2010403 The ides of August – and how pop culture makes our lives more difficult.

Wednesday, 3 September, 2014 – 00:00

This week: a crazy month when it’s supposed to be the silly season, why e-book sales via Amazon.com are beginning to look like a bad idea and how pop culture makes our lives more difficult by spreading rubbish under the guise of knowledge.

I know. It’s supposed to be The Ides of March which is a Ancient Roman thing that, long afterwards, appeared in English in the phrase “mad as a March Hare.”

But the fact is that it’s August that’s been a mad month for me. And now it’s September and I’m still trying to do August’s work.

In law, August was always a dead month in the “long vacation” although that’s long gone as a reliable break.

In publishing, August was known as “the silly season” because it’s when the kids are off school and parents take them away and politicians and business leaders take a holiday so nothing happens and newspapers are full of lightweight “silly” stories.

Well, some people in the Middle East seem to have worked out that if they behave badly enough in August, they can dominate the “western media” which, so often, they claim to despise.

On a personal level, if I look at my diary, I can’t work out why it was such a crazy month. Yes, I spent a few very nice days in Singapore. Yes, I wrote a long article and did a big interview for Complinet / Thomson Reuters (see the interview in World Money Laundering Report).

I think the thing that turned the month into a period of chaos was the total review, every letter, word and punctuation mark of “How does that make you feel? Identifying Suspicion in Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing.”

There was the realisation that, now it’s been out for a few months, the subtitle could, perhaps, have been better had it been “Financial Crime” rather than limiting it to money laundering and terrorist financing. The principles are every bit as applicable in relation to fraud, embezzlement and corruption and other financial crimes.

But the titles, both main and sub, are set in stone when the ISBN number is issued. So we’re stuck with it – unless we just do marketing using a different title. Or if an e-book is issued with the revised sub title. That is totally feasible.

The review happened because of a mistake on the back cover. When that was being fixed, the chance arose to do “errata” in the body of the book instead of on a slip of paper.

But it was not the only thing about the book that came under review. There’s a growing resistance here to the sale of an e-book for Kindle. The reason is simple: someone – to our mind a criminal – has spent the past month or so downloading copies of my titles and back issues of World Money Laundering Report then, once they are downloaded, cancelling the order and demanding a refund.

Amazon.com say they have policies and procedures in place to prevent that. Whatever they have is not working. We are pretty sure that this is being done for illegal purposes because there are legal and legitimate ways of borrowing the books and journals, reading them for a month and then either renewing the loan or returning them. It costs users about five dollars a month to belong to the scheme and it has all sorts of other benefits too. The pattern of activity is too obvious.

So we are considering migrating all of our e-book sales to direct sales via our own websites. That creates a hassle: first, we have to administer the accounts that, until now, Amazon.com has done for us.

Secondly, we have to market them without the benefit of Amazon.Com’s dominant muscle. But the bottom line is that, as it stands, our intellectual property is being stolen and resold by criminals (we have evidence) without any reward to us. It’s like shoplifting for profit and Amazon.Com has not been even a tiny bit helpful. And if someone applies for a refund from our own site, we can simply block them from making future purchases so they can’t keep doing it.

That has meant a lot of management time as we look at a total change in strategy – and prepare costings for new website development and the time and expense of setting up a merchant account and other aspects of going global without the backing of the market leader in on-line publications sales.

Worse, we have to handle all the complexities of data protection and consumer laws on distance selling that, selling via a third party, we have not previously needed to deal with.

Then there’s the hassle and complication of setting up merchant accounts… That led to an idea: perhaps we could package the archives and release them as hard copies instead of e-books. Annual volumes would be quite useful, we think. So that’s under consideration.

Also underway this month, a review of the entire UK module for Quick To Learn More as part of our regular process. It’s a big job because we are changing the structure of the course to provide a shorter course covering more stuff in one module instead of two. It’s easy to write long courses for law and regulation. Making them concise and correct is not at all easy and is very time consuming.

I was standing in front of the TV doing “help my back stop aching” stretches when I heard this: “See if you see anything suspicious. If someone makes eye contact with you, smiles directly at you, they are probably hiding something.”

There is often complete nonsense in TV programmes but the Lifetime Channel’s TV movie “Non Stop” is a classic. It’s so bad it’s funny and its representation of air crew is so far away from reality that it’s literally unbelievable.

But it’s the description of how to identify suspicion that made me wander off and make a cup of tea. What are these people on that they would write such tosh?

The trouble is that, as we’ve often seen with popular media and even social media, people believe what they hear on TV and read in the paper or on a computer screen.

As I point out in the book, people assume that someone, the nebulous “they,” will make sure that what appears is true.

It’s nonsense.

It seems as if fact checkers have been abolished everywhere and guesswork is the new truth. And if that makes any sense at all, you’ll enjoy reading the book 🙂

Spent a few days with my son, James as well. He’s been doing things in Malaysia and he pops in and out quite often. Like everyone else, he’s starting to fall under the spell of this truly wonderful country with its lovely people. Let’s hope that the politicians and others don’t do anything to spoil it.

And finally, there’s the August issue of World Money Laundering Report: in the busy month, it’s been pushed to the back over and over. But it’s almost done. Watch out for that in the next couple of days.

Phew. What did Greenday sing? Wake me up when September ends? Pretty sure if I fell asleep now, I’d need that service.

© 2014 Nigel Morris-Cotterill
All rights reserved.

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