Monday, March 2, 2009

PayPal off the rails, the Gay Gal and Microsoft, and ebooks run amok

Sometimes, you have to wonder. I was sent a link, and followed it to this story which I'm going to share with you here:

Identifying Yourself As A Lesbian Gets You Banned On XBOX Live

Read it and weep. I'll give you the short version, but you have GOT to read the whole thing -- and scan down the comments, too: they get crazy. Makes you take another look at your fellow human being...

"Teresa says that she was harassed by other players and later suspended from XBOX Live because she identified herself as a lesbian in her profile. When she appealed to Microsoft, she says they told her that other gamers found her sexual orientation "offensive."

The whole story leaves you scratching your head, not least about Microsquash. Anybody who knows the slightest thing about XBox Live knows that it's a place where sexism, racism, homophobia, ill-feeling toward women, runaway violence, crass behavior, the most extreme of non-stop coarse language, the whole gamut of social nasties, run rampant.

And they're all bent out of shape because some gal says, "Hey, I'm gay, you got a problem with that?"

Apparently Microsoft has a major problem with that. The rest of the twaddle that abounds on XBox Live is, it seems, fine and dandy. Say what you like, in any terms you like, as poisonously as you like --

Just don't say you're gay.

O...kay. And this is legal? And, if it's legal, this is desirable because...?

While I was over there at The Consumerist (dot com) reading that piece, I couldn't help being whapped between the eyeballs by a couple of their other headlines. Stay with me, guys, because this one is chin-hit-knees time:

PayPal Charges $81,400,836,908 For $26 Tank Of Gas
Juan Zamora fed his 1994 Chevy Camaro $26 worth of gas, a transaction for which PayPal charged his debit card $81,400,836,908. Unsurprisingly, PayPal saw nothing wrong with the charge and demanded that Juan prove that he didn't actually buy $81.4 billion worth of gas.

He only learned of the astounding figure when he received an email later that afternoon informing him that his debit card, which started out with $90 on it, was maxed out.

Initially, Mr. Zamora thought it must've been a joke. But after contacting PayPal customer service he was surprised to see that the company treated it as anything but a laughing matter.

"Somebody from a foreign country who spoke in broken English argued with me for 10 to 15 minutes," Zamora said. " ‘Did you get the gas?' he asked. Like I had to prove that I didn't pump $81,400,836,908 in gas!"
He would have needed more than 3 billion fill-ups of the amount he actually pumped into his tank in order to reach that outrageous sum.

Eventually, Zamora said, he was finally able to convince the representative that he didn't deserve to be in the same position as General Motors, who has lost roughly 80 billion dollars since 2005.

When Zamora returned to the Conoco gas station, he said, the attendant would not believe him until he showed her the printout of the PayPal receipt.

What moral is Juan taking away from the story? "Pay cash."

!!!!!!!!!! There's no answer to that. Here it is again, on another news service -- this is so delicious, you have to read it twice:

And there's one more story at The Consumer you really have to look at while you're there (in fact, this is such a great page, I'm going to bookmark it and go back often ... they get the absolutely choice stories):

Outcry Prompts Amazon To Stop Overcharging For Digital Edition
Wait for it: "Kevin couldn't understand why Amazon charged $29.95 for the digital version of Confessions of a Butcher when the paperback cost only $11.95. Amazon tried to gussy up the Kindle edition by offering what looked like a steep 45% discount, but the digital edition still cost $5 more than the print edition. Even the author's wife chimed in to Amazon's discussion forum to pan the discrepancy, adding, "what's really ridiculous is that we sell more ebooks at $20 than we do new paperbacks for $11.95."

And that's far from all, guys. You might have thought I was over-reacting the other day when I broke the news that Amazon Kindle is an Americans-only club. Turns out, I didn't know the full shock-horror stuff when I wrote The road to is land-mined...

Here's the rub:
Amazon is heavily discounting the price of eBooks to spur Kindle sales, but eBooks won't always be so cheap. Writing over at Slate, Farhad Manjoo warns that if the Kindle becomes as ubiquitous as the iPod, eBooks, which can't be shared, traded, or resold, may soon cost more than their print counterparts. "As the master of the e-book universe," Manjoo claims, "Amazon will eventually call the shots on pricing, marketing, and everything else associated with the new medium." Can you see yourself paying $30 for an eBook anytime soon?

Now, there's actually an upside to this ... from Keegan's admittedly skewed perspective. The damned Kindle also reads Mobi, and HTML, and a bunch of other stuff. They're even fiddling around, trying to get it to read a PDF. The third incarnation of Kindle will almost certainly be tweaked to read PDFs properly.

Now, given that Amazon has the desire to dominate the entire ebook field, bet your bottom dollar they'll make their gadget read everything. Then, they'll be charging US$30/A$40 for an ebook ????

Actually, they're welcome to go ahead and see what the audience will tolerate. Because you'll still be able to get a 450pp Keegan for $10, and download it cleanly to your PC, and feed it to your shiny new Kindle via the smartcard slot (!) and read to your heart's content.

Nostrakeeganus, he seeing huge marketplace of desperate people looking for affordable books after they saddled themselves with a Kindle and found out they can't afford to use it...

The greed behind a $30 pricetag for an ebook edition is nothing less than gobsmacking. And who in this world would contest the fact that it will serve the greedy buggers right to engineer an absolutely fantastic, peerless device and then have customers feed it with an SD card, with all kinds of goodies from all over the web -- and never touch down at the Kindle Store, where the same item costs three times the price ... besides which, you can only get American authors anyway!

Is it me, or is this getting just plain bizarre?

Oh -- and speaking of ebooks, the next segment of Legends is up, too...

Ciao for now,

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