Published on: November 16, 2010
MNB user Richard Sokolnicki sent the following email:Your "eye-opener" about eliminating white pages delivery is an ancient subject. I'm still yawning! I think that it really just boils down to governmental approvals for the most part. Trials for a videotex white pages were done in France 30 years ago and rolled out by 1982 as something called Minitel. It included a free terminal (primitive as it was) that could also be used for limited online purchases, reservations and even bulletin board "chat." This was well before the sophistication of the browser and the WWW, but it addressed the basic white pages issue. I'm not positive, but I think the system may still be in limited use. So - I would think that those involved should have been thinking of this "eventuality" decades ago - not "now."
And yet, here in the US, the debate goes on. Which as much an eye-opener as anything.
My point yesterday, perhaps inartfully written, was this.
Institutions like the phone book and the US Postal Service are simply not in synch with how people behave in 2010, with how people get information and communicate with each other. They have a choice - make radical changes in their business models and embrace the future, or put band-aids on the problems and face growing irrelevance.
Got another email about the Postal Service:I find this completely unacceptable, a business that lost 8.5 billion dollars and nothing will change. Talk about belt tightening in Washington DC is just that... talk. If we cannot do the right thing, cut delivery days and cut postal workers, how are we ever going to address a growing deficit? Oh wait, I know the answer, raise taxes, it is the easy way out for politicians.
Along the same lines, an MNB user wrote:I disagree with your reader that suggested the answer to our budget woes was: “We need to increase taxes, reduce entitlements and cut defense spending to solve the problem.”
The first thing that all of the elected officials need to focus on is to REDUCE SPENDING. We have a spending problem, people! You can’t continue to raise taxes in hoping to solve these problems. The politicians will just spend more! It’s our money, and when you can show me how any of the politicians on either side of the aisle can spend my money better than I can, then I’ll sign up for more taxes. Until then, send them less, and hope that the Tea Party representatives stir the pot and make a lot of people uncomfortable with the status quo!!
I am not an economist, but it has been my impression that if we are going to have any sort of significant impact on the nation’s deficit, it will require both cutting spending and increasing revenues. Which, of course, will require both sides of the political aisle to be willing to compromise. Republicans, who philosophically hate tax increases, may have to swallow some. Democrats, who resist spending cuts that will affect services, will have to accept spending cuts. And there will have to be shared sacrifice, a willingness to do a little old-fashioned horse trading, and a refusal to demonize other people for holding different opinions.
We had a story yesterday about how some retailers are planning to be open on Thanksgiving, and I agreed with the Reuters
line that it it “is the latest in a creeping commercialism of Thanksgiving, once strictly a holiday for family gatherings...”
One MNB user wrote:Nobody's forcing shoppers into these stores kicking and screaming. What is the problem with making the opportunity to shop on Thanksgiving available to those who choose to take advantage of it?
No problem. They’re certainly within their rights.
But that doesn’t mean it isn’t creeping commercialism.
Lots more letters on the Amazon controversy - the online retailer was discovered to be selling a book defending pedophilia, and after initial resistance, the company decided to stop selling it.
One MNB user wrote:Okay, so I don't mind saying that Amazon absolutely did the right thing. This type of book is in a category all by itself. Where do you draw the line? Right there.
The unfortunate part of this story is that they can't provide me with a list of deliveries of the publication within a 50 mile radius of my house.
Another MNB user wrote:C'mon people! Books that promote despicable behavior like this and "establish a code of conduct" for it should not be sold by any decent company. Doing so is just wrong. Some call it censorship. Common sense is more like it. I guess people that defend the right for this to be sold would also support similar books promoting serial rapists and murderers.
For too many people, books are the only things with spines.
Another MNB user wrote:Kudos to Amazon for finally exhibiting a shred of ethical behavior by stopping their selling of a book promoting pedophilia. Its a shame it took outside pressure to get Amazon to reach their decision. It is never censorship for a company to exhibit good corporate governance and conduct itself in a manner that promotes its brand name and customer goodwill. Walmart decides to not sell product based upon content everyday.
It is censorship when a government gets involved.
Still another MNB user chimed in:On the Amazon censorship issue, what happened to letting a company proprietor decide what they want to sell based on their corporate/personal values and letting the free market decide on whether or not to buy? Seems like a pretty good model that has worked well for a few years!
And MNB user Larry Lyons wrote:Your position of “drawing the line” when the primary subject of a book or article promotes an illegal activity is SPOT–ON!
Have we completely lost our collective common sense?
I fail to understand why we’re even debating such things.
Let’s envision an entirely new book section…the Illegal Hobby section…Bank Robbery for Dummies, Car Jacking for Fun and Profit, YOU TOO can be a Pimp! Free Speech? Give me a break!!!
I have to say that I am sympathetic to Amazon in this case. On the one hand, the company wants to be the globe’s biggest bookstore, selling everything to everybody, unfettered by physical walls and powered by a sense of ideological and philosophical freedom.
But then, something like this happens ... and suddenly ideological and philosophical freedom are seen to have consequences, and we see that there is a dark side to being unfettered.
And then, when Amazon does what most people would describe as the right thing, it runs the risk that a wide variety of special interest groups will object to other things that it sells, or enables to be sold, and start calling for those things to be delisted from its site. Which forces it to make vales decisions on a case by case basis, which is pretty much precisely the situation it wanted to avoid.
On the other hand, I make the argument all the time that we cannot just think as marketers and salesmen or even pundits and philosophers, but also must think as parents and responsible adults.
It’s a tough one. I feel for Amazon as it tries to make its way through this minefield of ideas and commerce.