"Who's afraid of Google?" (Cover Story, Apr. 9) contains the question: "Why would people buy a whole book when all they need is a few paragraphs?"
This is an interesting question since that business model has existed for years. It is called the library. Within a 15-mile radius of my home, I have five university libraries and numerous public libraries. When I need to do research, I use the universities' Web sites to search the libraries, and I drive to the one with the books I need. All Google (GOOG) is doing is providing the same service without the cost of travel.
However, the library did buy the book, so maybe Google should develop a business model similar to Apple's (AAPL) iTunes': Charge a fee for selected quotes and a reduced price for the entire book. Many researchers would pay a nominal fee if the quote was also returned with the proper reference formatting. Google could also charge a higher fee for copyrighted extracts of paragraphs and pages. I would balance my cost of travel to the library against such fees.
Your photograph of Starbucks (SBUX) Chairman Howard Schultz with a coffee mug in "Saving Starbucks' soul" (Marketing, Apr. 9) captures the very thing that is wrong with Starbucks: You cannot drink coffee out of a ceramic cup at Starbucks unless you bring the cup yourself. Show me another "authentic" coffee shop anywhere in the world that serves an espresso in a paper cup. There isn't one. The mug in this picture is probably empty, just like the soul of the coffee shop I used to love.
Long Beach, Calif.
If Howard Schultz wants to triple sales in five years, Howard Schultz will triple sales. As an MBA student, I have studied Starbucks in case after case, and yes, even I have been swept up by Schultz's charismatic aura. When he joined the board of directors for DreamWorks Animation SKG (DWA), I knew his entrepreneurial spirit would influence the growth of yet another company. And when Starbucks returns to its roots, Schultz will once again prove he is a leader, not only in his industry but in American business as a whole.
Michael Aaron Gallagher
The letter "Subprime loans: Real estate lawyers need to speak up" (Readers Report, Apr. 9) responded to the BusinessWeek articles "Who will get shredded?" and "Under the Fed's hammer" (News & Insights, Mar. 19), by asking where the borrowers' lawyers were. The answer is both simple and obvious. In virtually all cases, the lawyer wasn't there because no lawyer was retained.
Most people get into trouble because they see hiring a lawyer as a luxury and not a necessity. For minor matters, that likely is true. However, when it comes to major matters, such thinking is foolhardy.
As a lawyer, I find myself constantly forced to explain to errant clients why it is important to hire a lawyer to provide objective, educated, and dispassionate advice when they are confronted with the need to make a critically important decision. Indeed, it would be better to engage more reasonably priced legal counsel (if one's regular attorney is too pricey) than act without the benefit of legal advice. It is comparable to gambling in Las Vegas without knowing the odds, or even how the games of chance are played.
John J. McGowan Jr.
Stephen H. Wildstrom is stunningly correct in "Now playing: Digital disarray" (Tech & You, Apr. 9), about the madness of Hollywood and downloads. But he didn't point out that history is simply repeating itself, albeit with a new generation of barbarians. In the 1950s, the same studios did everything in their power to prevent films from ever being shown on television. As a result, the midnight movies I grew up with were all British, and not half bad, either. What the studio's policy did was drive the networks to produce original content, and then cable, and now movies are all over the dial. Well done, Hollywood.
So I will wait. All the studios are doing with their myriad restrictions on my purchases is to prove to me there is nothing of theirs I really have to have. And they are right.
In "Secrets of an HR superstar" (Managing, Apr. 9), General Electric's (GE) former head of human resources, William J. Conaty, is quoted on GE's employee performance-rating system: "We want to create angst in the system.... We have evolved from being anal about what percent have to fall into each category. But you have to know who are the least effective people on your team—and then you have to do something about them."
GE's stock price fell off a cliff in 2001 and is still staggering about. That should create angst and speaks to system effectiveness, the mythology of executive superstars, and performance systems that seem to apply to everyone except those superstars.
CEOs come and go, but what matters are the GE workers who come to work each day and take pride in their work. Ultimately their performance is reflected, for example, in the jet engines they build that get airline passengers safely to their destinations. I'd rather have them concerned about the safety of those engines than about what is taught at Crotonville.
While it seems like GE has been a leader in human resources in many areas, its reliance on fear as a motivating factor is so last century.
Truly progressive companies have moved beyond that to the recognition that building core collaborative relationships is now the key to corporate success.
Robert E. Anderson
Is naivete, or worse, revealed when professionals like Michael Alter, president of SurePayroll, make statements like: "There are certain professions where skills are in such demand that even average or below-average people can get hired" ("Where are all the workers?" News & Insights, Apr. 9).
Can someone tell us when the time was that "average people" were not hired? When was that golden age? Many of us missed it.
Isn't the executive manager's challenge to coach, counsel, and train "average people," the middle 50% of the range of talent in every executive corps existing now or ever, in ways that produce excellence?
Recent years prove the value of average people by what they didn't do: Average people didn't burn $40 billion to $60 billion at Enron; average people didn't steal billions from energy consumers; and average people aren't burning American lives, cash, and credibility in Iraq.
When American senior executive management accepts its responsibility to produce excellent results with average people, including average executives, America will arrive at a better place than it is now.
William L. Welch
I am an electrician with more than 30 years in the trade. As a young man I worked in construction but constantly upgraded my technical skills by taking evening college courses. I presently work in a high-tech manufacturing environment and possess a highly marketable skill set.
My comment is this: There is no shortage of opportunities available. And there are many individuals with strong technical backgrounds looking for change. The problem, in most cases, is that compensation is 20 years behind the times. It is 2007, not 1987. I would never sell my skills on the cheap. As for a lack of candidates, when you pay people peanuts, all you get is monkeys.