Saturday, August 22, 2009

(Probably not) the last word on Amazon and The Kindle

So our Kindle smackdown is a thing of the past. When I browse through the comments, I see that some people thought we were being unfair. And sure, there is an argument to be made there. If Amazon wanted to respond, they could make a video of someone carrying a box of books onto a plane, and compare it with a happy traveler pulling a slim Kindle out of their carry-on. But then we could respond (production budget allowing) with that reader having to turn off his book during takeoff and landing or, even worse, realizing that he's left his Kindle in the seat pocket in front of him.

We referenced the Nicholson Baker New Yorker piece a few times. If you read it, at the end he ends up reading a book on his iphone, and finds it a much more pleasurable experience. So his article is specifically critical of the Kindle, not of e-books in general, and I think that's where we fall.

I'm starting to think of Amazon as basically a criminal enterprise. It is the natural course of capitalism for companies to expand, to be predatory, to want to crush the competition. It's what makes capitalism work, until a company gets too big, and it becomes counterproductive. A recent example being Microsoft getting taken down for trying to be the world's only personal computing software maker. And now Amazon is following that model.

Amazon already claims to be "earth's biggest bookstore," but it seems they aim to be earth's only bookstore. Two examples:

1) When they decided they would go into the e-reader business, Amazon made their e-reader proprietary. The only reason to do this is so that owners of the device are forced to buy their product from one source. If Amazon were to be successful in driving all of their competitors out of business, then for all practical purposes one would have to buy a Kindle to read an e-book. Personally I feel pretty certain the Kindle is doomed, for the basic reason that the iphone (and its competitors) do the same job and oh so much more for significantly less money. But Amazon's intent seems obvious: to control the market.

2) In the last few months, Amazon has dumped their affiliates in North Carolina and Hawaii, hurting a lot of small businesses. The reason? To raise the ire of people like this, and to intimidate larger states like California and New York into dropping their sales tax parity efforts. Amazon makes a lot of money from their affiliates, and I'm guessing there is no way they would dump all of the affiliates in a state like California, but they're willing to hurt a bunch of tiny little businesses in North Carolina to make their point. Sounds like it's time for a RICO investigation.

Friday, August 21, 2009

It's like he's read my mind

So, I just finished a great little book called Mishima's Sword by Christopher Ross. In addition to being a fascinating history of Japanese swordmaking, a gripping account of the life (and death) of Yukio Mishima, a whirlwind travelogue through modern Japan (complete with weird food and Yakuza) in search of the missing blade that completed Mishima's chaotic and controversial act of seppuku, Ross also hits the nail on the head when it comes to the book browsing experience.

As one who has spent decades haunting used book stores, I may feel their loss more than most. Just a handful of years ago, there were probably 20 used book stores dotting the little burgs between San Francisco and Santa Rosa - today there may be 2 or 3. Sure, you can find all the used books you will ever need on-line, but where's the fun - or danger - in that? I could say more, but let's let Christopher Ross take it from here. From Mishima's Sword:

"For a bookworm a second-hand or antiquarian book fair is an exciting event. . . The space was crammed with shelves and tables groaning with tomes and the rooms thronged with browsers. I rolled up my sleeves and set out to seek for treasure - for that, I am sure, is the motivation of the true bookworm.

After only a short while I began to feel at odds with what I was doing. I dislike browsing whenever anyone else is trying to look at the same shelf. I can scan a large bookshelf very accurately in seconds and become impatient if someone is taking too long in a slot I wish to occupy. I do not like standing too close to a stranger (martial arts training focuses on maintaining a safe distance at all times, a practice known as ma-ai) and become indignant if anyone indicates that they resent the way I am behaving, perhaps by trying to block my browsing or in some other way behaving proprietorially towards the books we are both looking at. It is a very mild form of intolerance, even of violence. I sometimes fantasise doing something very nasty to an innocuous bibliophile who is, mercifully, unaware of my growing sense of browser rage."
Anyone else remember feeling that way?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I have yet to see the film, Julie & Julia, but I suspect it might have the same effect on me as it seems to have on others: the yearn to cook.

Realistically, for one (ME) who's willingness to follow step-by-step, intricate recipes is not likely, the thought of trudging through French culinary cookbooks is horrifying. I measure by eye-balling, not in teaspoons. And eggs sometimes look too slimy, so why not leave out a few?

However, for those of you who are much braver and more meticulous than I, we have a signed copy for $500.00 of both volumes I and II of Julia Child's, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

The volumes delve into much detail and technique of traditional French cuisine, providing a most complete cookbook. Full of delectable recipes and tips, I'm quite certain that this signed set would be the icing on the cake for a meal conjured up from the book itself. Interested? Give the store a call at 415-387-2272 or stop by (506 Clement Street at 6th Avenue) to see the book for yourself!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Beyond the Meat, the Parsley

I never really bothered to read forewords or afterwords as a kid. Never really took too much interest in the life of an author aside from their name, and even then it was just to be sure to know who to follow and who to avoid. The meat of the title was the fiction beyond the roman numeric pages to me. I have of course long since grown out of this mindset, but the idea to research authors who I knew nothing about as I read them as a child (or had them read to me) did not occur to me until just the other day as I placed my new young adult staff pick, Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth up on to its shelf. Now I had no idea that-

-Norton Juster was a professor of architecture and environmental design for twenty-two years (& waaaaaay before being green became a fad).

-the book's illustrator, Jules Feiffer, was Juster's neighbor in Brooklyn.

-this awesome stuffed likeness of Tock the Watchdog exists somewhere:

-this creepy image (that I don't even want to post here) based on a scene from the book totally happened for real at some point, and that someone has some serious explaining to do for scarring me while I was merely trying to look for illustrations pulled from one of my favorite childhood reads.

And to top it all, I didn't even know that Norton Juster had written another book called The Dot and the Line! Furthermore I had no clue that animation virtuoso Chuck Jones had turned that same book in to an animated short!

To tell the truth I feel a little sorry for the squiggle...

Still, it was a pleasure for me at least to unearth all these new tidbits concerning an old favorite. Give it a shot yourself maybe.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dave Eggers Signing in the Store on Tuesday!

That's right Green Apple fans, Eggers will be signing his new book Zeitoun in the store on Tuesday the 18th of August.

(That's this Tuesday for those who didn't realize that August is already half over.)

He will only be here from 12pm-1pm, so if you can't make it during the day give us a call & pre-order your very own signed copy...more if you want them. Only $24.00 + tax for your very own signed Eggers book.

If you want to know more about the Egger's book Pete wrote about it at the beginning of July:

Hurry, you have little time left.