Tuesday, 4 October 2011

By on October 4th, 2011 in Barbara, netflix, personal, writing

08:25 – Barbara had another scare last night, when her sister called to tell her that she was taking their mom to the emergency room. She’d hurt her leg that afternoon while volunteering at the hospital, and of course at her age there’s always concern about broken bones. All turned out happily, though. Barbara’s mom had only sprained her knee. The emergency room docs put a brace on it and allowed her to return home.

I got email last night from my editor, Brian Jepson, with great news. O’Reilly has decided to do the biology book in four-color. Every book has a budget, based on expected production costs and projected sales. The only way Brian had been able to get this book approved originally was to put tight limits on page count (extra pages cost money) and printing costs (four-color costs a lot more money). So we went into the project with a strict page-count limit and a center section of full-color plates. Before long, I asked Brian if I could trade the color section for more page count, to which he agreed. I really didn’t want to give up color images completely, but I really needed the extra page count.

But apparently the cost of four-color printing has come down somewhat, and Brian said that when he was discussing things with his colleagues they commented that it makes no sense to do a biology lab book with monochrome images. I suspect the sales history of the chemistry lab book also might have had something to do with it. That book is what publishers call an “evergreen” title. That is, it continues selling steadily for many years. That’s in stark contrast to most titles, which sell 90% or even 99% of their total lifetime sales within a few months of publication. The biology lab book should have a similar sales trajectory to the chemistry lab book

10:15 – I just checked my Netflix disc queue and found that there isn’t much disc-only material that we care about. When I upgraded a couple weeks ago from streaming + one-disc to streaming + two-disc, our disc queue was jammed with 30 or 40 discs that we wanted, most of which are series that Barbara likes and that were initially disc-only. Several of those quickly changed to add streaming, including the most recent seasons available of Army Wives, Brothers & Sisters, and Grey’s Anatomy. As soon as that happened, I pulled them from our disc queue and added them to our instant queue. So we’ve gone from 30 or 40 discs we want down to four Sons of Anarchy S3 discs and a handful of others.

Meanwhile our instant queue now totals 94 items, including a dozen or more series that between them total hundreds of episodes. We are not, to put it mildly, short of things to watch, even without discs, particularly since Netflix is adding more streaming titles every day. Our anniversary date is the 26th of the month, so in three weeks I’m going to downgrade our plan to the $8/month streaming only option. We’ll do without discs for the next few months while we catch up on streaming material, if we ever do. Once there are a reasonable number of disc-only titles we want, I’ll bump it back up to include discs for a month or three and then drop back to streaming-only.

10 Comments and discussion on "Tuesday, 4 October 2011"

  1. Dave B. says:

    There are now faster and cheaper after hours healthcare alternatives to the emergency room. There are now urgent care facilities all over the country that can handle those medical situations which can’t wait until the doctor’s office opens but aren’t life threatening. I haven’t been to the ER as a patient since I was a kid.

    I knew such places were prevalent in Indianapolis. I didn’t realize the small town (population 10,000) I lived in had one, and I’m not counting the nurse practitioners who practice out of the local pharmacies.

  2. BGrigg says:

    I’m unaware if O’Reilly owns their own presses, though I suspect not. What’s likely happened is they either have a new printer, or their old one bought a new machine. The cost difference in presses is less than you would think. A 2 color press isn’t half the cost of a 4 color machine, as an example, and 4 color is typically more profitable to print. People like color! So most printers choose a minimum 4 color press to give them the greatest choice in flexibility.

    Modern presses do not use film and plates, or even separately imaged plates. The impression cylinder is imaged directly through laser, and most offer the ability to do variable data printing. This will now become the new additional expense for printing. Instead of deciding if you want 2 or 4 colors, you can decide to spend the money on the data file and customize each book for their owner. Imagine owning a text book that say “Bill, you now place the culture in the Petri dish”?

    Another factor in the cost reduction is that even a large press like a 6 color only requires two people to operate, and that is solely due to the length of the press, not the complexity. Although the machines themselves are very complex, modern presses are no not much more difficult to use than a copier. The tough part comes when it jams, and they DO jam!

    Nonetheless, what a boon for your book! I’m looking forward to it when it is released.

  3. Ray Thompson says:

    The problem with many of the urgent care clinics is that they do not take health insurance. Most do not have contracts with the insurance carriers. I know my plan will not cover any treatment at such facilities. And as such I will not get insurance contracted rates. It is cheaper for me to go to an emergency room and pay my part, insurance paying the rest, than it is to go to an urgent care facility.

