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Saturday, October 16, 2004

Wired is becoming more than a magazine for just geeks (although it's possible that I have just become too much of a geek to notice), but several recent articles (October 2004) were prescient and interesting. Aside from one explaining how computers can now predict the course of forest fires, there's a fascinating piece on a radical new car that gets 70 mpg, is made of plastic, and has a revolutionary new frame that protects drivers better than standard frames even though it's much smaller and intuitively appears quite fragile. "The Long Tail" describes the impact of Internet mega sites like Amazon and ITunes, which have revolutionized buying patterns. No longer need books or music disappear from print because their availability through these web sites means that for profitability huge sales are no longer necessary. Walmart, in fact, becomes an elitist store than can carry only those CDs that sell at least 100,000 copies. ITunes, selling individual songs for $.99 can make money selling only 30,000. Recommendations can also made a huge difference. The example the author cites is the best seller Into Thin Air, a nifty book by Jon Krakauer that describes a tragic Everest expedition. Joe Simpson wrote a similar book about climbing in the Andes entitled Touching the Void. It was almost out of print and was hardly selling. No copies were in book stores, but because many people who had read Krakauer's book recommended Simpson's, it took off and Random House had to rush out a new edition. That could never have happened in the traditional bookselling paradigm. I think that's cool.
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