Tuesday, 30 September 2014

By on September 30th, 2014 in lab day, writing

08:18 – Here’s one for the books. A week or so ago, I needed to order 25 g or so of reagent-grade 1-naphthol to make up some modified Griess reagent for forensic kits. Fisher Sci didn’t have it in stock, so I went off in search of some 1-naphthol on the Internet. I found a vendor on eBay that was offering 25 g of RG 1-naphthol for $37, shipping from Japan, so I placed an order. This morning I got the following email (spacing and line breaks sic).

Dear Buyer

Thanks for your order again.
Your item is already shipped with safe packing.

In these days, Korea/Japan country’s post office & major courier denied
air-shipping of some reagent products.
Especially, when MSDS section 14 ‘Transport Information’ has some
Regulation/Hazard Class info,* it can be returned to us. *
*And some countries customs denied customs clearance of these items also.*

We know this reagent is not so danger but they do not accept our shipping
*So we have to change the bottle label of the reagent products to
‘safe-looking’ random label for fast shipping.*
*The attached label is not real info so you should remove it & write real
info when you receive it.*

We take picture of your real reagent products before remove the label.
*Please see the attached images. *

We’re sorry for it. But this is only way to ship your reagent in right time.
Please understand our situation & effort for customer satisfaction.


So, basically they’re breaking the law by intentionally mislabeling a bottle of chemicals with a fake label that bears no relation to the contents. I’m of two minds about reporting this to eBay. On the one hand, this company has broken many laws and regulations by intentionally mislabeling a chemical bottle. On the other hand, I don’t doubt that what they’re shipping me really is RG 1-naphthol and I understand why they’re avoiding stupid shipping regulations. I don’t have time right now to get involved in a mess, so I’ll probably just let it slide and use the 1-naphthol.

Work on the book progresses. I’m still in the stage where I’m stubbing things out, recording thoughts as short sentence fragment placeholders as they occur to me, and so on, so it’s still a real mess. But I did manage to write more than 5,000 words yesterday on subjects ranging from guns to emergency heating alternatives to building a field-expedient sand/charcoal water filtration system with a 5-gallon bucket to building out a PERK (personal emergency relocation kit), and I have no doubt that I can continue doing 5,000 words a day for weeks on end.

Ebooks with large file sizes are problematic on Amazon because they charge a data transfer fee of $0.15/MB, which is deducted from the sale price before the royalty is calculated. On a standard all-text ebook priced at $2.99 to $9.99, Amazon pays a 70% royalty after minor deductions. A $3.00 ebook earns the author about $2.04 per copy in royalties after all is said and done, leaving Amazon’s cut at $0.96.

On ebooks priced at $2.98 or less or $10.00 or more, Amazon pays only a 35% royalty, but doesn’t charge the data-transfer surcharge, which is why most image-heavy ebooks sell in the $15+ range. For example, O’Reilly/MAKE prices our Illustrated Guide to Home Biology experiments at $15.39. They had to price it over $10, or they’d have to pay the $0.15/MB data transfer surcharge on a very large file. At $15.39, Amazon doesn’t collect the data transfer surcharge, but they pay only the 35% royalty rate, or $5.39 per copy. So, on each copy sold, Amazon keeps $10, and O’Reilly/MAKE splits $5.39 with us.

So, given the economics involved and also considering that PDFs suck on the Kindle, I’ve decided to publish the book in text-only form for the Kindle on Amazon, using AZW/MOBI/PRC format, probably priced at $3.99 or perhaps higher. But I’ll also provide buyers with a link to download a free copy of the full PDF version with high-res color images. Based on experience and the number of images I intend to include, I’d guess that full PDF version will probably run at least 200 MB and maybe more.

15 Comments and discussion on "Tuesday, 30 September 2014"

  1. Greg Lincoln says:

    0.15/MB! Holy crap! What a ridiculous markup. Amazon only charges 0.12/GB for S3 transit. I wonder what their justification is for this.

    Perhaps they do it because they can’t be certain it won’t go over expensive “free” 3G service. If that’s the case, I wish they’d just let authors mark their book WiFi only.

  2. Chad says:

    I sold my old hand-held GPS receiver (model designed for hikers) to some guy in Poland a few years ago. He told me when I filled out the shipping invoice to write it down as “Broken GPS” with a value of $10. He didn’t want to pay VAT. I figured the term “broken” was subjective and since some of the casing was scratched that was close enough and so I obliged him.

  3. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    That’s exactly what it is, and many people have been asking Amazon for years to let them designate books as WiFi only. But Amazon won’t do it, apparently because they don’t want people to realize that “free” isn’t free.

