Here's a neat kitchen gadget — a toaster that "prints out" toast. It allows you to feed multiple slices at once from the feeder at top, and spits out finished products from the bottom. It's a concept by Othmar Muehlebach, and it won second place at a design contest in Switzerland last month.
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Clay Shirky's essay on the past and future of bookselling is provocative. I think he really nails something with his taxonomy of the reasons that people worry about bookstores, but I'm not sure I buy his conclusion -- that bookselling might be best served on an NPR/nonprofit model.
In my experience, people make this argument for one of three reasons.
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This first is that some people simply dislike change. For this group, the conviction that the world is getting worse merely attaches to whatever seems to be changing. These people will be complaining about kids today and their baggy pants and their online bookstores 'til the day they die.
A second group genuinely believes it's still the 1990s somewhere. They imagine that the only outlets for books between Midtown and the Mission are Wal-Mart and Barnes and Noble, that few people in Nebraska have ever heard of Amazon, that countless avid readers have money for books but don't own a computer. This group believes, in other words, that book buying is a widespread activity while internet access is for elites, the opposite of the actual case.
A third group, though, is making the 'access to literature' argument without much real commitment to its truth or falsehood, because they aren't actually worried about access to literature, they are worried about bookstores in and of themselves. This is a form of Burkean conservatism, in which the value built up over centuries in the existence of bookstores should be preserved, even though their previous function as the principal link between writers and readers is being displaced.