stubborn necessity

August 19, 2007

(untitled)

Emerging electronic media , although transformative in many ways, are not reinventing our relationship to books. As with any change in the human environment, polarizing opinions tend to dominate ways of understanding. This will obscure genuine trends, making it harder to imagine what a book in 2015 might look like. First it might be best to observe the historical book of yesterday.

Books, as a communicative form, have maintained a dominance over informational authority, dissemination of meaning, and community imagination across a global culture for centuries. The dynamism of oral historical transmission is not possible once the word is written down, but almost every other significant intellectual and relational human development is arguably attributable to the book. Religion is able to define values and right behaviors, lawmakers are able to establish precedent, merchants are able to codify national and international bartering systems, and policy makers are accountable to history. Once Averroes (nee Abul-Waleed Muhammad Ibn Rushd) reintroduced the West to Aristotle, a revolution of individuation began which we continue to work through to today.

St. Matthew from the Gospel Book of Charlemagne, c.800-10.

from St. Matthew, from the Gospel Book of Charlemagne, c.800-10.

Manuscripts were instrumental in this, yet without standardization, context and meaning could change. The first widespread re-imagining of the book occurred with Gutenberg’s movable type. (Though China achieved this with baked clay over 400 years earlier, the basic realities of Chinese script prevented common use.) The Gutenberg Galaxy as Marshall McLuhan labeled it, enabled text to be set in a way previously not possible. As more and more copies of a work were produced, identically and rapidly, paradigmatic precedents could be more quickly established. People were able to communicate more effectively, much like the initial standardized catechisms for Christians, yet more personally and frequently.

The manipulation of meaning in a written work prior to printing presses has never entirely gone away, though it was slowed for a time once editions numbered in thousands. Anxiety about losing authoritative, factual information is justified, especially in a world where entities such as Google are becoming global repositories on an unprecedented scale.

Yet this anxiety must be contextualized. The West, circa 1200a.d., did not even know what it was missing until Averrose translated Aristotle. How many books are really in the Bible? And written by whose hand? Absolute meaning is illusory, a reflection of a human need more than an accurate representation of truth. This scientific, rational age is dependant upon the assumption that facts, once discovered, are eternal. Books reflect all dimensions of human experience, and their authority is granted by a wish for it to be so. Through neglect, propagandism and selectivity, meaning is negotiated over time.

Propaganda Billboard in Iran

from Bored.com Crazy and Funny Billboards

Part of the problem with wondering about books’ future is that historically the idea of what a book is has changed. For me, today’s eBook is akin to the copying of books by monks from Charlemagne’s time until the printing press. Manuscripts would change, depending on the inclinations of the monk, his attentiveness, or even the physical degradation of the source text. Something like Wikipedia, though materially sped up, is as malleable as a handwritten manuscript.

Our imagined book is fixed in time, a static recitation of alphabetic or logographic symbols. This is a very limited definition of what a book is. For Max Ernst or Paul Eluard, a book might be a collection of collages in lieu of words. For Alexsandr Rodchenko, a book may contain coins, twine, letter pressings and glass. For Katsushika Hokusai, a book may be a printed fan, a single sheet of paper bound accordion-style, or even a tiny box of lithographs centered on a single theme. The “Museum of the Book” already exists, and even did as a concept in the time of Charlemagne, when he sought to re-establish the lineage of Roman philosophy nearly lost to Visigothic and Vandal raids.

The question then might properly be “What is the possible effect that digitalization will bring?” The primacy of books can be attributed to many factors: portability, accessibility, affordability, durability, familiarity, and readability, among others. Until digital means can approximate or replicate all of these conditions, books as physical artifacts with paper bones and inky blood will not be replaced.

Portability for electronic books is on the verge of realization, as is accessibility. Affordability? Maybe not. Durability is unlikely, considering that many manufacturers rely on either inferior craftsmanship or software updates to ensure a continual need for purchasing new equipment. Familiarity can only be established over time. A foremost concern is readability, for though the human eye will adapt to longer exposure times to electronic stimuli, it remains difficult to enjoy an electronic work for as long a time as one can a book.

Moving images will survive, though perhaps that is too young a model. Music has undergone about as many transformations as the written word, be it private amusement, communication, traveling minstrels, orchestral engagements, wax cylinders, vinyl and digital storage. Books will continue to thrive, fluidly, stubbornly, but mainly out of necessity.

