Words I learned today

A Veblen good is a product whose demand curve shifts in proportion to its expense. The more it costs, the more desirable it becomes, such as the Hermes Birkin Bag, on which you can spend $124,750 (well, in theory you could).
A Giffen good is a product whose consumption increases as costs increase, defying typical supply-and-demand curves. Giffen goods are inferior goods whose demand disregards quality.
(Via the wonderful Felix Salmon, who actually used the latter term incorrectly–my Prada shoes are Veblen, not Giffen, goods, although I find them most desirable at 60% off.)

The shifting media landscape

Few visualizations of the transition from old media to new media (to which I’ve long been contributing, as both a digital media veteran and a reader) are as stark as the sales trend of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, which ceased print publishing this week (edited for clarity):

Sales of the Britannica peaked in 1990, when 120,000 sets were sold in the United States. … Only 8,000 sets of the 2010 edition have been sold, and the remaining 4,000 have been stored in a warehouse until they are bought. … Now print encyclopedias account for less than 1 percent of the Britannica’s revenue.

Brittanica’s been in print for 244 years. (It has the New York Times and The Economist beat by nearly a century.) But in a relatively brief 22 year span, the print encyclopedia’s distribution dropped by 93% and the share of the publisher’s revenue from those books dropped by 99%.

I continue to read many publications in print form, atop the multitude of web pages I consume. But I suspect it won’t be long before my only practical reading option is a tablet.