Yesterday afternoon I’m waiting for a donation at one of my grocery stores, which in this one is at the front door next to the newspaper racks ( most places I wait out of sight in the receiving area ). I happen to notice a notice stating that the price of our local fish wrapper is increasing from 75 cents to a buck in X amount of days. Now, the Reno paper is a buck or buck twenty-five, whatever, but you can understand that because of the transportation issue. Not that I ever buy the Reno ( the Las Vegas paper has not been offered up here as long as I’ve lived here, although Starbucks carries the New York Post ) paper because the thing is a sodden piece of offal. The local paper isn’t all that bad. They cover regional news rather well. You just have to factor in that that news is always a day or three behind. News from out of state is even worse, almost as if the west bound train was still delivering the latest happenings from back East. But as decent as the local paper is, seventy-five cents is a little steep for its thickness ( or lack thereof ). A buck is just stupid. On those off days where little happens I’d feel like a complete rub for having bought it at that price, as if I’d just wandered into New York City from Hayseed Nebraska and a nice Brooklyn gentleman sold me a once in a lifetime investment opportunity in a bridge.
As I was loading up my donation and I was talking to the store help, she mentioned the local paper had ceased printing operations here locally about six months ago and had farmed that out to a facility north up in Idaho. I had no idea. I mean, in a way it makes sense. You own three or five papers, none making all that much money because you no longer make much on classified ads, and since you just rehash AP news rather than have boots on the ground anywhere which means your product is a piece of crap no one much cares about anymore, the only way to make money is to shut down two out of three presses and pay the transportation costs. In a traditional cheap oil economy this makes sense. So I guess these idiot business owners think $107 a barrel oil is just a short time blip. If X, Y or Z is done than we can get back to gushing cheap oil and all I have to do is hold on til then. Never mind that this short term blip is going on six years now. I mean, how embarrassing can you get. Or, and I think this is more likely, there is another motivation entirely here. The local paper wants you to stop buying dead tree copies and go to their online version. They moved the printing KNOWING the transportation cost would be insane. They are having the old paper reading geriatric dinosaurs subsidize the bottom line. If you use dead trees, it is now a luxury and you will be charged accordingly.
I see the same thing at Amazon, although I don’t believe it is intentional or evil. As Bazos says, and I tend to believe him, the Kindle sales overtaking paper sales was totally unforeseen. For all those talking heads wondering why Amazon bought the Washington paper, after the CEO claimed paper papers would all be extinct in twenty years, it isn’t much of a mystery. Amazon bought a brand and I have no doubt they will push the Kindle version and price the paper version as a luxury item. He wouldn’t have bought a newspaper prior to the success of Kindle. But now that the way is clear, you follow profit with investment. All the books that Amazon sells by third parties has been under somewhat the same pressure. Not too many years ago you could buy used or new paper books, on average, at about half what they are now. You are definitely seeing the increased cost of dead trees ( both the decrease in supply for increased demand for paper, and the associated delivery and manufacture costs ). The trend is that the consumer pay for the reading device and the content provider pays for almost nothing physical ( kind of like my books have always been ). More and more publishers will be virtual and more and more paper will be the higher consumer cost but zero inventory Print On Demand.
Back in the Seventies when energy costs exploded, the basic strategy used was to lower paper quality and jam a lot more ink on each page. Then, wasteful pukes during the Nineties went all stupid and had huge thick books covering retarded subjects with almost no words on each page. All fluff. They tried to generalize reading, thinking if the content reflected daytime TV talk shows everyone would start reading. No luck there. After that business model cost too many quarterly bonuses the new way is to punish the reader for wanting to read. Now you are spending more on content as all the micro-niches are being once again filled, and being asked to provide the means to read the words. Notice how close a lot of Kindle and paper books are in cost. A Kindle version is $10, the paper $12. The publisher pretends you are saving the $4 shipping cost so he claims the e-version is barely over half the price. You are supposed to forget the difference in profit margins. And you are supposed to forget your infrastructure cost to read the book. I love books, so it pains me most publishers are out to screw me. It taints the whole book love experience. Also, as an aside, totally unrelated except for getting screwed and engineering behavior , I have a new and updated thought on ObammyCare. I think the motivation, besides an insurance ( banker ) industry bailout and increased taxes ( the fines ) for the fedgov, is an actual effort to decrease health care participation. As all costs skyrocket for the consumer, LESS care will be sought. A way to triage an ailing industry- artificially decrease demand. Bastards.
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