The Big Mac, a (nearly) perfect form of global currency

EconomistEconomist

Have you ever exchanged your dollars for a different currency? I don't know about you, but I'm always confused as to how much I'm actually getting. If I can trade one dollar for 0.75 euros, can I still get as much stuff as I would with a dollar (which, admittedly, is not that much)?

For over 20 years, The Economist has been giving a clever answer to this complex question: Big Macs. The Economist's Big Mac Index compares the prices of that beloved artery-clogger around the globe, and in the process helps show just how much you can get for your dollar. Or franc. Or rouble. In their latest index, you can get a burger in the U.S. for about $3.41. But in China, it will only cost you $1.45. If you're traveling to Norway, though, it will cost you a whopping (pun intended) $6.88!

The Big Mac isn't a perfect way to measure exchange rates and purchasing power. After all, you can't trade them across international borders (eww!). But they have the advantage of being made the same way no matter where you go, an elusive quality in international markets.

Want to find out more about the Big Mac index, or any number of other current events or international trade topics? As an AADL cardholder, you can actually access The Economist in its full-text glory in General OneFile, one of our great research databases. You will need to login to your aadl.org account to follow the database link.

Participatory . . . lending?

Prosper logoProsper logo

The Web 2.0 revolution has brought user participation to a new level. Thanks to sites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and the newly announced Media Predict, mere mortals can create and judge content previously controlled by large media companies.

But according to a pair of segments on the July 4th episode of Marketplace, the participatory mantra is coming to an unlikely sector: banking.

Prosper.com and Kiva.org both connect borrowers directly with lenders, without bank intermediaries. Prosper allows users to solicit lenders by posting their need and fully explaining their situation. They can then borrow from (or lend to) multiple individuals, at various dollar amounts and interest rates. Taking a similar approach, Kiva puts a slightly more philanthropic spin on participatory lending: it facilitates microlending. You can make small loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations, where access to credit is difficult to come by.

What do you think? Would you borrow/lend on such a site? Should banks be afraid?

Help for Job Hunters

Whether you’re a new graduate looking for your first job or a seasoned professional making a change, the AADL has tools to help with your job search.

The ReferenceUSA database provides company descriptions, links to news articles, and corporate family trees to help you learn about potential employers. Plus, you can find mailing addresses and a management directory to help get those cover letters and resumes to the right people!

Access the database from the Business and Investment section of our Research page. From the ReferenceUSA home page, choose “US Businesses” to start searching.

And, Library cardholders can access ReferenceUSA from home!

Much ado about black swans

Fans of quirky business books, rejoice! In the vein of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and Blink and James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds comes Nassim Taleb's The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. The title already ranks #2 on Amazon's business bestseller list.

Like Gladwell and Surowiecki's thought-provokers, The Black Swan starts with a simple concept - that big, society-altering events are unpredictable - and shows how this concept affects business, history, and predicting the vagaries of the market. Not surprisingly, things like markets and history don't move in easy-to-spot patterns, so we have to come to expect the unexpected.

Also, check out The Long Tail author Chris Anderson's thoughts on Amazon.com.

Big business. $16 billion worth, to be exact.

This week, the epic contest heated up between two great aerospace manufacturers: United States' Boeing and Europe's Airbus. The two companies are showing off their wares at the biannual Paris Air Show. Highlights include Airbus's massive A380, which can seat over 800 people, and Boeing's speedy 787 Dreamliner. Airbus seems to be pulling ahead, with a $16 billion (yes, that's a "b") order from Qatar Airlines for its A380.

Airbus and Boeing are no novices to competition. Quite to the contrary, while the two companies dominate non-military aircraft production, they are fiercely competitive with each other. Their rivalry is the subject of former government advisor John Newhouse's latest book.

Martha Stewart, scrapbooking maven

According to a recent article in The Economist (you will need to login to your AADL account to follow the link), a familiar figure is poised to take the scrapbooking world by storm: Martha Stewart. Her company, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, recently released a new line of scrapbooking supplies that will undoubtedly sell well and bear Stewart's characteristic sense of style.

Stewart comes relatively late to scrapbooking, which was a $2.6 billion industry in 2006, according to the Craft & Hobby Association. But her company's size and dedicated following still place it in a good position become a market leader.

Are you a scrapbooker? What do you think of Stewart's new products? Interested in getting into scrapbooking? Check out a few of our books on how to organize and display your family memories in scrapbooks.

Amazon.com, the iTunes killer?

Amazon.com and EMI recently announced that they're launching a new online music store a la iTunes, and that announcement set music and copyright watchers atwitter. Why? Because the songs will lack digital rights management. This means audiophiles will be able to copy and burn songs onto whatever and however often they want: mp3 players, cds, other computers, etc.

Many record companies (aside from EMI, of course) feel that such a move will be the death of their industry. Or maybe, as Wired editor Chris Anderson says in The Long Tail, open access and niche markets are the logical progression of the internet. Regardless, digital media like mp3s are changing the way we interact and do business. And we're have to change the way we think about copyright in the digital era.

What do you think? Will less copyright protection mean more sales for Amazon and EMI? Could Amazon become the iTunes killer?

Start Your Own Business Boot Camp

If you're thinking about starting a business you can get a some great help by attending the 'Start Your Own Business' Boot Camp at Washtenaw Community College on May 31. At this forum you will learn about personality traits that impact entrepreneurialism, create a marketing plan for your business, learn about legal, accounting, franchises, business plans and financing options. You will receive one on one counseling with a business expert and have an opportunity to get advice from a variety of business experts and organizations that are available to support new ventures. The fee for the program is $25 and includes breakfast, lunch and materials. For details and to register call (734)484-6707 or (734)821-0075 or register online at the web site above.

Who is this "Cerberus Capital Management," anyway?

Chrysler logoChrysler logo

With DaimlerChrysler's recent sale of the Chrysler Group to Cerberus Capital Management, you may have been left with the same question I was: who on earth is Cerberus Capital Management?

Fortunately, AADL's fearless research databases (available on the research page) can help us out. The Business and Company Resource Center provides quick access to summaries, financial data, management information, and articles on thousands of companies, including Cerberus Capital Management. Check it out!

Toyota: Largest automobile manufacturer in the world?

With a 9 percent rise in its 4th quarter earnings last year, Toyota is continuing its meteoric rise in size and influence. Many analysts forecast that Toyota is poised to overtake General Motors as the largest automaker in the world.

How did the automobile industry get here? And what does it mean for Michigan? There are plenty of opinions on these questions. But what about those of us who live here in GM's backyard? What do you think? Click "Add a new comment" and tell us!

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