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In Nanoparticular Order

August 15, 2007

microscopy work

I can still remember my first printer, eagerly jacked into my Atari 800XL, one of those horrible thermal paper jobs, long paper roll spooled and shiny where every document is coiled like the original manuscript of On the Road. No matter how fresh the imprint, it always looked like a twice-used carbon copy, without the advantage of being flat.

The first time I saw an industrial sized engineering printer I was utterly flabbergasted. It was in Troy, NY, home of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and I had just driven up with a friend of mine to help him move into his new college home. The thing was just enormous and looked as though it could print a document about as wide and tall as Cass Gilbert’s Woolworth Building. This was many years before the first building façade-sized advertisements, which only compounded the printer’s exotic nature. All I could think about was printing a map to scale, where 1 mile = 1 mile.

Printers of course continued to evolve, and I am still teary-eyed when I watch a laser printer fulfill my request for a 200 page document in under two minutes. Who could imagine (or even need) such a thing? How the heck does it grip and roll the blank papers so seamlessly, when sometimes it takes me several seconds to separate two sheets of new paper? What exactly is in that block of powdered toner that doesn’t appear to smear? No less marvelous than watching someone cast wingardium leviosa, it would seem to me.

As a bookseller, we always dreamed of instant access to even the most obscure titles, customer orders met with nary a thought for print status, cost or delivery. As I noted after attending BookExpo this past summer, one of the most promising emerging technological innovations is the capability to provide on-site print-on-demand titles, as I witnessed at the Espresso Book Machine display table; a dream to be realized once the Gordian knot of copyright is unwound, that is. You can check out one of these $50,000 trinkets by visiting the New York Public Library of Science, Industry and Business, or just by clicking over to this Engadget article for a sneak peek.

Somehow, though, this isn’t the most exciting advance in print technology. For many years, or at least since my subscription to Omni Magazine in 1987 and 88, I have dreamed of a printer that could give me more than the printed word. Something more than a simple facsimile, a print of a photograph, or the teasing illusion of a lenticular postcard.

Little Dancer 3-D lenticular postcard from Lantor Limited

Earlier this year, technicians from the Tissue Engineering Department from the University of Tokyo Hospital have fabricated some artificial bones with an inkjet printer.

Strong, lightweight and porous, the printed bones have characteristics similar to natural bone, and because they are tailored to fit exactly where they need to go, they are quick to integrate with the surrounding bone. The printed bone is also designed to be reabsorbed by the body as the surrounding bone slowly grows into it and replaces it.

(from Pink Tentacle)

Originally imagined for technical modeling projects, 3-D printing is potentially going to revolutionize every corner of our lives. From pharmacology, biotech, reproduction, surgery, entertainment, housing, toxicological clean-up, systems forecasting, decoration, clothing and real-world user interfaces, there is little limit to its potential reach. Especially as we further quantify the core holistic inter-relationships between elements, molecules and the like, and refine the development of nanoparticulate matter. As long as we can figure out how to prevent nanomatter from casually penetrating traditional organic barriers… There’s already several nanoparticle products on the market, so let’s hope more money is diverted into research & development soon. We don’t need another Bhopal sized disaster to wake us up, I hope.

It’s ironic that I mentioned RPI. A quick glance at their home page shows not only their development of a rechargeable nanoengineered battery which is indistinguishable from a tiny sheet of black paper, but they also provide a link to a fascinating Business Week article from August 9th which talks about RPI’s innovative nanotech non-reflective coating “that reflects virtually no light;” truly an age-old dream of military commanders, and if practical will likely be purchased by the tonne by the global military hegemony to improve its murderous efficiency.

As with any unprecedented scientific advance, the implications are staggering. In truth, we’ll likely spend much of our time downloading 3-D specs for collectible vinyl figurines, cheap psychotropics from Mexico, or just limited-edition R. Kelly toe rings for fabrication by our personal nanoprinters. But please, a Robot can dream…

tmsuk04

image adapted from free wallpaper, tmsuk

Crackle-Glazed Pottery

July 20, 2007

Adult UK version of cover

It’s hard to believe that Harry Potter’s time at Hogwarts is nearly at an end. I can trace so much of my life over the past few years just by remembering where I was as each book and each movie came out. I didn’t start reading them until the Chamber of Secrets, and I remember I wasn’t too impressed. They seemed cute and well planned out, but not really of a different caliber. My favorite “young adult” books are more along the lines of The Neverending Story by Michael Ende, or especially The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell (illustrated by Maurice Sendak); youthful at heart and respectful of their younger readers. Potter seemed like fun but little more.

