Gloria: ‘You’re a great admirer of Google. I read in today’s paper that there’s speculation they will most likely go public in mid-2004. The article reflected on how this is the most exciting thing to happen in Silicon Valley since the fiasco. What are your thoughts re this potential Google IPO?’

☞ My thought is that it will not – remotely – be an overlooked bargain. I will be an enthusiastic user, not an investor.


John Hamilton: ‘You have mentioned a couple of times and stated you are a shareholder. I don’t know if this is a private or public company, but if it is a public company would you please advise the stock symbol. I have had no luck trying to find it.’

☞ It’s ADBL, but hang on. I wasn’t even sure you should buy it when it was cheap. I’m definitely not sure you should buy it now that it’s significantly less cheap.

I first bought a little at $1.50 a share because I was so enthusiastic about the service. In short order I watched it go as low as 23 cents. At that price, this past February I bought a great many shares.

This is the old ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ financial strategy, and it doesn’t always work, needless to say, which is one reason I lacked the courage to recommend it to you. (I am much more loath to lose money for you, even if it’s bound to happen from time to time, than I am to lose it for me.)

Even though the company was losing money like crazy, my thinking was that, at 23 cents a share with 30 million shares outstanding, the whole thing was valued at just $7 million or so . . . and they had some loyal customers like me, some good technology, some relationships with publishers, and, well, who knows? And here it is at $3.63 last night – it got up around $4.20 a few weeks ago – all this in less than a year, and now I am doing my best to justify its new lofty level (always a bad sign).

But look: in addition to all the joggers and commuters who might want to listen to ‘books on tape’ without having the hassle or expense of actual tapes, you have an increasing segment of the aging population finding it hard to see . . . or to read for long periods of time . . . some very bright septuagenarians, octogenarians, nonagenarians. Maybe there’s a growing market for listening to books. And if ADBL, which I believe signed up 27,000 new subscribers last quarter, ever got to 1 million subscribers and could make $20 a year from each . . . well, that’s 67 cents a share, or, at 15 times earnings, a $10 stock. So – I tell myself – it could conceivably triple in five years.

But would I buy it at $3.63 ten months after buying it at 23 cents? Not on your life. And I have lightened up a little.

Very important note: This success with ADBL is not remotely typical of my life or investing prowess. It was a huge stroke of good fortune. If I had dreamt ADBL would do so well, I would surely have urged you to buy it, too.


Michael Griffin: ‘My daughter brought to my attention. It seems like the kind of thing you’d like to publicize – even your ‘get back to finances’ readers will surely respond well to a chance like this. Also, it won’t be lost on you that in many cases, these guys are asking for the tools and supplies they need to do their job! If we learned anything from Nam, it should be that those opposed to a war should stay in the forefront of supporting the soldiers who get sent out to fight it.’


I am not the Andrew in this Tom Toles cartoon.


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