This place matters

This place matters

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Show Me the Money

I was at amazon.com today, where I was most certainly not removing the smut from my browser history. Not that I would be trying to remove the evidence if there was, hypothetically, a bunch of smut in my browser history; just so that I could open Amazon and not be flooded with images of heaving bosoms and improbably muscular pectorals. That is why I would have been doing what I was not doing.
Anyway, I discovered this tag: $9.99 boycott. Assigning a tag to something on Amazon is sort of like giving a micro-review of a book. If a lot of people gave a book the same tag, then that book would show up when other users searched for books that have that tag. The 9.99 boycott tag was part of a campaign to demand that publishers charge less for books. All of this is in the past tense, since Amazon discontinued the feature. I would assume because it let users encourage each other to spend less money, and that's not great for business.
I don't get the whole idea of people getting indignant over having to pay high prices for things they don't need. First of all, ebooks and the devices that read them are pretty much indistinguishable from magic. The idea that we can purchase an entire library's worth of books and read them without leaving the comfort of the toilet is something technology geniuses weren't even dreaming of when I was a kid. Less than 20 years ago you needed a dozen floppy disks and a degree in computer science just to install Windows, and you paid through the nose for the privilege. Now, the tens of thousands of books that Amazon just gives us for free aren't enough; no, we're entitled to pay however much we decide we should have to pay for the sweat of some writer's brow.
This doesn't just apply to ebooks either. Every few months, the hoax that Facebook is going to start charging for its services flies around, with all manner of righteous indignation and threats to boycott. Facebook is freaking science fiction at our fingertips. For no money, at all, I get to interact with my far away friends in ways that a year's salary worth of postage stamps wouldn't allow. I get to coo over baby pictures from friends around the world the moment they're taken. Watch videos of that one thing my friend in China's dog can do. Not to mention playing hundreds of video games, all for free, a million times more technologically advanced than the games that used to require months of careful parent manipulation to own. How are we entitled to this? You know, capitalism is based on this principle where people make things and other people pay money for them. If people don't make money for delivering magic into our hands, they don't have much reason to keep delivering the magic. No, the billionaire owners of these companies aren't hurting for cash. They could eat Faberge omelets every morning for breakfast and not feel the slightest pinch. This does not, however, make them obligated to throw free things at our feet. Especially considering that, while Facebook execs can spend the rest of their lives swimming around in their giant money bins ala Scrooge McDuck, there are thousands of regular working stiffs like me, who also expect to get paid. And dude, I am hurting so bad I can barely afford to fill my giant money bin with nickels.  Also, Facebook does not now nor does it ever plan to charge for its services, so you can expect to continue enjoying cat videos and blog posts and recipes and chats and videos and so on without paying a dime. Which reminds me, there's this other whole magical treasure trove of information called Snopes.com, which can tell you that the story about Facebook charging is a hoax in less than the time it takes you to join a Facebook group on Facebook to tell Facebook that you refuse to pay for Facebook
Now, I do think it's pretty rotten when corporations gouge people for stuff they can't live without, like the companies that overcharge for things like diapers and formula just because they can. To express my outrage, I totally boycott diapers and baby formula. But are smut consumers really entitled to get all indignant over the price of their mommy porn? It's not as if you can't get heaving bosoms and smooth, hairless pectoral muscles at the library, used book stores, or your friends' houses. Is it really not enough that Amazon lets me get around paying for my Fabio fix by "borrowing" ebooks from my friends? 
Or if you're really in a bind, being forced to choose between formula and grey-eyed dream oats, you can always cruise on over to the Fan-Fiction sites for a free sneak preview of the smut you'll be reading on Amazon next.

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