Something kept me going, though, and with a little pressure from my friends I picked up Prisoner of Azkeban. Either Rowling got that much better or I just caught up with her, but man is that a great book; a thrilling, scary, mature YA page-turner with an Agatha Christie worthy surprise at the end. Goblet of Fire was just as surprisingly good, and I haven’t looked back. I’ve read the set of books at least twice through by now. Her ability to age the quality of the writing with the age of her characters and readers is marvelous. And how about Severus Snape? Snape alone is a figure worthy of classic Russian literature, unbearably tragic and complex in a way that most modern adult fiction just isn’t able to express. (I believe in you, Snape…Dumbledore was right to put his faith in you, right?)

The first time I ever traveled to London just happened to be during the premier of the Prisoner of Azkeban, which I got to see at the Odeon Theater in Leicester Square, opening night. The whole atmosphere was fairly electric, with a pre-show performance by a wild, white-suited organ player, bathed in the subtly morphing rainbow of neon lights of the organ itself, who waved good-bye as he and his calliope sank into the stage as the previews began.

A year later, in Thailand, just as I returned to a bigger city after about a month of rural travel, the opening night of Goblet of Fire arrived and I just couldn’t pass it up. Even after numerous warnings from locals to wear a sweater to the cinema I only wore a long sleeve dress shirt, and oh was I sorry. Apparently adjusting the AC in theaters to frigidaire levels is common all over Thailand. I went to an early evening show, where I think I was the only person over 20, but somehow even among all the ripped jeans, mini skirts and thin cotton Ts I was the only one shivering. Another electric audience though.

Nothing fancy this time out, and in fact I can’t even pick up my copy of the book until Monday because this weekend I have class all day Saturday and Sunday. If anything the forced wait’ll just whet my appetite. It’s hard to believe, but here it is, Deathly Hallows eve. Is this the most hotly anticipated publishing event of my lifetime? Just how many global readers of Harry Potter are there?

Back when Order of the Phoenix came out I was head receiver at my book store. I remember my surprise when the delivery man stopped me from signing for the books & showed my the “drop-cloth” clause. (Keep in mind that we already has to submit confidentiality statements months before, in order to even be allowed to place pre-orders for the books) Essentially, if I couldn’t guarantee that I would obscure the boxes from public and private view, and hide any evidence that the cardboard boxes held the next Potter book, he wasn’t permitted to leave them with our store — just sign right here. Seriously, he stopped me from unloading his cart because I put a box under the receiving table which could be seen through our back door. We had to put a tarp over the 30 or so boxes for the next five days. In the back room of a small independent you can imagine how conspicuous the drop-cloth island would be, but there you have it. Of course my question was, why print the title of the book in 200pt font on all six panels of each box if you’re going for secrecy?

The passion for Potter sure can be blinding. The books are well known loss leaders, meaning that stores sell Potter below their profit margin in order to rope in any ancillary sales that may come with increased foot traffic. Unfortunately, the desire to buy other books just hasn’t materialized during these Potter parties, but I’ve seen Potter 7 already offered for $18.89 some places. Crazy!

The Deathly Hallows already got posted online, of course, basically since Tuesday night. (I’d link to the Motoko Rich article in the NY Times but one needs a subscription to read those things — so look up Rich if you have one) What’s interesting to me isn’t that it happened. I mean, c’mon, growing up by NYC I could see any mainstream movie I wanted at least three or more days before the release date by knowing what street vendors to look for. It’s the official response to the photographic piracy that I want to hear more about.

I am continually trying to impress upon people the innumerable ways there are to monitor our physical and digital fingerprints, and depending on how far Potter’s lawyers want to take it this could be eye-opening. Check out this article about how Digital DNA Could Reveal Identity of Harry Potter Leaker if you’re interested, where she discusses Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data. Also, Scott’s comment on her post from July 20, 2007 06:05 AM provides more practical insight into how these things work.

Anyhow, I hope you get to enjoy the bittersweet pleasure of reading Potter 7 this weekend, but please don’t tell me anything about it until at least Thursday. It’s hard enough to avoid the spoilers as it is.

from not polish on Flickr, creative commons license


A Call for Everything

July 11, 2007

I forgot to highlight this in my book review, but I wanted to let everyone know about an intriguing opportunity for writers out there. I came across this in Boing Boing originally, so forgive me if you’ve seen it already.

monochrom.gif

Monochrom is an intriguing looking journal that has put out a call for submissions. They are “an art-technology-philosophy group having its seat in Vienna and Zeta Draconis. monochrom is an unpeculiar mixture of proto-aesthetic fringe work, pop attitude, subcultural science, context hacking and political activism. Our mission is conducted everywhere, but first and foremost in culture-archeological digs into the seats (and pockets) of ideology and entertainment. monochrom has existed in this (and almost every other) form since 1993.”

