Sunday, August 24, 2014

Agloe – A Mapmaker’s Protection Against Copycats

Making maps is painstaking work. Mapmakers throughout the ages have been victims of copycats passing their painstaking work off as their own. So how can you prove that someone ripped off the map that you made?

Simple: by adding a fake hamlet! In the 1930s, Otto G. Lindberg was the director of the General Drafting Co. Together with his assistant Ernest Alpers, he created a road map of New York State. To prevent copycats from ripping off their map, they added a totally fictitious place that they named "Agloe" on a remote dirt road. The name is in itself quite brilliant: it’s a mix of their initials OGL (Otto G. Lindberg) and EA (Ernest Alpers).

Lo and behold – the “trap” worked. The map company Rand McNally issued its own New York state map featuring "Agloe." Lindberg promptly sued.

But Rand McNally’s legal defense team came up with an interesting defense. The legal eagles pointed out in court that there was a shop called “Agloe General Store” nearby. Ergo, it must have gotten its name from a nearby village.

The owners of the shop looked at a map distributed by Esso, which owned a plethora of local gas stations. Esso had originally purchased its map featuring Agloe completely legally from Lindberg and Alpers. The store owners assumed that since Esso’s map features Agloe, they might as well name their shop after it. Oh, the irony!

Fast-forward to the 21st century. The all-knowing Google Maps shows Agloe as a destination (including directions!) until recently. Only in 2014 was the Agloe myth exposed and expunged from Google maps.

After 80 years, Agloe has disappeared from the maps. I am pretty sure that AGL and OE up there are laughing their heads off! As for Rand McNally, the company was finally exposed as the map pirate it was.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Lawsuit Against Kim Kardashian That Has a Bite To It

Kim Kardashian, despite having a healthy chuck of disposableincome from whatever source, does not always pays her bills. Seems to run in the family – little Sis also skipped on paying her dinner bill of $ 33 atMercerKitchen.

In 2001, KK went to Dr. Craig Gordon to have her silver fillings replaced with porcelain ones. After nasal-voice Kardashian refused to pay her bill, the dentist tried everything to get paid.

In 2002, Dr. Gordon got a default judgment for $1,605.73. Still, Calabasas Kim refused to pay. One decade later, the debt has increased to $3,320.48 due to accumulated interest.

Being quite resourceful, the dentist filed a lien on anything Kim would recover from her divorce from husband #2 or #3 aka Kris Humphries to settle her debt. But that didn’t work either.

The dentist is now sinking his teeth in a new way to recoup payment: he is selling the court judgment he got against the reality showchick for $13,000. That makes absolute sense considering her fame/notoriety level. It’s a brilliant move – anyone who loves/hates KK, will be too happy to fork out the money to be able to cash a check directly from the debtbeat K-clan member.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

The War of the Books - Amazon vs Hachette

Amazon is on the warpath. It sent its Kindle authors the following message:

"It’s the e-book’s turn to be opposed by the literary establishment. Amazon and Hachette – a big US publisher and part of a $10 billion media conglomerate – are in the middle of a business dispute about e-books. Amazon wants lower e-book prices. Hachette does not. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there’s no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out of stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market – e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can and should be less expensive.

Perhaps channeling Orwell’s decades old suggestion, Hachette has already been caught illegally colluding with its competitors to raise e-book prices. So far those parties have paid $166 million in penalties and restitution. Colluding with its competitors to raise prices wasn’t only illegal, it was also highly disrespectful to Hachette’s readers.

The fact is many established incumbents in the industry have taken the position that lower e-book prices will “devalue books” and hurt “Arts and Letters.” They’re wrong. Just as paperbacks did not destroy book culture despite being ten times cheaper, neither will e-books. On the contrary, paperbacks ended up rejuvenating the book industry and making it stronger. The same will happen with e-books.

Many inside the echo-chamber of the industry often draw the box too small. They think books only compete against books. But in reality, books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

Moreover, e-books are highly price elastic. This means that when the price goes down, customers buy much more. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000. The important thing to note here is that the lower price is good for all parties involved: the customer is paying 33% less and the author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that’s 74% larger. The pie is simply bigger.

But when a thing has been done a certain way for a long time, resisting change can be a reflexive instinct, and the powerful interests of the status quo are hard to move. It was never in George Orwell’s interest to suppress paperback books – he was wrong about that.

And despite what some would have you believe, authors are not united on this issue. When the Authors Guild recently wrote on this, they titled their post: “Amazon-Hachette Debate Yields Diverse Opinions Among Authors” (the comments to this post are worth a read).

A petition started by another group of authors and aimed at Hachette, titled “Stop Fighting Low Prices and Fair Wages,” garnered over 7,600 signatures. And there are myriad articles and posts, by authors and readers alike, supporting us in our effort to keep prices low and build a healthy reading culture. Author David Gaughran’s recent interview is another piece worth reading.

Amazon recognizes that writers reasonably want to be left out of a dispute between large companies. Some have suggested that we “just talk.” We (at Amazon) tried that. Hachette spent three months stonewalling and only grudgingly began to even acknowledge our concerns when we took action to reduce sales of their titles in our store. Since then Amazon has made three separate offers to Hachette to take authors out of the middle.

We first suggested that we (Amazon and Hachette) jointly make author royalties whole during the term of the dispute. Then we suggested that authors receive 100% of all sales of their titles until this dispute is resolved. Then we suggested that we would return to normal business operations if Amazon and Hachette’s normal share of revenue went to a literacy charity.

But Hachette, and their parent company Lagardere, have quickly and repeatedly dismissed these offers even though e-books represent 1% of their revenues and they could easily agree to do so. They believe they get leverage from keeping their authors in the middle.

We will never give up our fight for reasonable e-book prices. We know making books more affordable is good for book culture. We’d like your help. Please email Hachette and copy us.

Hachette CEO, Michael Pietsch:

Copy us at:

The Amazon Books Team

P.S. You can also find this letter at"

Do you as a reader or writer agree?

(Image courtesy of Bidness Inc)