    The system is totally broken. I get my CPAP supplies from a mail order provider. The cost is about half what the DME that my insurance covers will charge. My portion, after the insurance adjustment, is still more than the mail order. I tried to get my insurance to cover the supplies arguing that I am saving them, and me, money. The insurance company did not care. So my CPAP supplies do not get credited against my deductible.

  4. Ray Thompson says:

    The tough part comes when it jams, and they DO jam!

    When I worked at a large commercial bank we had a Xerox laser printer that printed at two pages a second duplexed. It slung some paper. When that puppy jammed it was a mess to clear it all out having to remove a dozen sheets of paper that were in the paper path. I suspect that a large four color press jam would be nothing short of spectacular.

  5. MrAtoz says:


    Any chance there will be any freebie bio books for a review? I need to add to my collection of your books.

  6. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Any chance there will be any freebie bio books for a review? I need to add to my collection of your books.

    Yes. In fact one of the things I made sure of in the book contract is that the book will be published under a Creative Commons license. (Not that it was at all difficult to talk O’Reilly into that; they’re huge advocates of CC.) That means the book will be freely downloadable and distributable, although of course we and O’Reilly make money only on purchased copies.

  7. BGrigg says:

    Especially when the paper size is 28″x40″ and the press is running at 14,000 impressions per hour. A typical 4 color press can be 24′ long, so that’s picking up a sheet of paper, passing it through four (or more) printing units over a minimum of 16′ of travel, and putting it back down less than four seconds later. Most presses have a trip sensor and usually you only need to clear out a handful of sheets. Get a sheet up into the inking cylinders and the press gets shut down for about an hour, and you get to add to your swearing vocabulary. I’ve picked up some very interesting combinations this way.

    Once in a blue moon, some errant pressman drops a wrench into the press, and THAT would be a sight to behold. I’ve never seen it myself, but I heard it happen. By that I don’t mean I heard a story, I was physically in the plant when it happened. A 24′ long by 10′ wide printing press JUMPS when that happens. A 4 color press can weigh in excess of 30 tons, and makes quite the noise upon landing. The pressman who did it took off running when he saw the look on the lead pressman’s face, and a murder was avoided.

  8. ech says:

    The problem with many of the urgent care clinics is that they do not take health insurance. Most do not have contracts with the insurance carriers.

    That depends on the clinic. Sure, some of the “doc in a box” chains don’t take insurance, but several of the ones here in town do. The one we have used is a joint venture by a large hospital and a large multi-specialty clinic. The rates are much lower than a full ER, although I pay an ER deductable with my carrier. I expect that once Obamacare gets out of the way that more of these will be popular.

    Saw a story about Medicare abuse that sums up the problem we are in. A woman presents to an ER at midnight. Tells the doc she wants a pregnancy test. Doc refuses, tells her to go to the drugstore, that it’s not an emergency. She demurrs, saying that it would cost money at the drug store, but at the ER, Medicaid would pay for it. He still refuses.

    A short time later, the same woman is in the exam room, complaining of stomach pain. Asked when it started, she said “Just after you refused my pregnancy test”. Doc has to order a pregnancy test, labs, and an abdominal ultrasound since she could have an ectopic pregnancy, a true emergency. Costs will total several $k.

  9. BGrigg says:

    This is why ERs should have user fees that the doctor can waive in actual cases of medical emergency. Apparently the fee needs to be in excess of a pregnancy test kit.

  10. Jim Cooley says:

    The last couple of seasons of _Monarch of the Glen_ is now on Netflix Streaming (season 6) and disk (season 7). The season 7 has 3 episodes, not two, in addition to a fun documentary about 20 minutes long.

    Okay, so it was a soap and a serial, but it was fun and personally I didn’t mind all the character shifts which occured over its run.

    I’m enjoying the new season of _Downton Abbey_ courtesy of ********. I’d urge anyone interested to hunt the BBC versions down and watch them, as PBS will cut not a few minutes when it eventually shows up.

    It’s another soap and mindless serial (or as a friend put it, “a parody of a parody”), but what I discovered today is that Julian Fellowes, producer/writer of DA and _Gosford Park_ also plays a character on _Monarch_, Kilwillie. In fact, he says he wrote the screenplay for _Gosford_ while on set at _Monarch_.

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