Books All Georgians Should Read

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Archive for September, 2012

Reading the Candidates

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

Candidates for political office are always being asked questions. Most of them appropriately have to to with points of domestic or foreign policy. But then there are invariably — and occasionally inappropriately — the off-beat questions. Remember Bill Clinton boxers-or-briefs? Or more recently, Mitt Romney’s preferred bedroom attire (the less the better)? Candidates are also sometimes asked to talk about their favorite reading material, and their replies can be famously hilarious (think Sarah Palin, or perhaps former GOP Chairman Michael Steele, who though not actually a candidate at the time nonetheless earned a place in literary infamy by confusing Dickens with Victor Hugo).

Sometimes the answers have spawned bestsellers. When President Kennedy talked about his enjoyment from reading Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels, those books jumped off bookshelves all over the country and even helped spur what soon became the ultra-successful Bond film industry. Clinton was said to be a prolific reader of mystery novels and the occasional foreign policy tome.

In searching around for what our current candidates are reading, I have had mixed success. Couldn’t find anything for Joe Biden; make of that whatever you will. Paul Ryan clearly is enamored of the novels of Ayn Rand. And President Obama, among other titles, apparently has read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels, which presumably provide some escapism from White House crises. Republican challenger Romney said several years ago his favorite book was the sci-fi novel “Battlefield Earth” by the late Ron Hubbard, who interestingly was the founder of scientology.

So what can we deduce from those disparate and possibly bizarre choices? Your guess is unquestionably as good if not better than mine. And feel free to opine. I don’t think I’d want to venture too far out on what is intended as a non-partisan blog. So, anyone up for constructing a universe of political candidates based on the characters in the Harry Potter books?

And finally, here’s another category for you to consider: what books do you wish the candidates would read and perhaps profit from? And please, could we all agree not to vote for Machiavelli’s “The Prince?”

Reading Electronically

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

So I did this sort of weird thing the other day. I picked up this printed thing, held it in my hands, opened it and began reading words off the page. The printed page. Wow, I thought. This must be a book.

Yep, it turns out publishers are still printing books in spite of an electronic world that clearly moved beyond the print media eons ago. In fact, last year, they printed over 250,000 books, and amazingly, Stuart Woods and Joyce Carol Oates didn’t write all of them. Truly, we live in a remarkable age.

The thought about printed books arises with some recent news about the electronic version. Specifically, the American Booksellers Association, the trade organization for most of the independent bookstores in this country, has signed an agreement with Kobo of Canada to sell its e-readers and e-books in ABA-connected stores. That Kobo is the same e-reader that Borders was selling before it declared bankruptcy and gave up the book business last year. I never heard too much good about Kobo because it seemed a bit awkward to use compared to Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle, but it’s a whole new world these days, so maybe things are looking up for Kobo.

That would certainly be a good thing for independent booksellers, who have been looking up at Amazon for a long time when it comes to selling e-books. And Kobo has desperately needed a new American market since the demise of Borders. Maybe a good marriage? The challenge for booksellers and for Kobo, of course, will be to find enough customers who want the product.

The iPad’s virtues are well known, and the Kindle dominates the e-book market. Amazon, in fact, just introduced a new Kindle Fire to challenge the iPad (good luck there) and some new cheaper, improved e-readers that will likely have a big impact on the market beginning next month. And then there’s the Nook, the e-reader sold by Barnes and Noble, the biggest bookstore standing. B&N has been hustling those Nooks for a while now and their sales apparently have leveled off a bit in recent months. So you have to wonder will there be a place for the new Kobo?

Count me among those who have no clue. The digital era moves too quickly for me to risk forecasts, but it is quite clear that Apple and Amazon are very formidable companies and will be doing everything possible to stay at the top of their respective heaps. So, I’m left to wish good luck to friends at the independent bookstores and to hope that this deal struck by the ABA will pay some dividends. The book business is a tricky place to test your business acumen thee days.