Print is dead. Long live print!

With all of the latest news about electronic books, one can be forgiven for thinking that print books are in their death throes. Free ebooks and Kindles and digital libraries, oh my! Nonetheless, the good money is that print books are not going extinct anytime soon. In fact, general skepticism of the ebook reading experience aside, good money is actually on ebooks boosting sales of "pbooks."

Allow me to offer some examples. Take Amazon's Search Inside the Book feature (an awesome tool, if you haven't tried it). According to Amazon, sales of books that could be searched increased by 9% when the feature was launched. And despite suing Google for scanning books from the great libraries of the world, publishers are jumping at the chance to make digital previews of their books available via Google Book Search. Now why, pray tell, would publishers partner with Google on scanning if they didn't experience some benefit like, oh, increased print sales?

All of this is to say that the printed word isn't going the way of the dinosaurs in the near future. Of course, we shouldn't be surprised given books' long and storied history.

Microsoft & Yahoo - Together at last?

How can your friendly neighborhood business correspondent pass up a story like this? Microsoft has just made a $44.6 billion bid (yes that's a "b") to buy Yahoo. The move comes following search giant Google reporting pretty sad earnings for the final quarter of last year.

The bid is an aggressive move by Microsoft to gain dominance in an area where they're lagging: online advertising. Google's expertise is search, but they make their money in internet advertising. And they're really good at it. But with its tepid recent earnings and Microsoft's latest move, could the Google juggernaut be in danger of hitting a wall, or at least a bit of molasses? What do you think?

The R-word

The R-word - recession, that is - has been bantered about a lot more recently. With job losses, a pitiful housing market, and the subprime mortgage crisis, its prominence isn't overly surprising, nor is politicians' desire for a bit of economic development. It also is not surprising that people aren't really in a spending mood right now, which further risks bringing about the R-word. In hopes staving off said recession, the House has passed a "stimulus package" that could result in a $600 check appearing in your mailbox. Providing that the Senate agrees, that is.

A $600 check does sound mighty nice. But the question is, will you spend it? The "stimulus" part of the economic stimulus depends on us going right out and buying that new ipod or laptop. Of course, with the economy as rotten as it is, some might want to save it for a rainy day.

So, what if you got a big, fat $600 check in the mail? Would you save it? Spend it? If so, on what? Let's see if Congress' plan is really going to work.

'Tis the season to abolish the IRS

If you check out Amazon's business bestseller page, you'll spot an as-yet-unpublished volume on the so-called fair tax leading the pack. Even if you're not a tax policy wonk, you may have heard the term. And you likely heard it from Republican presidential contender Mike Huckabee, who wants to implement such a plan.

Fair tax proponents want to eliminate the IRS and the income tax. They want to replace them with a nationwide sales tax of about 23%. The advantages of the tax, supporters say, is that it's much simpler and won't discourage saving. Not so fast, say critics. The less fortunate among us spend more of our income, so the tax ends up being regressive, even if you include rebates for the poor. Still, with tax season in full swing, many Americans may invite a simpler tax system, even if it's not quite perfect.

Want to learn more? Boortz & Linder, authors of the new book, have delved into this topic before. You can check out their first book from us!

On frankenfoods and international trade

The European Union's in trouble! And with the World Trade Organization, no less. A deadline is looming for the EU to lift its ban on genetically modified foods (GMOs), affectionately called "frankenfoods." The EU says that the foods are dangerous. The United States, among others, thinks that the ban is just convenient way to protect EU farmers from competition. Thus, as any good American would do, the US government sued, via the WTO.

Europeans are deeply skeptical of GMOs, claiming that there are adverse health effects and the risk of contaminating other crops. Many people beg to differ, claiming that there is no evidence that GMOs are unhealthy. Ultimately, then, the debate boils down to whether, in a world where free trade among countries is the norm, an individual country has the right to block genetically modified foods from their markets.

Of course, there are plenty of other ways of dealing with GMOs than outright bans. Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, for instance, thinks producers should say whether a food GMO ingredients. But the question is, what do you think? Should the EU be able to ban genetically-modified foods? Should the US do the same? Should we label foods, as Kucinich suggests? Other thoughts?

The monthly horror that is your cell phone bill

If you're an NPR listener, you might have noticed a veritable media blitzkrieg for Bob Sullivan, popular columnist for MSNBC business exposé blog The Red Tape Chronicles. Recently, Sullivan has appeared on Marketplace and Fresh Air. Could Talk of the Nation be next?

Sullivan has been plugging his new book on something near and not-so-dear to all of our hearts: hidden fees. Whether they be from your bank, your credit card company, or your cell phone carrier, fees seem not only like a way of life for consumers, but a viable business model. And a source of higher blood pressure. Gotcha Capitalism details these pocketbook-draining schemes, and how to avoid them.

Of course, you've already proven yourself an intelligent consumer. You can avoid all sorts of hidden fees from bookstores and credit companies alike by checking out the book from us. Providing you return it on time, of course!

An Economist holiday

Economist 12/22/2007 coverEconomist 12/22/2007 cover

If you've never read the annual holiday edition of The Economist, you're missing a rare treat. In addition to the magazine's typical insightful reporting and commentary, this edition includes several special reports on as sundry topics as professional poker to Mao Zedong's management style. Here are just a few articles that I enjoyed from this year's issue:

* Why humans' hunter-gatherer era wasn't quite as idyllic as we think
* The political sensitivity and power that comes from the Census
* China's attempts to encourage panda sex, and why we should care
* The political implications of electing a Mormon president.

Has your interest been piqued? Want to check out this issue of The Economist in its full-text glory? You're in luck! You can access it online in General OneFile, one of our great research databases. After you get into the database, just click the "Publication Search" link and search for The Economist. You will need to login to your account to follow the database link.

Ron Paul's curious economics

As always, the 2008 presidential election brings us some, shall we say, interesting characters. When it comes to economics, though, few are quite as interesting as Republican Ron Paul. In addition to abolishing the IRS, Mr. Paul hopes to bring back the gold standard as the basis for U.S monetary policy. Ben Bernanke is indubitably shaking in his boots.

Currently, our money is basically as good as our word; other countries accept dollars because they trust that we're willing to trade it for other goods & services. The gold standard, however, makes each one of those dollars equivalent to a specified amount of gold. Paul argues that, in the era of the declining dollar, perhaps we need that gold standard back.

Of course, there are plenty of good reasons why we abandoned the gold standard. But one has to give Paul some props for some unconventional economic thinking. Of course, recent economic news may have people clamoring for someone unconventional, just not quite as unconventional as Ron Paul.

Media consolidation: Coming soon to a city near you

Today, the Federal Communications Commission has given media companies a bit more freedom. On party lines, the Commission voted to allow businesses to own both newspapers and television or radio stations in the same city. So what does this mean? It means that MediaNews Group, owners of the The Detroit News could start buying up Detroit television stations, if they so choose.

A little more business with your bestsellers

Being good readers all, you may perchance be familiar with the New York Times bestseller list. Less well known perhaps is the Wall Street Journal's book index, replete with nifty charts comparing different weeks. Not surprisingly, the WSJ has tad more "street" cred at ranking business books than the Times.

You'll likely see some familiar faces on their business list: Alan Greenspan's The Age of Turbulence, Timothy Ferriss' the 4-hour work week, etc. But there's also a little hometown pride there: at #14, Bo's Lasting Lessons. Perhaps the Journal has a more liberal perspective on business than we thought.

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