Want Radiohead's new album? Name your price!

"In Rainbows," the latest album by consummate alt rockers Radiohead, is garnering attention. Unlike with the now legendary OK Computer, however, it's not for it's musical brilliance. In fact, the album isn't even out yet. Instead, Radiohead's getting press because they're letting you name your own price to buy it.

Aside from the obvious pricing mechanism, Radiohead is innovating in several other ways. First, the album is only available for digital download on the band's website. Second, the album will be DRM-free. Third, the band is bypassing the traditional gatekeepers of music, the recording industry.

Like Prince's July 2007 scheme with his latest album Planet Earth, Radiohead's actions are likely to anger an industry exec or two. But should they be afraid? Might artists be able to bypass them altogether and get their music out to the masses? Will such promotions only work for musical demigods like Prince and Radiohead? What do you think?

Photocopy a book, improve the Michigan economy?

CCIACCIA

Have you ever found a great recipe in a cookbook and photocopied it? If you have, then you've been exercising your "fair use" rights to copyright. In other words, even though an artist or publisher owns the rights to that book, movie, or song, you can still do a few things with that book even if you don't own it. Like check it out from a library!

Copyright geeks have been abuzz this month because a new report suggests that those few exceptions to copyright are worth big bucks: $507 billion in 2006, nearly 20% of U.S. GDP, to be exact. Or at least so says the Computer & Communications Industry Association, a business group representing such heavy hitters as Microsoft, Apple, and Google.

Okay, so maybe you copying that recipe didn't really spur the creation of new jobs. But the fact that Google, Yahoo, Ask, and their cohorts can crawl through websites (another fair use exception), even though those sites are copyrighted, certainly did. Which begs the question: should we have more exceptions to copyright? After all, the Copyright Clause of the Constitution is meant to "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," i.e. spark new ideas and innovations. Perhaps we should even consider shortening the copyright term? What do YOU think?

Canadian money - Not just for Monopoly anymore

Ever made fun of that weird-colored Canadian money? If you have, Canadians may be getting the last laugh. Yesterday, the loonie was worth as much as a U.S. dollar.

What does this mean for you? Well, if you're Canadian, it means that U.S. stuff is a lot cheaper. If you're from the United States and want some Canadian swag, though, you might not be so happy. It might even mean that Big Macs in Canada won't seem as cheap anymore.

Still wondering why you should care about Canadian money? Why not check out some of these books on exchange rates and other numbers economists worry about? Of course, maybe you'd just rather plan your next Canadian vacation, even if the prices are a bit higher.

The business of charity

We've all heard of successful businesspeople who give lots of money to charity. Indeed, such benefactors have huge impact, such as the library world's beloved Andrew Carnegie.

But is such philanthropy really as good as it seems? A pair of articles from our friends at the New York Times and The Economist suggests otherwise. Those big donations, according to the Times article, net donors some big tax breaks, meaning that money given to little Timmy's private school is money the government can't use for potentially worthier purposes.

And what about all those companies that do good works? Well, as The Economist notes, Robert Reich thinks that focusing on corporate social responsibility misses the point. Businesses, even socially responsible ones, ultimately focus on their interests. We shouldn't get so preoccupied with them that we take the heat off the people who are supposed to be watching the economy: the federal government.

Here's what economist Tyler Cowen thinks. What about you?

Alan Greenspan - Economist, Fed Chairman, Blogger?

He's a legend. A veritable deity in the business pantheon. A man whose words were scripture for bankers and the financial warriors of Wall Street. And now, the venerable former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan is blogging.

Well, sort of, anyway. Greenspan's only actually made one entry, and it seems to be primarily to promote his new book. But it not unprecedented for economists to turn books into blogs. Or in some cases, even blogs into books.

Negotiation: not just for businesspeople

Like nearly all such book lists, Amazon's Business bestseller list is filled with the vagaries of the moment. But there are a few titles that have proven to be perennial favorites, and they're not even strictly about business: the somewhat cheesily-named yet useful Getting to Yes and nearly anything written by preeminent Arizona State University social psychologist Robert Cialdini.