What they are looking for is reviews on any subject at all. What kind of subject? Well…

There is no maximum or minimum length for articles or essays. There is no general topic whatsoever. You write about things you find interesting. Or boring. Your text could be about radical constructivism. Or fish and chips. Or hacking your toilet. Or blowing up Mercury. Or HTML. Or Mormon theology and Battlestar Galactica. You’ll find your topic!

A big section of the publication will be dedicated to reviews. And we review everything. Want to review a certain medieval war? Or arctic sea protozoans? Laws of nature? Climate zones? Ways to die? Lava streams? Spam headers? Demonstrations? Sumerian gods? Neon feelings? A crisis? The different types of snow in Stephen King novels? Book shelves in porn movies? Kosher hot dogs? Axiology? Sperm? Johann Sebastian Bach? German officers in American movies who shout “Schweinerei”? Russian oil pumps? Calvinistic prayers? Trash cans in Kansas and/or Lithuania?…The Northwest as an ontological entity? Perfect! Go on!

Pretty much anything, as you can see. Check out the Call For Everything page to see how to send in your creative works. The deadline is September 15th. I’ve never heard of them before, but I like their everything-and-the-kitchen-sink spirit. If you submit anything, be sure to let me know about it. Good luck!


Post #5: The Networked Book

June 26, 2007

A new publishing model is emerging that might strike fear in the hearts of librarians and booksellers everywhere.  With barely any time to breathe after Wikipedia inspired insecurities took a seat at the table, I now hold before you the networked book.  Possibly some of you are wondering, what exactly is a networked book?  Alright, here goes….

pluma uploaded to Flickr on feb 19 2005 by eelend

A networked book is a text offered to the web community to read, edit, contribute to and discuss over time.  Essentially a networked book is another type of social Web 2.0 application, very similar in theory to wikis and Wikipedia, but with an eventual definitive text in mind.  But that doesn’t even need to be the case, really, since they are so new and people are hashing out the limits as you read this.  In fact, with a little poking around you will find several ongoing texts in the works, some utilizing a blogging framework, others wiki models, and some are like online magazines with hosted editing capabilities. 

The amazing thing about these social forums is how creative the web community is today, how open to public ridicule, revision and deconstruction.  But then, people who were paying attention from the beginning intuitively understood this idea of open source vs. proprietary networking. 

Many programming languages and servers used in producing content for the Internet are developed through networks of programmers using open source coding.  For example, Apache, MySQL, Perl, PHP and Python are all collaboratively edited.  An early example of this is Linux, a programming code which was developed as a counterpoint to UNIX, which was owned by and developed by Bell Labs.  Initially a free operating system distributed among universities, UNIX by the early 90s was a fairly expensive commercial platform for individuals to purchase.  Linus Torvalds in 1991, then a student at the University of Helsinki, and frustrated with the cost of UNIX, decided to begin programming what was to become the Linux operating system. 

Linux is a success story of what James Surowiecki calls the wisdom of crowds.  After Torvalds developed the initial core of the Linux operating system, it was made available to numerous interested programmers without restriction.  Soon Free Software Foundation’s GNU Project became involved, and by 1994 numerous user groups as well as Linux Journal magazine spontaneously began work on refining the user environment.  Linux 1.0 was launched in March of that year.  The term open source originated soon afterward, with the launch of the web browser Netscape Navigator, which was offered for free to the public in 1998

So, to risk redundancy and quote Tim O’Reilly again, here’s a bit of an interview from 2003:  “There’s so much now that if you start looking at the computer industry through the lens of how the Internet is changing everything, it makes you tell a very different story. So, for example, Open Source. I talk a lot about open source, but I don’t talk all that much about licenses; I talk about network-enabled collaboration because that fact is, I believe, an even deeper story than the software licensing story. Open source really grew up along with the Internet because it was about the way that developers could free-associate over the network. And so Linus could start something in Finland that could spread to the rest of the world. He could move to California and he could still work with this guy he had hooked up with in Wales, Allan Cox. You look at the Apache group, the core developers are from all over the world, or the Perl community. It’s really a very different model than the days in which if you wanted to start a company, you had to get a bunch of people into the same physical location.” 