  4. Chuck W says:

    I am only an anecdote, but I would readily pay $5.99 for the book, and I am not a real survivalist and will likely not implement even half the suggestions. I’m no Mitt Romney — far from it — but $10 is think about it money to me; below $6 nowadays is what I used to consider was comic book/candy money as a kid — easy to part with.

    And yes, $5.99 still looks like $5 to me.

  5. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I doubt I’d price it at $5.99. Probably $2.99 or $3.99, maybe $4.99. But $6 just seems too much for me for what amounts to a license to read a book. Of course, neither the Kindle-formatted book or the PDF will be copy-protected, so anyone can give copies away, post it on Pirate Bay, etc., but I think most people won’t think twice about actually paying for it if it’s only $3 to $5.

    I’ll be making draft copies freely available to you guys as well as anyone else who’s willing to read and comment on the drafts, but once the final book is available I think I’ll ask all of you to actually buy a copy on Amazon and review it.

  6. brad says:

    Definitely let it slide. Heck, encourage the behavior. Stupid regulations deserve to be disobeyed. They are honest and above-board with you, their customer, that’s all that counts.

  7. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yeah, 1-naphthol is UN2811 (Toxic solids, organic, n.o.s.) and is listed in Hazard Class 6.1 and Packing Group PGIII, so technically it’s a hazardous material. I just wish that IATA would get real and implement something like the USPS Small Quantity Exemption, which allows redefining small quantities of such chemicals as non-hazardous and shipping them without any formalities.

    I’m not going to report the vendor, if only because I might want to order more stuff from them.

  8. fred s says:

    give me a call

  9. Chad says:

    I’m not going to report the vendor, if only because I might want to order more stuff from them.

    Watch this whole thing turn out to be some sting operation. You know you’ve probably been on multiple watch lists for years. 🙂

  10. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    No kidding. I’ve actually seen my FBI file and it’s the size of a phone directory. It started in 1975 when I mixed it up with Jeffrey Carl Jones of the Weathermen because he was trying to steal my girlfriend. I almost shot the son of a bitch in the public area of one of the women’s dorms. I’m sure there’s been a whole lot added since. They’ll probably start another folder when they hear about the book I’m working on now.

  11. Lynn McGuire says:

    Here are the PDF manuals that we use for the documentation of our software:

    The manuals that have more than ten screenshots bulk up quickly to several MBs. The largest is our user interface manual which has several hundred screenshots on 450 pages for 28 MB:

    We also have our manuals on lulu.com with zero markup which allows our users to get printed copies of the PDFs for a very reasonable price. The aforementioned manual is $17.26 in B&W perfect bound with a color cover.

  12. Lynn McGuire says:

    “Ron Paul Thinks There Should Be More Secessionist Movements in the U.S.”

    “Realistically, though, Paul said he doesn’t think any of these groups could actually succeed. Despite the founders’ own deep belief in secession—they gained America’s independence from Europe, after all—he said the Civil War set the precedent that secession would carry “very, very bad” results.”

    “”By our history, the heavy hand of the federal government would come down,” Paul told National Journal. “They’d probably shoot ’em.””


  13. MrAtoz says:

    Ebola in Dallas! Watch out, Mr. Lynn.

  14. OFD says:

    I’ll gladly pay whatever for the illustrated pdf version of the book and also put the text-only deal on my Kindle anyway.

    Hit the floor running at work this morning and didn’t stop from 08:00 to 17:00 when I just said eff it and went home. Power outage overnight knocked out four servers; the Windows DC and Exchange box came back up on their own; the QuickBooks and GeoVision units did not, and the former caused problems for the accounting department and a half-dozen other office peeps. Spent the morning dealing with all that, and the afternoon with production floor printer problems and the usual assortment of help desk crapola. They were still throwing stuff at me at 4:45 that was just extra chit and I just hadda bail. No lunch, starving, and tired of the whole mess. If it was like this every day there, I’d be worn out in another couple of months; already lost another five pounds from no time for lunch or even quick snacks. And this is WITH a junior helper.

    I had it dicked at IBM when I only did the work of two people for months on end in four data centers across a mile of buildings. This is double what that was.

    Mr. Jeff Jones:


    “He lives in Albany, New York with his wife and has two sons.”

    Gee, that’s not too fah away…

  15. SteveF says:

    Hmm. I had no idea. That’s definitely not too far away. Just for purposes of research, you understand, I may do some snooping into addresses and such. Just to see how well protected those data are, you understand.

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