Thursday, May 31, 2012

Try These Tools.

Or not: Below are three tools that I either use or have run across recently:

Tracfone: I've had a Tracfone for several years because it's pay-as-you-go, doesn't require a contract, and is cheap, cheap, cheap. I use it as my office phone, and it's strictly for talking with customers (and auto emergencies). I'm required to buy some minutes every 90 days, which so far has cost me between $7.00 and $10.00 a month. For that, I'm happily not joining the ranks of smart phone users. Actually, my new phone is app-capable, at least with the addition of more memory, but it's still just a phone and will stay that way for a while. Oh,yes, it can text. I don't have much use for that either. One caveat. Because Tracfone is pay-as-you-go and requires almost no information, it's popular with drug sellers, criminals, and other ne'er-do-wells--and their short-term phone numbers are recycled. My last phone number was used by a serious deadbeat, and I began getting collection calls for him. When the calls got up to three-times-a-day, I let the minutes run out and bought a new phone--with a new number. So far, so good.

Square: Speaking of smart phones, you can now use your smart phone to take credit-card payments, which is handy for those of you selling books direct to your customers after presentations and the like. Square is just one of the devices I've heard about. It's getting raves about its ease of use and its cost, but there are concerns about its customer service. I haven't used it myself--hey, no smart phone--but I know people who have and like it. Our Toastmasters club is contemplating using it to make it easier for new members and existing members to pay their dues. Competing services include GoPayment from Intuit and ProPay, which is more robust. I expect PayPal, which I use for taking credit card payments online, will get into the mobile credit-card processing game sooner rather than later.

MagCloud: This is an HP business that is combining POD technology, social media, and magazine distribution. I wondered why I hadn't seen POD technology applied to magazines before, but printing hard copies of magazines (unlike books) is a challenge. While their 20-cent per-page price compares favorably to prices at local copy printers, it does not make printing hard copies of a magazine attractive. It is no surprise, then, that the emphasis seems to be on creating PDF magazines, which makes me wonder why we need HP. It's interesting, but I haven't figured it out yet. The Publishing Pro

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