"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Do Books Have a (Branded) Future?

Brick and mortar bookstores are much better for (un-directed) browsing than online stores. This is probably mostly a function of bandwidth, i.e. I can see so much more in a bookstore than I can on my 2D screen. This will change as the web and its attendant hardware/software develops over time, but my guess is that a satisfying browsing experience of the order i can get in a great bookstore is many, many years away from practical. On the other hand if you know what you're looking for, online shopping excels at simplifying the process of making the transaction. In fact, in every sense except immediate transfer to the buyer of the object they've purchased, online buying is vastly more efficient. When the bulk of our book purchases are in electronic form, and therefore delivered instantly, the significant advantages left to the bookstore will be the superior browsing experience, the help desk and the cafe.

Ah, the cafe. I have loved browsing in cafe-less bookstores, particularly the formal old-style ones, with books separated by publisher. Tho I've only rarely browsed books because I liked a publisher's other books, it could certainly be engineered to happen more -- see If:book. Penguin, of course, brands their paperbacks using their signature design and people expect a level of quality from them. Gallimard in France also. If branding were design-based, it would give bookstores a reason to shelve books together -- visually arresting displays. Barnes & Noble does this with its classics section and did it for awhile with its miniature classics, and I have spent some time at those displays for the sheer fun of handling the books, and then bought a few because once they are in my hand they are half sold. Making an equivalent, clean, well-lighted space in cyberspace is an interesting challenge.


Margaret Atwood Scares Herself

It's only fair. Oryx and Crake gave me nightmares about blue people. Now, the second book in the series is out (of three projected), Year of the Flood. It's waiting for me at my post office because for some reason they would not leave it at the door. (Who do you complain to when the world is ending? Okay, it's not that bad...yet.)

"What is scary, Ms. Atwood said, is that her futuristic tales — she calls them speculative fiction — showcase scenarios that spring from current realities: the creep of corporations into many aspects of society, environmental decay, high-tech reproduction, the widening cleavage between haves and have-nots."

“We’ve just opened the biggest toy box in the world, which is the genetic code."

At the NY Times. This is the third review I've seen there for Year of the Flood. The page provides links to the earlier ones.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Not sure why this is funny

From "Facts, Errors and the Kindle."

Book publishers mostly rely on their authors to ensure accuracy; dedicated fact-checking departments now rarely exist except at some magazines. The New Yorker’s checkers are justly renowned for their tenacious scepticism, but even they err sometimes. One reader was annoyed to find himself described as dead, and requested a correction in the next issue. Unfortunately, by the time the correction appeared, he really had died, thus compounding the error.

Or making the correction a little more complicated. The article somehow goes on to include a mention of Amazon's deletion of certain books from Kindles earlier this year. "...would anyone object if electronic copies were replaced, by remote control, with corrected versions?" As if stealing something that you have paid for is the same as correcting it. I haz grone fonde of dose mizpellings.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

What NYC reads

Thirty-five people reading Infinite Jest? 24 reading Anna Karenina? Where is this happening? On the NYC subway. That's unexpected, although My Life in France, not so. And there is the group of campers who follow the rule that whoever finds a seat must read. Good rule, I think. I remember hoping to find a seat so I could read more easily. I also remember spotting other people's books and being inspired to read them, and other people jotting down the titles of mine.

What the "human panini" are reading.