By the pricing of my goods something capitalist this way comes

I recently ran into a video posted by Paleofuture about some grand visioning done by Knight-Ridder about the future of the newspaper:

This is not only some very interesting prognostication now that we’re in the era of ubiquitous iPads (You know, I just realized I’ve finally gotten over the loss of my Newton! Though I did have bit of longing for the obsolete goodness when I spied the one in that video.) and is going to really hit home when Amazon releases their Android-based colour Kindle tablet; but this video is also pretty damning evidence. Print & Newspapers totally knew it was coming and still failed to adapt.

Of course, there’s the moment in that video, almost half way in, where my eyes started to roll at the clearly self-serving rationalization of the vision to include the unnatural conclusion that newspapers would still be relevant. That video simply gets a bit delusional when they start talking about people trusting newspaper brands and people liking ads … but, even I have to admit that there is a community function in offering a hyper-local market place, case in point Criagslist, which contains not only products, as a mall does, but goods, meaning products with humanity, with story and meaning. Just look at one Best of Craigslist entry for your locality to see what the difference is.

Offering resources rooted in hyperlocality is something, around the time of that video, I thought would save the regional ISP in the face of competition by national telecom providers, but consolidation has all but wiped that away. Even Seanet’s old Seattle.Net pages are another demonstration, about which I suggested either something be made of or sold to someone that would do so. Mirroring the thought process that the newspapers have gone through, I guess, the owner decided to keep it hobbled and lame by not building on it but by milking it merely for the apparent reputation by association it gave to have only the veneer of hyperlocality without additional cost, once the original designer was fired, to produce anything meaningful but really as an excuse to sell ads. And, it’s essentially been moribund since (even the copyright on the page has gotten lost and given up since it is still showing 2007) … and is now nothing more than another example of fail. It’s all now as obviously pretend as it was all along.

(The trick to sustainable community, and thus to a regional ISP managing to build itself into a hyperlocal resource, was always to figure out how to get the audience to create the content, which is what Craigslist tapped into even though they aren’t now even local to many of the places they provide services. It’s the bright side of “Social Production” that such things require, as long as it doesn’t become abusive … but don’t get me started!)

But, back to the thought that, overall, it’s pretty clear Knight-Ridder and thus the rest of the print media industry had a chance to jump on the cluetrain [amzn, kndl] and blew it. Par for the course, I guess. Oh, the humanity!

As my friend Neil pointed out, “To some degree the same could be said for music, television… heck, even the yellow pages & the post office. Rather than innovate they just stomped their feet and ranted ‘this isn’t fair.’ Old school advertising driven media/services miss their captive audiences!”

Yes, indeed; and movies and software … and railroad and AOL … just about any industry based on narrow control of some resource, real or information. Business models based on maintaining scarcity and rarity of a resource tend to eventually get routed around as damage to the flow, so to speak, I guess. Word to cellular, oil, Apple and others, for sure!

It’s sort of an evil alternate Fawlty Towers. They seem to say, “Things ran so much smoother around here when we could keep our customers locked in the basement with a ball-gag in their mouths and only have to take them out to play when we felt like getting our freak on.”

Around the same time as that revelation about what the Newspapers knew and when they knew it, there was also the multi-million dollar book on Amazon. In the last few days was posted the story of an insane $23 million price on a book about fly genetics, due to a programatic pricing war.

On hearing of this I developed nostalgic thoughts of the old, now much-less-obviously shocking price-leader from 2008, the old “Most Expensive Book on Amazon” which was then $8,539.00 but is apparently now $7,679! Only 1 in stock!

Check out the reviews of ‘Chemical Shifts and Coupling Constants for Silicon-29’ for some nostalgic giggles. That Silicon-29 book is real, and the price is, surprisingly, real; the reviews of that book are not real. That’s the joke there.

Indeed the joke is on us, in that programatic war, because the pricing on the, also real, book on fly genetics makes clear that automatically pricing of something 1.27 times the competition is apparently an effective strategy, and must be relatively lucrative; unless it goes haywire … which is in some ways exactly what a gold rush economy is all about. That fly genetics book has revealed a pricing strategy that’s actually the deep water, almost invisible, wave that eventually becomes a tidal wave during a gold rush.

And the joke is on us even beyond that programatic pricing war, because that example is in miniature of a larger issue that pricing has NOTHING to do with the actual COST of a thing, but rather is ENTIRELY based reflexively on the market PRICE itself.

And, therein is a brutal lesson in the rootless, immoral insanity of capitalistic market thinking. It’s an abusive, parasitic dream being inflicted by those with some kind of economic power on those without that power, here represented by a seller over a buyer who is leveraging the apparent scarcity of the physical book to withhold as hostage the information contained within for egregious rents and fees beyond any reality of production.

Production in which the seller had no part, I might add. And so this mirrors any kind of rampant speculation, such as commodity futures or other “markets” of that kind which balloon the price of things in essentially meaningless and unreal and needlessly expensive ways compared to the costs of production. It’s an example of the pure fantasy of a market without regulation, meaning without reality, morality or rationality. Welcome to a little experiment in the nightmare which some blithely call a “free market” and wish to inflict on everyone, everywhere for all time; thinking, of course, that they would be the ones in control of the joystick, collecting their blood money hand over fist in a masturbatory haze with the rest of us worth nothing more than to be used and wasted wet wads of tissue to toss out when it’s over.

“Whatever is, is right” must be the ostensible motto of those who would retain their places in it. It is the solid edifice round which an empire is gathered.

— Florence Farr, The Dancing Faun [via]