Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Quotes, Amazon in the Belly of the Beast, and Rosie Dunne

 Great quote that I totally agree with: "The biggest elephant--or myth--in the room is that bookstores are less relevant today. The opposite is true. As we engage in vast swaths of our
lives virtually, the face-to-face conversation becomes more necessary
and more valued. Bookstores fit perfectly into the community that
locavorism is seeking to preserve or reestablish." Jenny Milchman, author

My husband worked at Amazon as a contractor, and what this young man has to say pretty much jives with what he told me and what I saw when I came in to visit. I have to say that getting all the free books you can carry in a bag was a huge perk for me, though.

Burning the Page: Book Views from an Ex-Amazonian

The New York Times has a striking q&a with Jason Merkoski
a former Amazon employee who led the team that built the first Kindle
and author of Burning the Page: The Ebook Revolution and the Future of
Reading (Sourcebooks), which for now is available only as an e-book.

Among his comments:
On Amazon, Apple and Google: "As far as social responsibility goes, let
me just say this: These companies have entire buildings filled with
lawyers. They aren't there to come up with new lawyer jokes. They are
there, in part, to keep people like me from even answering this
question. That said, I think if people were given a chance to spend a
day looking inside Amazon or Apple's veil of secrecy, most of them would
be fascinated--although some might boycott."

On censorship: "If push came to shove, I think most of these execs would
rather pull e-books from the store, effectively censoring them, if that
would avoid bad press. These are major retailers, not your quirky corner
bookstores. They're manned by former management consultants in clean
shirts and pressed Dockers, not eccentric book-lovers with beards and

On personal privacy issues: "I do trust them with my identity. These
companies are obsessed with safeguarding privacy. The worst they're
going to do is show me more ads."

On discoverability: "When it comes to book recommendations, [online]
retailers have the literary sensibilities of a spreadsheet--they'll just
recommend the most popular books to me, or books that other people also
bought, but they know nothing of the soul and sparkle of a great book. I
hope this changes over time."

On the advantages of e-books: "Reading is great, but I don't know
whether you need paper and ink for it. You're going to get so much more
from e-books because they bring your friends and family into the margins
of your reading experience. They will be literally on the same page with

On the future of books: "In 20 years, the space of one generation, print
books will be as rare as vinyl LPs. You'll still be able to find them in
artsy hipster stores, but that's about it. So the great advantage of
e-books is also their curse; e-books will be the only game in town if
you want to read a book. It's sobering, and a bit sad. That said,
e-books can do what print books can't. They'll allow you to fit an
entire library into the space of one book. They'll allow you to search
for anything in an instant, save your thoughts forever, share them with
the world, and connect with other readers right there, inside the book.
The book of the future will live and breathe."

On the value of printed books: "I found a book at my grandmother's house
that was inscribed by my great-grandfather. I learned what his original
last name was--before he changed it. That was an interesting link to my
past. We're going to lose that sort of trace of ourselves if we go all

On his Amazon experience: "Working at Amazon was like getting an M.B.A.
and a Ph.D. at the same time. It was an incredible education. These were
the smartest people I ever worked with. But Amazon had a dark side as
well, as if it were the mean stepmother in a fairy tale. There was this
push to get great products out to consumers. It makes a lot of teams
very haggard. Amazon is held together by adrenaline, spreadsheets and
people running around like crazy."

"The codex, which is the ancestor of the book, was invented 2,500 years ago,
and ever since then the book business has been in incredible flux, and
it's not going to change. But one thing that's also not going to change
is people love to go to bookstores, and people still have tremendous
loyalty for the physical book. And our task and our challenge is to give
the people of Concord the best bookstore that we can possibly put up."

--Michael Herrmann, owner of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., in a
video interview http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz16592929 with the Concord Patch giving a tour of the new store http://www.shelf-awareness.com/ct/uz3642037Biz16592930, which is
under construction.

 I just finished a great book, "Rosie Dunne" by Cecelia Ahern, daughter of the former Prime Minister of Ireland. I've read a couple of Ahern's other novels, and I've enjoyed them, but I have to say I found Rosie Dunne to be spectacularly fun, interesting and un-put-downable.
The book revolves around the life of the title character, Rosie Dunne, who lives in Dublin with her family and has a best friend in Alex Stewart.  The book begins when Rosie and Alex meet in kindergarten and soon discover that they're both rebellious and rather wild young people who like passing notes about their teacher, "Miss Big Nose Smelly Breath Casey." The novel follows them right through their grade school and teen years into adulthood and middle age.
The main reason that Rosie D is so readable is that the story is told through notes, emails, instant messages and letters from Rosie to Alex and her family members. Is there anything more delicious than the thrill of voyeurism that one gets while reading someone else's private letters, emails or notes? I don't think so! Of course, disaster strikes Rosie fairly regularly, and Alex has his share of heartache, too, but Rosie's hilarious take on everything that happens to her makes it seem as if even the most horrible events are survivable and that she learns and grows from them, as a person. By the time the HEA rolls around, the reader feels as if they know and adore Rosie and Alex, and they're so realistic that you may find yourself wanting to fly to Ireland just to hang out with Rosie at a pub and get "pissed." I'd recommend this book to fans of comedic romantic fiction, and I'd give it a solid A.

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