Submit a link Features Reviews Podcasts Video Forums More ▾

What's the most profitable price for an ebook?



Rachel Willmer, who runs the excellent ebook price-comparison site Luzme, summarizes the price-preference data she's captured from her customers. By measuring the point at which readers are willing to buy ebooks (whose prices are variable) and the volumes generated at each price-point, her findings suggest the optimal price for ebooks in different territories. This is important work: because ebooks have almost no marginal cost (that is, all their costs are fixed through production, so each copy sold adds almost nothing to the publisher's cost), there's lots more flexibility pricing strategies. If you make more by pricing your book at $0.01 than you do at $10, the right thing to do is price it at a penny and rake it in -- a rational business wants to maximize its profits, not the amount that each customer spends (I wrote about this at length in 2010).

Read the rest

Designing "technology for women": a flowchart


Ars Technica's Casey Johnson has designed a handy checklist for people hoping to develop a "woman's" tech product without being sexist jerks. The first step is ensuring that there is, indeed, some need that is unique to women (an important step -- women don't need their own pens, Bic). And obviously, you can't just make a pink version or a version that has fewer features and declare it to be chick-ready. Johnson then counsels against avoiding merely making things more "design-y" and declaring it to be woman-friendly (guys like things that look good too).

Read the rest

Venn menu


Spotted this morning at London's Giddyup Coffee in Fortune Park (near the Barbican): this terrific Venn diagram/grill menu. Haven't tried Giddyup's grill, but it's my daily morning coffee, and it is spectacular.

What happens to turkey feathers after the turkey becomes Thanksgiving dinner?

For clarification, it's Big Bird that is made out of turkey feathers. Not Pat Nixon.

Explaining America's massive, untenable wealth-gap with video

This 2012 video from Politizane does an excellent job of illustrating the massive, well-documented gap between the wealth-distribution that Americans believe they have, the distribution they would favor (regardless of political affiliation), and what America actually has: a system that rewards CEOs at 380 times the rate of their average employees.

Wealth Inequality in America (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Grim infographic future: everything will be tall, with meaningless graphs

In Tall Infographics, XKCD offers a dystopian prediction for the future of information, in which all crucial data is offered in stupidly tall infographics with lots of meaningless diagrams.

Read the rest

Cetacean needed: Wikipedia whale diagram needs line-art


The missing elements in the diagram on the Wikipedia page for List of cetaceans is missing some line-art of various whales and such. Where the art is missing, the box simply bears the legend "cetacean needed." (ObRef XKCD)

Nice work editor of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cetaceans … - missing diagrams labeled 'cetacean needed' @doctorow pic.twitter.com/B18yrKrJvI

Star Trek reboot fails the Bechdel test and is generally a genderfail


The Trekkie Has the Phone Box has analyzed the way women are presented in the second of the Star Trek reboot movies; and compared it to Gene Rodenberry's original show, which went to great lengths to establish gender parity and racial diversity in its depicted future. The analysis goes into some convincing detail and makes me think that the reboot is a very retrograde move in the history of the Trek franchise and how it deals with women.

Star Trek 2 Bechdel Test

Infographic: the Laughable Bumblef*ckery of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford


(Click to embiggen)

If you've been finding it hard to get your head around all the scandals, awfulness and pure shitshowery of Toronto mayor Rob "Laughable Bumblefuck" Ford, look no futher: Hilary Sargent has composed a handy reference in infographic form.

Know your chemical weapons


These know-your-chemical-weapon posters were produced by the Medical Training Replacement Center at Camp Barkeley near Abilene, Texas as training materials for soldiers being sent to fight in WWII. They're a weird mix of cheerfulness and atrocity:

Of the four chemicals mentioned here—phosgene, lewisite, mustard gas, and chlorpicrin—three were used in World War I. (Lewisite was produced beginning in 1918, but the war ended before it could be used.) Phosgene, which irritates the lungs and mucus membranes and causes a person to choke to death, caused the largest number of deaths among people killed by chemical weapons in the First World War. (Elsewhere on Slate: A firsthand account of what it felt like to be hit by mustard gas.)

The smells that these posters warn soldiers-in-training to be wary of are the everyday scents of home: flypaper, musty hay, green corn, geraniums, garlic. The choice of analogies seems particularly appropriate for soldiers raised on farms­—a population that would become increasingly small in every war to follow.

Four WWII Posters That Taught Soldiers to Identify Chemical Weapons by Smell (via Kadrey)

(Images: National Museum of Health and Medicine)

53 years of nuclear tests as electronic music

I've seen this video described as a musical depiction of all the nuclear bombs ever detonated. But that sort of makes it sound like you're about to get a particularly bombastic version of the 1812 Overture. Instead, "1945-1998" by Isao Hashimoto is more like an infographic with sound effects — or, possibly, a mash-up of the games Simon and Global Thermonuclear War.

