Internet Publishing and Beyond: The Economics of Digital by Brian Kahin, Hal R. Varian

By Brian Kahin, Hal R. Varian

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393, 394 (1978). Compare, however, Kim Lane Scheppele, Legal Secrets 43-53, 111-126 (1988); see also James Boyle, “A Theory of Law and Information: Copyright, Spleens, Blackmail, and Insider Trading,” 80 Cal. L. Rev. 1413 (1992) (arguing that most law and economic analysis of markets for information are based on fundamentally contradictory assumptions). 30. See Cox, Superdistribution. 31. For example, consider this: “Technology has set into motion dazzling challenges to market mechanisms whose free market dynamism is being impeded by anti-competitive handcuffs imposed by participants and sanctioned by regu- 44 DeLong and Froomkin lators.

It may be that the “dynamic storefront” story is the Internet’s substitute for the “kindly service” story. If so, the rise of agent-based shopping may well be surprisingly destructive. It raises the possibil- 31 Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow’s Economy ity of a world in which retail shops providing valuable services are destroyed by an economic process that funnels a large percentage of consumer sales into what become commodity markets without middlemen: People use the high-priced premium cyberstore to browse, but then use BargainFinder to purchase.

The merchant’s ability to monopolize the consumer’s attention for a period may be the essence of modern retailing; the reaction to BargainFinder and Auctionwatch, at least, suggests that this is what merchants believe. 29 Speculative Microeconomics for Tomorrow’s Economy The growing popularity of frequent-buyer and other loyalty programs also suggests that getting and keeping customer attention is important to sellers. Interestingly, this explanation works about equally well for the “kindly service” and “loss leader” explanations—the two stories that are consistent with the assumption that the CD market was relatively efficient before BargainFinder came along.

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