March 5th, 2008
The internet is a copy machine. Our digital communication network has been engineered so that copies flow with as little friction as possible. Indeed, copies flow so freely we could think of the internet as a super-distribution system, where once a copy is introduced it will continue to flow through the network forever, much like electricity in a superconductive wire. We see evidence of this in real life. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can't erase something once it's flowed on the internet.
Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?
When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.
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I call immediacy the "Want It Now(TM) tax". I can almost always get something cheaper if I buy it off the Interwebs and wait a week for it to get here. But sometimes I Want It Now(TM), and in these cases I will happily pay the 20% Want It Now(TM) tax. The problem I'm noticing lately is, very often the brick and mortar store does not have what I want. And so although I would like to pay them more for the same product, I can't - because they don't have it. This inventory size vs. delivery time problem is a difficult one, and I don't see any easy solution to it. Will someone please invent Star Trek replicators, already?
Yesterday we wrote about Trent Reznor launching his new Nine Inch Nails album online with a variety of interesting options that people could choose to buy. The top of the list, for $300, was a "Ultra-Deluxe Limited Edition Package" that included all the high quality downloads, two CDs, a data DVD, a Blu-ray high def DVD and assorted extras, all in a nice package signed by Reznor. This was only limited to the first 2,500 people. While some scoffed at the price of this package, it was clearly designed for NIN's biggest fans - and they ate it up. Mike Linksvayer points out that this option is now sold out, meaning that Reznor grossed $750,000 in just a couple of days on that package alone, not taking into account any of the other packages that many more people likely bought into.
I was just planning to send away the $10 for a copy of the CD1; that $300 package looked way overdone to me. But on reflection, it really isn't hard to believe that there would be 2,500 people in world who would pay $300 to get a fancy version of a brand new NIN cd and a bunch of pretty extras.
1 Because I'm just too lazy to download the MP3s and burn a CD myself.
http://boulder.craigslist.org/tls/588882694.html - Portable welder, $200. And I really want a welder, too.1 And this is a great one.
http://boulder.craigslist.org/tls/582301108.html - Oh jesus, with a 300A welder I can do aluminium. Comparable setups are $1600 new and this is going for $400??
http://boulder.craigslist.org/ele/595017436.html - I bet he'd take $750 cash if I waved it under his nose. Jesus, a plasma would make my tiny apartment living room so much bigger. I suspect there's something wrong with it, but for the price, damn.
http://boulder.craigslist.org/mcy/594368144.html - AHHH I DON'T NEED ANOTHER BIKE2 BUT DAMN THAT'S SO NICE!!!!
All this because I went looking for a cheap RC heli...
1 So what if there's no place in my little apartment where it's safe to drip red-hot molten metal slag on the floor! QUIT GETTING ALL REALISTIC ON MY DREAMS!
2 Well, strictly speaking, I need a bike to ride to Telluride with my mom and step-dad this summer, and the gixxer may not cut it... NO! NO, STOP THAT!!!