Sex, lies, and Google Glass: Don't believe everything you read

Google is aiding and abetting a pornster, and Apple is fixing e-book prices -- but you'll have to dig deeper for the truth

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If Google made a mistake in all this, it was a failure to imagine that someone would view Glass a perfect vehicle for porn and ban it from the get-go. At this point, the rules for Glass are unambiguous: no adult content. The same is true for facial recognition on Glass -- it's not happening, though Google included some weasel words in its statement: "As Google has said for several years, we won't add facial recognition features to our products without having strong privacy protections in place. With that in mind, we won't be approving any facial recognition Glassware at this time."

There are real concerns about how Google Glass will affect privacy in our public spaces. But facial recognition and wearable porn are simply not on the agenda.

In e-books, Amazon.com is the real monopolist

As a tech writer and consumer advocate, I'm frequently critical of monopolistic practices that drive up prices and reduce competition. But the brouhaha over e-books, and the lawsuit against Apple by the Department of Justice, turns that logic on its head.

Simply put, consumers are better off if the price of books, e-books or paper, doesn't hit rock bottom. Sure, no one likes to pay more, but if you want a good product, it has to be worth someone's time and trouble to produce it and sell it.

What happened in the e-book case is complicated. In essence, Amazon used its muscle to push down the price of e-books to around $9.99, and thus grabbed a market share of 90 percent. The low prices were designed to goose sales of the Kindle and lure shoppers to the site. Amazon, not the publishers, set the price.

Independent bookstore owners who embraced the digital revolution by selling e-books found themselves undersold. Scott Thurow, a best-selling mystery writer and president of the Authors Guild explained the result in an open letter: "Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open."

In 2010, Apple, which had launched the iPad, formed a so-called agency model that meant publishers would set their own prices and Apple would, in effect, be their agent selling e-books on Apple's iBookstore.

The DOJ saw this as an illegal, price-fixing scheme and sued Apple and several publishers, who quickly settled and left Apple holding the bag. Did Apple conspire with them? Quite possibly, and there's apparently damning email from the late Steve Jobs that lends the charge some credence. The trial began this week and the legal system can sort out that question. (Apple vehemently denies the charge.)

The larger point, though, is that the real monopolist here is Amazon, not Apple. Amazon changed the economics of publishing long before the advent of the e-book. It's becoming tougher and tougher for non-established authors to get published and for bookstores, even of the chain variety, to survive.

Sure, I'm a writer and have a dog in this fight. But so do you if you like to read books. I'm not pining for some long-lost golden age of publishing. The digital revolution isn't going to be rolled back. But insofar as there's a villain in this piece, it's not Apple.

I welcome your comments, tips, and suggestions. Post them here (Add a comment) so that all our readers can share them, or reach me at bill@billsnyder.biz. Follow me on Twitter at BSnyderSF.

This article, "Sex, lies, and Google Glass: Don't believe everything you read," was originally published by InfoWorld.com. Read more of Bill Snyder's Tech's Bottom Line blog and follow the latest technology business developments at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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