(quoted from IT Conversations, a talk between Tim O’Reilly and Doug Kaye from 18 September 2003)

If you want to get technical about it, we’ve always had networked books;  just go back in history to the scriptoria of the middle ages.  Every time a text was queued up for copying, it was subject to revision, deletions and creative annotations.  It is very, very rare for any early text to be exactly the same edition to edition, no matter how hard a particular scriptoria might work toward that goal.  (I am thinking of Saint Columbanus’ work in France, and his later monastery in Italy, Bobbio)  Something has to be sui generis to achieve that kind of purity, like the Lindisfarne Gospels or the Voynich Manuscript.  One blog even suggested that the Talmud and the Bible are examples of networked, collaboratively edited books.

All of this takes me back to my undergrad years, when a good friend of mine spent a summer reading and annotating her copy of Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce.  It was a masterpiece of work which she subsequently lost, and I regret not being able to refer back to it today.  It’s too bad she wasn’t using FinnegansWiki to post her comments…

Part of me feels that these networked books will be much hyped, but that the commitment will be too large for them to catch on with ongoing communities.  A book here and there will catch fire, so to speak…but who knows?  Imagine networked poetry, or networked science…oh wait, some of that is already happening.  Code poetry has been around for over ten years, and Science Commons is hoping to encourage integrated global science and medicine collaborations. 

robot brain uploaded to Flickr on april 19 2005 by Will Pate, creative commons

I feel swallowed by the dust kicked up on the net, the collective sigh of relief people are sharing on the web in finding or founding their own networked communities.  Whether or not the networked book heralds a thunderclap or is a buzz word the meaning is clear.  Our intellectual environment is changing more rapidly than it was possible to prophesy, and as soon as the Japanese perfect those brain reading remote controls, or just a USB port to the brain…


Imagine the Tower, Babbling

June 25, 2007

Vinyl Fetish uploaded to Flickr on November 29, 2005 by Thomas Hawk, creative commons 

I am a passionate music lover with a deep and abiding love for almost all types of music.  Any given week I will listen to music from every era of recorded history, from early voice cylinders to 1920s and 30s rebetika to late 50s electronica or French chanson to early 80s goth and maybe some Charalambides today.   I don’t feel restricted by genre since any particular performer’s skill can trump musical limitations, and the best performers will often feel absented from genre and from time.  Brigitte Fontaine’s Comme à la Radio sounds magically fresh no matter how often I listen to it, and Sun Ra’s Jazz in Silhouette would confound most any jazz expert as to what era it was recorded in.  And of course the best artists become definitions in their own right, whether it’s Johnny Cash talkin’ up murder at Folsom Prison, Fela Anikulapo Kuti’s cultural showdown at Kalakuta Republic, or Lee “Scratch” Perry burning down of his Ark.

I am thinking a lot about the state of music these days, though I think for me the heart of the matter began with the bankruptcy of Tower Records.  Somehow when they closed shop in the States I was very emotional about it, even though I was never a good customer by any stretch.  Their prices were always awful, so that wasn’t the draw.  For me, their selection was what amazed me, the remarkable depth they maintained across every genre and sub-genre that only specialized stores would usually provide.  And growing up just outside NYC did have its advantages.  I would often go to Other Music, Kim’s Underground and Downtown Music Gallery whenever actually purchasing something, or better yet save my cookie money for the WFMU record fair (which, if you have never been, it is your duty as a music lover to make the pilgrimage at least once in your life; you have NO IDEA what embarrasing levels of wonderment and enchantment await you). 

Tower Records though represented something, a true love of music mapped out over a corporate behemoth.  Visiting Sam Greedy and Coconuts and Virgin and FYE and especially any music store incorporated into a larger media conglomerate like Media Play or Target or (shudder) Wal-Mart can be so depressing for music lovers.  How can they have every album Poison and Marilyn Manson and Styx ever put out but not a single album by Françoise Hardy, Caetano Veloso or even just Tom Waits?  Oh, they do have the Stay Awake collection of Disney tunes, isn’t Tom Waits on that?  (You can tell I’m dating myself here…Waits has been stocked ever since that grammy for Bone Machine, but it was valid back in the day, trust me)

By the middle of the nineties stray albums did begin to show up by artists other than heavy airplay stadium draws, due to less restrictive ordering policies that let employees get in on it, but no genuine representation on the scale Tower offered.  Browsing Tower’s racks, and being able to listen to songs at listening stations from a more encompassing universe of music, was revelatory for me.  (Not to mention that magazine selection!  A bounty of contemporary world art and design for the eyes of collage artist on a budget.)

