and have them ready to ship.

Speaking of taping them up, it turns out to be good that I bought much more packing tape than I thought I’d need. U-line had the stuff on sale for $1.69 per roll, which was half the normal price, but only if I ordered a case of 36 220-yard rolls. So I did, thinking it’d be a lifetime supply. As it turns out, I’m using the stuff much faster than I though I would. The large priority-mail flat-rate boxes are one-foot cubes, so I figured I’d need maybe three or four feet to seal the top and bottom middle seams, plus maybe another four feet to seal the edge seams. Call it eight feet per box. At 660 feet per roll of packing tape, I figured I’d get something like 80 or 85 boxes per roll. Then reality intruded. I’m taping the crap out of these boxes, because the last thing I want is to have one come apart in transit. Incredibly, I ran out of tape on the first roll after sealing only 20 boxes, which amounts to 33 feet (10 meters) of tape per box. Still, that means my 36 rolls of tape are enough for 720 boxes, so I should be good for quite a while longer.