PAYTRUST

How do you pay your bills? I still use CheckFree, because it still works with Version 12 of Managing Your Money, a program so old there can’t be more than 6 of us still using it (well, maybe 6,000), and so good I won’t stop using it until Bill Gates wrests the thing from my tightly clenched fist. But if I used Quicken or Microsoft Money, I would seriously consider switching to PayTrust.

It’s not the cheapest way to pay your bills – they charge 50 cents to receive a bill and another 50 cents to pay it. And I’d be a little nervous about changing all my billing addresses to their billing address.

But check out their web site and take the demo. There would appear to be a lot to like.

MORE USED-BOOK FEEDBACK

David Lazar: ‘Before everyone gets all weak in the knees about half.com, I thought I would chime in and tell your readers that of the 7 items that I attempted to purchase through their Website, 4 arrived and were the wrong item. In order to get a refund, I had to go through considerable inconvenience and in one case was denied reimbursement for reasons that were never made clear. I have given up on half.com and would find it hard to believe that I’m the only one who was wholly dissatisfied with their service.’

Jonathan Hochman: ‘Those frugal people who want to buy used books instead of new should see whether their public library has an online card catalog. Ours does, so we can almost always locate a desired book at a nearby library. Borrowing books also frees up valuable bookshelf space so we are less tempted to buy a large new house with an oversized reading room.’

☞ Ah, but what about the travel cost and, especially, the time? (Not to mention the terrible trouble Jerry got into for not returning that library book – it wasn’t Catcher in the Rye, but something like that.)

‘And before authors complain about used books, they should think about economics. Printing costs are the enemy of authors. The public is only going to spend a certain fraction of its income on books. If libraries and used book trading become more popular, then people will probably spend the same or more, because books would be a better value. When I can find 80% of the books I want at the library, then I have more to spend on the other 20% I buy (and donate to the library afterwards). When a book buyer can resell, she is more likely to buy a book than spend the money on a trip to the movie theatre. As book revenues go up faster than printing costs, authors and publishers earn more! What matters most are profits, not revenues. Efficiency is good for profits.

☞ I like this idea. I’m a fan of audible.com, and, provided they don’t go broke, my audio purchases will be in a virtual library just a few clicks away – forever. Wouldn’t mind the same thing with inexpensive eBooks. Although a physical book, especially when it’s one you care about, will always have advantages.

Val Lambson: ‘It is not obvious that the market for used books hurts authors. Readers who know they can sell a book when they are through with it may be willing to pay a higher price for it.’

Rob Meehan:21northmain.com is also a great site. It’s a lot like the site that Michael Burns spoke about yesterday, abebooks.com, in that it’s a matchmaker for small mom and pop bookstores around the world. It’s a great way for these smaller bookstores to compete with the big guns like Amazon. I’ve used them quite a few times and I love them.’

Kathryn Lance: ‘First, thanks for printing my response re Amazon’s used-book button. Second, I realize you did not recommend Next Card, but your reader who did has obviously not yet had the problems of some of us who fell for the pitch. I am a person who always pays off credit cards in full. One month last spring I cancelled something I had ordered through Next Card. Unbeknownst to me, the company I bought the item from refunded $5 less than the full amount. Next Card hit me with a late fee of $29(!) plus interest for the full amount. I was on the phone a lot after that, and wrote a number of letters, explaining what had happened. I also paid the extra $5 and cancelled my card. They continue to dun me, adding $29 each month to the bill I supposedly owe. It’s now up to around $200. Their total lack of responsiveness to repeated phone calls and letters is distressing, to say the least. One of the men I spoke to threatened that they would ruin my credit, but I don’t think they can do that.’

Michael Young: ‘Thanks for printing Dan Nachbar’s comment on Amazon’s One-Click. Their enforcement of this meritless patent is just reprehensible. Dan, and the links he gave, explain this better than I would have. Still, in all fairness, I should point out that [Amazon founder] Jeff Bezos is one of the founders of BountyQuest, an organization that offers rewards for finding prior art that might invalidate specific dubious patents. The Amazon one-click patent was one of their targets, and Tim O’Reilly (another BQ founder) recently paid a reward on three near-hits. I don’t think this excuses Amazon’s behavior, and I still don’t do business with them, but it is better than nothing.

‘I don’t really need a second reason to boycott Amazon, but if I did, it would be their abrupt change in privacy policy last year. I have no problem with a company changing policy for new data that they collect, or even asking at the next opportunity if I would accept a change. Applying a serious change retroactively with a short ‘opt-out’ period is completely unacceptable.’

☞ I take your point, but I think Amazon has done a lot more good than evil.

 

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