Jeff Bezos Calls My Bluff With $79 Kindle

In a post I wrote last summer, Amazon Needs To Show Me A $99 Kindle, I took Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to task for pricing his flagship proprietary product too high. I couldn’t understand why they were willing to practically give away their ebooks when so much of their book business depended on the number of Kindle users. With yesterday’s announcement of new Kindle’s for as little as $79, it looks like Amazon finally came to its senses.


“$99 is my mental limit for impulse purchases—for things that are more convenience than necessity, more form than function. Which is why Amazon needs to drop the price of its Kindle to $99.”

“But this $99 threshold is pretty powerful. I never even considered owning an IPhone until recently, when—you guessed it, Wal-Mart started offering the discontinued model for $99. Show me a $99 Kindle, Mr. Bezos, and you'll get me and a few million more customers to reach for our wallets.”

Amazon Needs To Show Me A $99 Kindle  posted July 10, 2010

My fellow Big Thinker, Kirsten Winkler, is excited about the possibilities of the Kindle Fire, the new Swiss Army knife tablet version of the ubiquitous e-reader with all the bells and whistles that runs on an Android platform. I am perched at the other end of the spectrum, where a lot of us who like our reading experience to be as easy and as cheap as possible reside.

“The exclusivity of an ereader is now dead.  And we all should be cheering that fact.  When a product is exclusive, meaning it’s new and fancy, it means it’s expensive.  It puts a certain group of consumers in line and another group shrugging their shoulders not caring…

…Some may not understand ebooks, nor get the appeal.  Well, for $79, they can get a Kindle and understand the appeal.  That price point is MONSTEROUS.  Why?  Because the average new release hardcover fiction novel is $30.  So for a little under 3 hardcover books, you could own a device that holds thousands of books!”

Jim Bronyaur, The Blog

The media is consumed with the horse race aspect of the whole thing—whether or not these new products, especially the Kindle Fire, will reduce Apple’s dominance of the tablet market. But as Jim Bronyaur points out, it is the consumer who wins big with the dramatic price reduction of Amazon’s entry level e-reader.  

Me? I really don't need another electronic gadget. I already have Amazon Kindle for PC on my laptop and my desktop. But there's no denying that I have always wanted a Kindle I could hold in my hand. The only thing I don’t know yet is whether I’m going to kick in the extra $30 it costs to get a version of the Kindle that doesn’t have sponsor messages on the screensaver, which would be a $109 purchase price, or stick to my guns and buy the cheapest Kindle they offer.  

Drill, Baby, Drill: What will we look for when we mine on Mars?

It's unlikely that there's anything on the planet that is worth the cost of shipping it back

Surprising Science
  • In the second season of National Geographic Channel's MARS (premiering tonight, 11/12/18,) privatized miners on the red planet clash with a colony of international scientists
  • Privatized mining on both Mars and the Moon is likely to occur in the next century
  • The cost of returning mined materials from Space to the Earth will probably be too high to create a self-sustaining industry, but the resources may have other uses at their origin points

Want to go to Mars? It will cost you. In 2016, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that manned missions to the planet may cost approximately $10 billion per person. As with any expensive endeavor, it is inevitable that sufficient returns on investment will be needed in order to sustain human presence on Mars. So, what's underneath all that red dust?

Mining Technology reported in 2017 that "there are areas [on Mars], especially large igneous provinces, volcanoes and impact craters that hold significant potential for nickel, copper, iron, titanium, platinum group elements and more."

Were a SpaceX-like company to establish a commercial mining presence on the planet, digging up these materials will be sure to provoke a fraught debate over environmental preservation in space, Martian land rights, and the slew of microbial unknowns which Martian soil may bring.

In National Geographic Channel's genre-bending narrative-docuseries, MARS, (the second season premieres tonight, November 12th, 9 pm ET / 8 pm CT) this dynamic is explored as astronauts from an international scientific coalition go head-to-head with industrial miners looking to exploit the planet's resources.

Given the rate of consumption of minerals on Earth, there is plenty of reason to believe that there will be demand for such an operation.

"Almost all of the easily mined gold, silver, copper, tin, zinc, antimony, and phosphorus we can mine on Earth may be gone within one hundred years" writes Stephen Petranek, author of How We'll Live on Mars, which Nat Geo's MARS is based on. That grim scenario will require either a massive rethinking of how we consume metals on earth, or supplementation from another source.

Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, told Petranek that it's unlikely that even if all of Earth's metals were exhausted, it is unlikely that Martian materials could become an economically feasible supplement due to the high cost of fuel required to return the materials to Earth. "Anything transported with atoms would have to be incredibly valuable on a weight basis."

Actually, we've already done some of this kind of resource extraction. During NASA's Apollo missions to the Moon, astronauts used simple steel tools to collect about 842 pounds of moon rocks over six missions. Due to the high cost of those missions, the Moon rocks are now highly valuable on Earth.


Moon rock on display at US Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, AL (Big Think/Matt Carlstrom)

In 1973, NASA valuated moon rocks at $50,800 per gram –– or over $300,000 today when adjusted for inflation. That figure doesn't reflect the value of the natural resources within the rock, but rather the cost of their extraction.

Assuming that Martian mining would be done with the purpose of bringing materials back to Earth, the cost of any materials mined from Mars would need to include both the cost of the extraction and the value of the materials themselves. Factoring in the price of fuel and the difficulties of returning a Martian lander to Earth, this figure may be entirely cost prohibitive.

What seems more likely, says Musk, is for the Martian resources to stay on the Red Planet to be used for construction and manufacturing within manned colonies, or to be used to support further mining missions of the mineral-rich asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

At the very least, mining on Mars has already produced great entertainment value on Earth: tune into Season 2 of MARS on National Geographic Channel.

For thousands of years, humans slept in two shifts. Should we do it again?

Researchers believe that the practice of sleeping through the whole night didn’t really take hold until just a few hundred years ago.

The Bed by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Surprising Science

She was wide awake and it was nearly two in the morning. When asked if everything was alright, she said, “Yes.” Asked why she couldn’t get to sleep she said, “I don’t know.” Neuroscientist Russell Foster of Oxford might suggest she was exhibiting “a throwback to the bi-modal sleep pattern." Research suggests we used to sleep in two segments with a period of wakefulness in-between.

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Antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to good health and well-being

Antimicrobial resistance is growing worldwide, rendering many "work horse" medicines ineffective. Without intervention, drug-resistant pathogens could lead to millions of deaths by 2050. Thankfully, companies like Pfizer are taking action.

Image courtesy of Pfizer.
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  • Antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are one of the largest threats to global health today.
  • As we get older, our immune systems age, increasing our risk of life threatening infections. Without reliable antibiotics, life expectancy could decline for the first time in modern history.
  • If antibiotics become ineffective, common infections could result in hospitalization or even death. Life-saving interventions like cancer treatments and organ transplantation would become more difficult, more often resulting in death. Routine procedures would become hard to perform.
  • Without intervention, resistant pathogens could result in 10 million annual deaths by 2050.
  • By taking a multi-faceted approach—inclusive of adherence to good stewardship, surveillance and responsible manufacturing practices, as well as an emphasis on prevention and treatment—companies like Pfizer are fighting to help curb the spread.
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