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Hard Rows to Hoe: LibGen and More

Dr.-Youngblood-Photo-1

Rev. Johnny Youngblood

New Orleans   Yesterday was a tough day in the world of the Chief Organizer’s Report.  Our website was shutdown again for four hours because of spam attacks.   Usually our server hosts can beat this back, but yesterday as they told me “the bad guys won one.”  Ironically this was on the same day that I wanted folks to get a sense of how they could access free books electronically through www.libgen.info.   I didn’t “swallow the ask,” as we say in organizing, but posting up late on a Friday afternoon on an August weekend is a good way to be that tree in the forest that falls out of earshot.

            Equally ironic, since Kindle was on my mind, I tried for the first time in years to move my notes and bookmarks from my Kindle to my backup hard drive.  Wow, did that turn out to be impossible, though it used to be a cinch.  The Help folks gave me a bunch of steps so that my computer would read the Kindle, but my computer could read it before, it was just that we no longer could access the language.  All of this after I was saying that the drawback of Libgen was that it was not as easy as Amazon’s Kindle.  Wipe egg off face.

            Anyway, if you haven’t read about libgen.info and the other free book sites I want you to do so, so this was a second verse on the song you might not have heard yet.

            For those of you who did catch the news or heard it on the radio or podcast, there are two nuggets of information for you.

            One is Cornell economist, Robert Frank’s excellent summary in a nutshell of the biggest challenge to Obamacare working which is the fight over the economic principle of “adverse selection.” 

The crux of the matter is what economists call the adverse-selection problem. Uninsured people with pre-existing conditions often face tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical costs annually. If insurers charged everyone the same rate, buying coverage would be far more attractive financially for people with chronic illnesses than for healthy people. And as healthy policyholders began dropping out of the insured pool, it would become increasingly composed of sick people, forcing insurers to raise their rates.  But higher rates make insurance even less attractive for healthy people, causing even more of them to drop out. Before long, coverage would become too expensive for almost everyone. The adverse-selection problem explains why almost no countries leave health care provision to unregulated private insurance markets. It also predicts that requiring private insurance companies to charge the same rates to everyone will make it prohibitively expensive for most people to buy individual health insurance.

            The other was a great quote about compassion from Brooklyn preacher, one-time community organization leader, and New Orleans-raised Rev. Johnny Youngblood, explaining why African-Americans were more quickly able to forgive public transgressions:

When we as African Americans look at our history, our own Dr. Martin Luther King, or own Dr. Adam Clayton Powell, there has always been something in a person’s life that others sought to use against their greater good.

Anytime anyone is talking about “greater good,” that, like LibGen, is worth remembering.

 

 

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Book Consumer’s Conundrum: Kindle or Hardcopy

Newsweek Kindle

Newsweek Kindle

New Orleans I’m not much of a consumer.  My truck is over a dozen years old.  My house is many times older and the mortgage is paid.  I only replace my running shoes every couple of years and my boots every three years.  But I’ve always bought books for work, for pleasure, and for part of what simply makes life and thinking worth the work, so I was in the very first wave of consumers to buy a Kindle when Amazon first introduced the device.

Even at the first adapter’s higher premium price, it made sense to me because of both cost and weight.  Since I travel a lot, it would mean not having to tote half-dozen books to India or Argentina for a week or two on the road.   I would have continued to all the weight though except that the price was so good on an electronic book at $9.99 which was pretty much the top rate from Amazon for a Kindle book.  Calculating the number of books I bought in a year, it seemed to me that I would amortize the cost of the Kindle within a year, especially since it was right after Katrina and I could no longer get the Times at home.  I jumped to order a Kindle when they first came on market and have stayed with it all the way to what Amazon calls “Wade Kindle 3,” since #1 was stolen with a bag in Bogota and #2 had a screen die on me in Atlanta not long ago.  I’ve liked reading books on a Kindle.  I love the notes and underlining feature, which makes both more convenient than locating a hardcopy book somewhere in the house and searching for what I thought I remembered which really never happens.  I’ve “sold” Kindles to friends who read and neighbors on airplanes.

Now I am confused though because competition and the I-pad have changed the Kindle business model outside of my comfortable calculations and created my own personal consumer’s conundrum around convenience versus cost and paper versus screens in a way that I had thought I had finally resolved.  It’s one thing to read the handwringing of publishers and competitors, but it’s quite another to have to suddenly make price comparison decision for every book purchase.  More often than not, I’m confounded by the fact that the hardcopy and often the hardcover book I want is cheaper than the Kindle version.  How did that happen and what does it mean for the future of all of these enterprises?

I was moved to weight in today because I went online with Amazon to buy a copy of a book that was the lead review in the Times this Sunday for my brother for Christmas.  There was never a doubt when I logged on that I was going to buy a hardcover, because it would be a gift after all.  The list price in the review was quoted as $35.00.  The Amazon “new” price was $21.00.  I checked the Kindle price, and it was $19.35 or so.   Add shipping and I paid $24.98 or something or more than a 25% premium on the Kindle version, if I had been buying for myself.  If it had been an important book to me, I might have gone hardcover just for the photos.

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