I say not strictly business because the books are actually about negotiation. Sure, businesspeople need good negotiation skills to seal a deal. But other folks need them, too. For instance, in Cialdini's latest book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, he details how if a saleswoman can get to like her, she's a lot more likely to make a sale, and get you to pay more. And these principles don't only matter for sales. Ever had your significant other point out your inconsistencies in an argument? More of Cialdini's weapons of influence at work.

So whether you're in business or not, don't be fooled by that "business" moniker. These negotiation and influence books will help you whether you're trying to persuade a client or your kids.

So you think you can vote?

Well, if you're a citizen, you probably can vote. The question posed by Bryan Caplan in The Myth of the Rational Voter is whether you're good at it. Specifically, he questions voters' intelligence in making decisions about the economy. The American voting public routinely advocates policies, Caplan says, that make them worse off.

Why, you might ask? I'm a smart person, I know what I'm doing when I vote. But according to Caplan, many voters have four biases that screw up the economy: voters tend to be anti-market, anti-foreigner, think more jobs solve everything, and are overly pessimistic. And Caplan demonstrates graphically, as economist are wont to do, that as stupid policies less directly affect voters, they become more irrational. Think global warming.

Whether people think it's genius or elitist, the book is bound to be influential. Check out the intro here. Does it pique your interest? Then why not check it out from your friendly public library?

Why the credit hoopla matters to you

The business world has been abuzz lately about the growing credit crisis. Several large subprime lenders have been finding it increasingly difficult to stay afloat, as investors are becoming less willing to take on extra risk. And as the Financial Times demonstrates in this nifty interactive map, the problem isn't just in the United States.

So what does this mean for mere mortals like us? Well, if you're planning on buying a home, watch out. People are finding it increasingly difficult to secure mortgages, particularly if they are what the credit industry considers subprime borrowers, i.e. those who might be a bit less likely to pay back their loans. Those of you who already have homes with adjustable rate mortgages may find your rates creeping up as lenders try to recoup their losses.

And what can be done about this? Well, major financial institutions from across the globe are trying to dampen the crisis. The U.S.'s own vaunted Fed is still concerned with inflation, though, so don't count on them to cut interest rates anytime soon. But you can always check out the what's available at your local AADL branch for help. Here are a few resources to help you traverse the increasingly stormy waters of credit and mortgages.

One Stop Shopping for Information about Businesses

If you're looking for detailed information about a corporation, try Reference USA. You may be surprised to learn that you can get contact information for major American corporations, just by clicking into this database. Maybe you thought Reference USA was mostly for phone numbers? Wrong. Check again. This is an excellent database that includes management directories, images, competitor reports, public filings, and Uniform Commercial Code profiles.

The Wall Street Journal, brought to you by Rupert Murdoch

Big news in the business world this week: Dow Jones, and along with it the vaunted Wall Street Journal, now belong to media mogul Rupert Murdoch. The WSJ reports that, despite some heavy opposition from the controlling Bancroft family, Dow Jones accepted the $5 billion offer from Murdoch's News Corporation.

The WSJ is quite a laurel in Murdoch's already well-laureled hat. News Corporation is one of the largest media companies in the world, with holdings including HarperCollins, The Times, MySpace, 20th Century Fox, Fox Broadcasting Company, and many more names you've probably heard of. Murdoch hopes that Dow Jones will complement these already formidable media holdings by providing trusted business and stock information.

Opponents of the sale, notably Leslie Hill of the Bancrofts, fear that Murdoch will compromise the journalistic integrity of the newspaper, as has been alleged with other of his holdings including Fox News, ReganBooks, and The Times. Whatever the ultimate result, there is one group that will undoubtedly be overjoyed by the sale: Dow Jones shareholders. Murdoch's $60/share bid is worth two-thirds more than current DJ stock prices.

Syndicate content