Today’s hump-day lunchtime news chum brings together a collection of articles related to purchasing various things:
- Digital Music. Over the weekend, a rumor went viral about Bruce Willis suing to leave his iTunes collection to his kids in his will. Although the actual incident is untrue, it has raised the question about what it means to own (and bequeath) a digital music file today. In the “old days”, music was captured on physical objects — sheet music, LPs, cassettes, 8-tracks, CDs — and was easy to pass on. Today, music is digital. There is no guarantee the music will be readable; even if it is, often the music isn’t owned by leased. Yes, leased. When you purchase a track on iTunes, you are commonly purchasing a lease to just you, and you can’t pass it on (this is true for DRM-protected music). This is the main reason why I still purchase CDs — and if I purchase digital, I purchase from Amazon or CD Baby as opposed to iTunes. They sell DRM-free music, and I keep copies of the music in multiple places.
- Used Textbooks. The issue of passing on something that is used isn’t exclusive to music. It’s proving to be a problem with digital books as well. The Chronicle of Higher Education has a nice piece on textbook pricing: specifically, the issue of access codes for online content associated with a text. Professors are requiring those more and more, and those are exclusive to a single student. This means that only new copies of texts can be purchased (for they are often bundled with the code), and texts cannot be shared (because there is one code per student). Digital does not always mean cheaper.
- Restaurant Pricing. LA Biz Observed has an interesting report on an NY Times article on variable pricing for restaurants. Variable pricing is charging different prices based on demand. Economists love this. This is often found in hotels and vacations, sometimes in sporting events and theatre. The notion is to lower prices when demand is low in order to increase demand, and to raise prices at peak demand times. The NY Times article reported on some restaurants that are trying this: prices are lower when business is slow, and higher during peak hours. How would you react to this? Would you change your eating times to save money?
- Avoiding the TaxMan. According to the LA Times, spending at Amazon by Californians has increased recently. The reason: Amazon starts collecting California sales tax on 9/15 (Of course, this ignores the fact that use tax is still owed, and use tax laws are being enforced, so there really is no savings). I never think about the tax when purchasing from Amazon — I focus more on the total price including shipping and stuff. So is the upcoming tax enforcement date influencing your purchase schedule with Amazon? (and an odd question: If you just “lease” digital music, do you owe tax on it? Probably)