What you get is an interesting depiction of nuclear tests through time — 2053 of them (including the non-test explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki). I found it particularly interesting to watch the slow ramp up over the course of the late 1940s and early 1950s, when months or years would tick by between tests. After that, beginning in the late 1950s, you see these patterns of sudden flurries of explosions, usually happening in the US and the USSR almost simultaneously. The cultural sense of panic is almost palpable.

Infographic: how money corrupts Congress, and what to do about it


Money wins Elections is an excellent, scrolling infographic that illustrates how money corrupts the American legislative process, showing that time and again, Congress has voted the way that the big money told it to, against the prevailing popular opinion. It's all in support of the American Anti-corruption Act, and it was created by Tony Chu for part of his MFA thesis project.

Money wins Elections

Wealth disparity in America: an inch of bar-graph for the 90%, 4.9 miles' worth for the top 0.01%


Here's a rather graphic representation of the growth in income inequality in the USA since the 1960s; plotted on a chart where the income growth of the bottom 90 percent is represented by an inch-high bar; the growth of the top 10 percent needs a 163 foot-tall bar; while the top 0.01% need a 4.9 mile-high bar to represent their real wealth growth in the same period.

The income growth and shrinkage figures come from analysis of the latest IRS data by economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty, who have won acclaim for their studies of worldwide income patterns over the last century.

In 2011 entry into the top 10 percent, where all the gains took place, required an adjusted gross income of at least $110,651. The top 1 percent started at $366,623.

The top 1 percent enjoyed 81 percent of all the increased income since 2009. Just over half of the gains went to the top one-tenth of 1 percent, and 39 percent of the gains went to the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent.

Ponder that last fact for a moment -- the top 1 percent of the top 1 percent, those making at least $7.97 million in 2011, enjoyed 39 percent of all the income gains in America. In a nation of 158.4 million households, just 15,837 of them received 39 cents out of every dollar of increased income.

Income Inequality: 1 Inch to 5 Miles (Thanks, Spider!)

Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense: chart of woo


Sometimes, when confronted with woo, it is hard to know exactly what sort of woo you're dealing with. To simplify this challenge while sparing you the agony of enduring any more explanations of ear-candling or aromatherapy than is strictly necessary, Crispian Jago has compiled a handy Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense.

The curiously revered world of irrational nonsense has seeped into almost every aspect of modern society and is both complex and multifarious. Therefore rather than attempt a comprehensive taxonomy, I have opted instead for a gross oversimplification and a rather pretty Venn Diagram.

In my gross over simplification the vast majority of the multitude of evidenced-free beliefs at large in the world can be crudely classified into four basic sets or bollocks. Namely, Religion, Quackery, Pseudoscience and the Paranormal.

However as such nonsensical beliefs continue to evolve they become more and more fanciful and eventually creep across the bollock borders. Although all the items depicted on the diagram are completely bereft of any form of scientific credibility, those that successfully intersect the sets achieve new heights of implausibility and ridiculousness. And there is one belief so completely ludicrous it successfully flirts with all forms of bollocks.

Religious Bollocks ∩ Quackery Bollocks ∩ Pseudoscientific Bollocks ∩ Paranormal Bollocks = Scientology

The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)

Dial-up handshaking illustrated


Oona Räisänen has written a thorough and engrossing article about the noises emitted by dial-up modems while they connect and handshake, and the accompanying graphic (ZOMG HUGE) is nothing short of spectacular. It would make a great full-size poster -- maybe a framed art-print.

Now the modems must address the problem of echo suppression. When humans talk, only one of them is usually talking while the other one listens. The telephone network exploits this fact and temporarily silences the return channel to suppress any confusing echoes of the talker's own voice.

Modems don't like this at all, as they can very well talk at the same time (it's called full-duplex). The answering modem now puts on a special answer tone that will disable any echo suppression circuits on the line. The tone also has periodic "snaps" (180° phase transitions) that aim to disable yet another type of circuit called echo canceller.

Now the modems will list their supported modulation modes and try to find one that both know. They also probe the line with test tones to see how it responds to tones of different frequencies, and how much it attenuates the signal. They exchange their test results and decide a speed that is suitable for the line.

After this, the modems will go to scrambled data. They put their data through a special scrambling formula before transmission to make its power distribution more even and to make sure there are no patterns that are suboptimal for transfer. They listen to each other sending a series of binary 1's and adjust their equalizers to optimally shape the incoming signal.

The sound of the dialup, pictured (via JWZ)