A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘popular literature

[BRIEF NOTE] On the likely establishment of a chain of physical Amazon stores

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A brief Gizmodo piece yesterday alerted me to the possibility of Amazon establishing a chain of physical bookstores across the United States. There have since been denials from Amazon, but these have been partial and unconvincing. Already, as Bloomberg notes, Barnes & Noble stock has collapsed at news of this new competition.

Barnes & Noble Inc. shares plunged following speculation that Amazon.com Inc. will open hundreds of physical bookstores, potentially thrusting the companies’ longtime rivalry into America’s shopping malls.

The stock fell 9.4 percent to $7.33 in New York on Wednesday, following a 5.4 percent decline the previous day. The rout followed remarks from a mall executive, who said Amazon was planning to open 300 to 400 stores. He later said that his comments weren’t mean to represent Amazon’s actual intentions.

For years, Amazon’s e-commerce empire has put pressure on Barnes & Noble with low prices and convenient shipping. But Barnes & Noble always had one edge: its chain of brick-and-mortar stores. If Amazon does push into shopping centers, the battle will have to be fought on two fronts. And Barnes & Noble is already reeling from sluggish sales and slow adoption of its Nook e-reader.

Marginal Revolution has more, linking to more articles and speculating.

What is the underlying business plan? To make these iconic locations like Apple stores? To treat all future business, in all sectors, as depending on the focality of the company behind it? To start with books, move on to other items, and eventually steal middle-class and upper-middle class consumers away from Walmart? Somehow use these stores to lock people in Amazon Prime? [. . .] Is this overconfident folly, or is it the “for good” return of brick and mortar bookstores to our lives?

This has potentially huge consequences, and not only for bookselling as Marginal Revolution suggests.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 3, 2016 at 5:31 pm

[ISL] “Deirdre Kessler named P.E.I.’s 6th poet laureate”

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Yay! CBC reports on a much-deserved honour for writer Deirdre Kessler.

Deirdre Kessler has been named P.E.I.’s sixth poet laureate.

Kessler has written two dozen books for children and adults. She also teaches creative writing, children’s literature and a course on Lucy Maud Montgomery with the English department at the University of Prince Edward Island.

The poet laureate’s role is to create awareness of the important role that poetry plays in the literary life of the province and to serve as a cultural ambassador.

“My first response to being asked to be poet laureate was to feel completely daunted. The former poets laureate have set the bar high. My second responses were to be honoured and delighted,” said Kessler in a news release issued by the province Thursday.

Kessler plans to gather the surviving retired poets laureate — Diane Hicks Morrow, Hugh MacDonald, David Helwig and John Smith — for an afternoon public reading of their poems. (Frank Ledwell, who died in 2008, served in the role from 2004 to 2007.)

Written by Randy McDonald

January 29, 2016 at 3:32 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] On the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster

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Today, as I’ve been reminded for this week, marks the 30th anniversary of the Challenger disaster in 1986.

I do not remember where I was when the explosion occurred. I was only six, at at school in a country uninvolved in the launch of the Challenger. I learned of the disaster and its causes at a somewhat more mature age, perhaps in the context of the scandal erupting when it turned out the space shuttle was launched prematurely in very adverse weather conditions for no good reasons.

Is it because of Challenger that my generation learned not to indulge in the dreams of regular and inexpensive space travel, in the Challenger as a functioning space bus? Did Challenger underline the extent to which bureaucracies invested in the public’s trust are willing to compromise basic elements of safety in order to look good? Maybe. Richard Feynman’s famous O-Ring demonstration remains as damning of the actions of everyone involved as ever.

I would have to say that, when I think of the Challenger disaster now, I think of it less as a specific proof or disproof of anything, and more as a background element of disaster. Reading Carole Maso‘s The Art Lover, where the protagonist sees the explosion live on television even as she learns that her best friend is hospitalized with AIDS, that televised scene of disaster was an effective punctum. Much more recently, as I noted in January 2014, the use of a vocal sample from that broadcast in Beyonce’s “XO” was effective in underlining the potential for catastrophe that can lie underneath everything, ready to bring us to ruin if we do not take care.

[LINK] “Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing”

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Public Radio International hosts an article noting that people read online and printed materials differently. E-books and books are not perfectly interchangeable after all.

Manoush Zomorodi, managing editor and host of WNYC’s New Tech City, recalls a conversation with the Washington Post’s Mike Rosenwald, who’s researched the effects of reading on a screen. “He found, like I did, that when he sat down to read a book his brain was jumping around on the page. He was skimming and he couldn’t just settle down. He was treating a book like he was treating his Twitter feed,” she says.

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page.

“They call it a ‘bi-literate’ brain,” Zoromodi says. “The problem is that many of us have adapted to reading online just too well. And if you don’t use the deep reading part of your brain, you lose the deep reading part of your brain.”

So what’s deep reading? It’s the concentrated kind we do when we want to “immerse ourselves in a novel or read a mortgage document,” Zoromodi says. And that uses the kind of long-established linear reading you don’t typically do on a computer. “Dense text that we really want to understand requires deep reading, and on the internet we don’t do that.”

Written by Randy McDonald

January 28, 2016 at 5:11 pm

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the earliest mentions of Proxima Centauri in science fiction.
  • D-Brief notes that early oceans could moderate chemical reactions that could lead to life.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that most super-Earths around red dwarfs may not be close enough to burn off their excess hydrogen/helium envelopes.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at the continuing Russian war in Syria.
  • Geocurrents notes, using the Philippines as an example, that sea can unite language communities more readily than otherwise.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer is wondering why Bloomberg would run for president.
  • Torontoist enlists Steve Munro to see if John Tory’s new mass transit plan would work for Scarborough.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Melissa Click, an American university professor who called–on video!–for some muscle to chase away student journalists from a protest, has been charged with assault.
  • The Financial Times‘ The World notes that Russia’s economic troubles are, indirectly, promoting radical Islam in Central Asian countries dépendent on migrant workers.

[MUSIC] Five more David Bowie links

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  • At Vice‘s Noisey, Craig Jenkins interprets Blackstar as Bowie’s goodbye to his fans.
  • Vice‘s Motherboard, meanwhile, features Brian Merchant’s interpretation of Bowie’s life and death as a work of science fiction, and notes Ziggy Stardust as a creation of science fiction.
  • The New York Public Library lists Bowie’s top 100 books.
  • Pitchfork makes the case for Bowie as a music video giant, with many examples.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 22, 2016 at 10:29 pm

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO notes that Québec chain Simons will be opening up stories in Toronto and Mississauga in the coming years.
  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly notes that The Devil Wears Prada actually offers good advice to job-seekers.
  • Centauri Dreams notes a search program for planets at Proxima Centauri and considers Proxima’s linkage to the Alpha Centauri A-B binary.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes distant gas giant HD 106906b.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that acceptance of gays is at an all-time high.
  • The Map Room Blog links to an exhibition of colonial cartography of Algeria and points to an essay on critical cartography.
  • Marginal Revolution notes high levels of female mortality in the US South.
  • Savage Minds considers the question of how to exhibit physical artifacts in an era of 3-D printing.
  • John Scalzi’s Whatever and Charlie Stross’ Antipope mourn the death of science fiction editor David Hartwell.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Russia’s growing difficulties wth Chechen dictator Kadyrov, observes that most Tajiks recruited for ISIS are recruited as workers in Russia, suggests the annexation of Crimea helped bolster Russia’s ethnic Russian and Slavic populations, and notes hostility in Chuvashia towards Russian language policy in education.

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