At The Switch, we love our readers — especially the ones who leave thoughtful comments. So every weekend we highlight some of the most insightful feedback of the preceding week.
On Monday, Brian Fung argued that there's a big difference between data collection by government agencies like the National Security Agency and private companies like Google and Facebook. We have the option to avoid doing business with private companies if we don't like their privacy policies, he wrote. But we have no such choices with the government. Reader G. Fernandes countered that the situation wasn't so simple:
While your basic premise is correct, it's incorrect to think that there is any real choice about where you keep your online data. If all your friends are on Facebook, you have to be on Facebook. Installing your private secure OwnCloud instance isn't going to help. Same with Google+, GMail, Skype and all the rest.
Even with plain old email, having a highly secure PGP key for yourself isn't going to help if all of your family and friends do not have their own keys as well.
So, like it or not, this battle must be fought on the legal and political front. There are no easy technological solutions to this one."
Is Amazon going to destroy independent booksellers? On Thursday, Andrea Peterson argued that Amazon's new program to sell Kindles through independent bookstores "appears to provide just enough rope for booksellers to hang themselves with."
But some readers think we shouldn't count dead-tree books out yet. AuthorEditor commented:
There are tons of books not available on e-readers. They are particularly well suited to people who read lots of novels or current bestsellers, but try to find some niche book on a niche subject and there are big holes in the e-library. For one thing, the economics don't make any sense. A lot of non-fiction books might sell a few hundred or maybe 1000 copies in a year, and at e-reader prices the author gets nearly nothing in return. However, a hardcover version of that same book might command a price in the $30-$40 range and that same few hundred copies might mean the author and publisher make twice as much profit, even considering the much lower production costs of e-books. And, then there are books that require large and elaborate illustrations, which don't work at all as an e-book.
Jeff Maxwell responded:
Statistically, I'm sure what you say is true but I've rarely had trouble finding e-books on any topic I choose. And I have some pretty esoteric interests. I occassionally bump into it when I have a very specific book in mind that has been out of print for a number of years. However, I can't remember the last time I walked into a traditional bookstore and found the exact book I was looking for. Shelf space is just too much of a limiting factor for anything but the most popular books.
I actually spend more on books now that I use an e-reader extensively. I much prefer reading on my Kindle but I also like to have the real thing on my bookshelf. Maybe it's the "trophy" phenomenon (though I read extensively). It may be because I'm guilty of judging people by what's on their bookshelf and I like to ensure that mine accurately reflects me. People who don't read very much are probably infuriated by that attitude, while people who also read extensively probably understand exactly what I mean.
The end result is that I often buy the Kindle version, read it, and then purchase the print version for my bookshelf. I suspect that there are many others like me. Amazon should consider teaming with local bookstores to sell the print version and an Amazon supplied Kindle version at a discount. That's a partnership that benefits everybody.
After Blockbuster announced it was closing up shop, commenter theAnswerIs42 told us he wouldn't miss it:
I can't tell you how many times I had a bad customer experience with BlockBuster when they were at their height. I would frequently get charged for late fees even though I turned in my videos on time. When you put the videos in the drop box well before closing, you were taking your chances that someone would actually scan in the videos before the store closed. The customer was always "wrong" there. I had a last straw with one of my blockbuster stores when I was charged a late fee and I showed them the receipt of when I rented a movie that same day. I paid my late fee and when they handed me back my blockbuster card, I told them to keep it. I never looked back. The next week I joined the fledgling Netflix.