Monday, September 19, 2011

Goodbye, Borders: Expansions in Digital Reading

Earlier this week, I ran into two interesting articles. The first, featured on CBCNews, dealt with a possible expansion of Amazon's current online book services to include Netflix-style book rentals for annual fees. The second was an NPR article detailing several reasons the Borders chain failed (as a bookstore fanatic, I'm still coming to terms with this).

Here are the links for both:

I found these articles thought-provoking because they both relate to the growth and development of the ereader industry, a topic that I often reflect on as a student, reader, and aspiring writer. There's a part of me that saw the collapse of my favorite bookstore and irrationally labeled digital reading as an evil trend that would eventually conquer books for good, forcing me to stare at bright, tiny screens for the rest of my life and never find joy in reading again. The other part of me, though, feels the strain of carrying my textbooks around campus and recognizes the practicality of ereaders.

I've seen avid readers swear that they would never pick up a Nook or a Kindle, only to find themselves fiddling with ereaders in bookstores or falling in love with one that they receive as a gift. In reading-intensive seminar courses, you're likely to see an equal division between digital media (laptops, ereaders, even smart phones) and physical textbooks.

This is the inevitable progression of the literary world; books, after all, couldn't remain immune to technological advancement forever. The ereader industry is a fascinating thing to follow. Libraries around the world are integrating online systems for ebooks, and an entire niche of the publishing world has opened up, offering writers the chance to publish work electronically that traditional publishing houses might have rejected.

I'm interested to hear what Honors students think about the subject. Are you a die-hard fan of digital reading? Do you think ereaders the downfall of literature? Feel free to share an opinion.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Wisconsin Police Union Announces Solidarity

This is so amazing to me. People with conscience standing up for what's right and making a difference. This just shows me that we all really can do something big if we listen to our own selves.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Watching the Middle East

A lot of attention has been put on the Middle East recently with the many protests occurring throughout the region. The resignation of President Mubarak in Egypt has been greeted with enthusiastic expectations of democracy in Egypt, and the spreading of democratic sentiments to nearby nations. The expectation should be hedged, however, with the understanding that the Middle East has a long road ahead, for better or worse.

Political scientists have long identified transitions from authoritarian rule to democracy to be one of the most dangerous situations for a country to find itself in. Consider, for instance, the many different groups within the country that are used to a high degree of power. In Egypt the military now has control of the country, and while they have stated that they will soon hold elections, we should understand that military regimes rarely, if ever, hand over power once they have gained it. Even if they do, creating democracy is a very arduous process that frequently requires outside monitoring by international parties. Libya faces an even worse situation, with a dictator who has demonstrated clearly his intentions to stay in power as long as he can. Should the protests continue there is little doubt that Libya will descend into civil war.

These are all very pressing concerns for America, given our national interests in the Middle East. Iraq, still unstable from recent years of turmoil is in a very delicate situation that could easily be upset should the violence spread. My final thought is that we should approach this situation cautiously, understanding that even if true democracy is finally arriving in the Middle East, it's still a long ways from over.