Numerous laments have been written to Tower’s fall, and many have decried the rise of the Internet or file sharing as main offenders.  My feeling is that that view doesn’t consider it the right way, for ultimately it was more their greedy pricing and their operational stubbornness. 

Tower certainly had a large consumer base with mucho emotional investment in the chain.  We just couldn’t afford it, not at $18.99 and up for a single CD; it’s so much easier to buy Nirvana Unplugged at Coconuts for $10, if that’s what you’re after, and just forget about finding any early Siouxsie albums since Coconuts simply didn’t stock them.  Some local store probably has a used vinyl copy anyhow, or at least the 45s…

Vinyl Stack webbed — creative commons

Tower held desperately to boutique pricing rather than going for volume, and they diversified their promotions in the wrong direction.  Business wisdom said, before widespread use of the Internet, and when so many record labels were buying air time, that it is too difficult to educate people about other types of music, just sell blockbusters.  Tower had survived the eighties, and knew that people weren’t so limited in taste as advertised.  But they didn’t embrace new opportunities for branding or advertising afforded by the Internet at all, and they started to cut back on their diversity of offerings. 

Part of what inspired this post is the upcoming Smashing Pumpkins album.  Apart from the nowadays banal irony of big business promoting an album whose cover artwork is trendily anti-American (showing Lady Liberty afloat in a blood-red sea) is the banal use of exclusive editions to promote the CD.  No fewer than 4 versions are being released, three of which are exclusive to their respective retailers with unique bonus tracks.  I cannot imagine that this model of marketing can survive, not today.

Japan has been doing this type of promotion since the beginning of CD sales.  For the Japanese industry however it has to do with the cost of domestically produced items vs. imports.  A CD imported from the States or from China is much less expensive to the consumer than Japanese CDs, so they would write into musicians’ contracts that they had to supply a bonus track for Japan’s market.  The Smashing Pumpkins imbroglio is quite different, and speaks of desperation, not of support or, more importantly, respect for any fan base out there. 

Consider this great quote from idolator.com, from an article from May of this year: “Here’s another way to weather the storm, and while we’ve said this before, it bears repeating: Everyone in the industry has to get used to making less money. That goes from the execs at the top all the way down to the EAs at Rolling Stone. You can’t live like it’s 1985 anymore, with those Rumours and Thriller accounting statements coming over the Telex, and with the only competition for young kids’ dollars being the Pac-Man machine down the street. If everyone could get used to this concept, maybe there’d be less panicking about lower physical-CD sales and piracy, and more emphasis on A&R and talent.”

Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, will be releasing his new book both in print and for free online.  The catch is that the free on will feature advertising, probably from Google’s AdSense program, but really little different from standard pages of a magazine in layout.  What will this mean for libraries and personal collections?  Will a subsequent iteration of del.icio.us become the go-to resource of library bibliographies?  (Check out the blog Print is Dead for timely discussions of these topics; you may hear more from Robotic Librarian about the blog in weeks to come)

And, if rumours are true, Tower will be back in America.  The online component never left, and it still thrives as a franchise in Japan.  It’s in Mexico as well, owned by the billionaire Carlos Slim Helú (who has been in the news a lot lately; having passed Warren Buffett already, and hot on the heels of Bill Gates, he may soon be the richest man in the world!).  Have they been paying attention to Web 2.0 successes, and new models for bricks and mortars? 

But then, is it about delivery of content or about form ….?

Uploaded to Flickr on May 17, 2007 by filologanoga, creative commons

"I was in danger of verbalizing my
moral impulses out of existence.
--Daniel Berrigan, on trial in Baltimore
 

1. My neighbor, a scientist and art-collector, telephones me in a state of violent emotion. He tells me that my son and his, aged eleven and twelve, have on the last day of school burned a mathematics textbook in the backyard. He has forbidden my son to come to his house for a week, and has forbidden his own son to leave the house during that time. “The burning of a book,” he says, “arouses terrible sensations in me, memories of Hitler; there are few things that upset me so much as the idea of burning a book.”

Back there: the library, walled
with green Britannicas
Looking again
in Durer’s Complete Works
for MELANCOLIA, the baffled woman

the crocodiles in Herodotus
the Book of the Dead
the Trial of Jeanne d’Arc, so blue
I think, It is her color

and they take the book away
because I dream of her too often
love and fear in a house
knowledge of the oppressor
I know it hurts to burn ”

(from The Burning of Paper Instead of Children by Adrienne Rich, click for full poem)