Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Independently-owned bookstores are going out of business because 11 years ago, some French guy got a job that required him to move.

OK, that's obviously ridiculous. However, it wouldn't be ridiculous to say that I've stopped supporting such stores because that guy got that job, even though I never met him. Even that isn't clear and certain, but it's not ridiculous either. Between high school and college I spent a year in France as an exchange student. Normally the program I was with would assign each student to three host families, but I'm told that the family scheduled to be my third had to back out on relatively short notice due to moving for a new job, or something like that. They didn't have a backup family willing to host me for the full three months remaining, so I lived with three different families during that time.

My time in France was a great experience overall and I got lucky living with nice, welcoming families each time, but I would not suggest moving seven times in one year. (My parents moved while I was away so I came home to a new house, and of course I started college not too long after I got back.) So I have the sense that moving is more annoying to me than to most people and/or than it "should" be. Likewise, I think I'm a bit reluctant to accumulate possessions, in case of the next move. Books, for example. My parents got me an e-book reader for Christmas 2009 with my input. I'm a geeky, tech-friendly guy in general, but for me easily the biggest selling point for it is that it takes up less space than physical books.

Going shopping last weekend got me thinking of this again, but I've been thinking about it off and on since some time around March or so, when I went to a bookstore with some friends where Sarah Vowell was on tour to promote her new book. When asked what she thought of e-books, she said she was ambivalent: she knows they're convenient from personal experience, but she sees them as bad for authors like her and bookstores she likes. She argued that her quirky, idiosyncratic style is best suited to physical bookstores, especially small, independent bookstores, where people can browse and jump around and there's just one shelf between completely different sections, but e-book readers make bookstores obsolete and the hardest hit are the ones that can't manage economies of scale. She had an anecdote about some guy who went to a bookstore regularly and asked the owner's advice about what new books he'd like, until one day when the customer bought an e-book reader. He still showed up and asked the owner for advice, but then he went home to download the recommended books instead of buying them from that store.

Well, it's not like I was shopping from a small, independent bookstore right I got my e-book reader, but still. That bookstore where I saw Sarah Vowell speak, Politics & Prose, was such a place, and it was really nice. Just while browsing around there I discovered one author I definitely liked - I've already devoured half a dozen books of his - and another I think I'll like. If I had discovered that place before I got my e-book reader I might be making treks out there monthly or even more often. But as it is, going all the way out there for books is far more inconvenient than downloading them.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Yesterday was busy. It was a lazy Sunday afternoon, but not relaxing or unproductive.

I spent some time sorting Magic cards, or trying to. I keep on thinking of cards I'm sure I own but can't find. If it were more valuable cards going missing I'd suspect theft, but as often as not it's simply rare-but-useless or common-but-old cards I can't find, so I think either they're in some pile of cards I haven't sorted or I absent-mindedly traded them away or my memory is playing tricks on me about owning them in the first place.

Anyways, after that I went to the mall to run some errands, for both myself and T. First I went to the bookstore, browsed a bit, and thought about getting A Dance With Dragons. The question is, get it in hardcover or as an e-book? More on this later (it actually is an interesting issue, I think), but yesterday I decided not to get it in hardcover. I'll probably get it as an e-book, but maybe not until I've refreshed my memory of the series. On the other hand, I did get Kitty's Big Trouble at the bookstore yesterday, a book in another series I read.

After that I went to the mall, sat down at a diner-style place in the food court, and got a milkshake. I spilled it before I had even drank a sip. Butterfingers. The server was kind enough to get me another one. Then I took T.'s two watches to a jewelry repair store in the mall, to replace the battery of one and get another one fixed; the watch had stopped and the crystal had broken when she fell down a couple weeks ago. There were three potential repair places to choose from. I went to the first place with a free attendant to talk to. Then I texted back and forth with T. a few times and the bill turned out to be about $50 more than she expected. Probably my fault for not shopping around. But I don't mind paying for them at least partially anyway; she has enough to worry about these days. In the meantime I ran a few more errands off my shopping list and took care of everything I could get in the area. On the way home, though, there was a problem on the metro. To summarize, the train stopped and turned around a few stations before mine without the usual warning, adding at least another 20 minutes to my trip home. Back in my neighborhood I got wine, another item on my list, but selection wasn't that great. Finally, I went to the drugstore and got the electric toothbrush my dentist had recommended last week. Another expensive purchase.

Despite all the setbacks - missing cards, spilling the shake, overpaying for the watches, running back and forth for shopping, getting stuck on the train - I was in a good mood most of the day, but the hassle at the wine store was the last straw for a while. Also, T. pointed out that I still have the receipt and haven't opened the electric toothbrush yet, so I can shop around for another of those more cheaply, retroactively. Still, it was a longer, more tiring day than expected.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Google+. Should I join it?

This seems to sum it up pretty well, except for the fact that it's not nearly so easy for me to decide. A couple friends already have joined it. One has even said on Facebook that he plans to close his Facebook account and anyone who wants to stay in contact with him should switch to Google+. On the other hand, another friend points out that all the annoying things about Facebook are very likely to appear in Google+ eventually as consequences of the general online networking thing.

I don't use Facebook much, and I don't particularly want to. I check it at least a couple times a day to see if I've got any messages from several friends who do use it a lot, and while I'm flipping through it everyone has their usual status updates and stuff. I'll follow links or or forward them comment on pictures posted by my sister or whatever. In addition, it falls to me to arrange some gatherings with friends, one of whom uses Facebook more than e-mail. However, other than that, I don't use it much at all. I'm pretty sure I haven't friended someone unprovoked since I was in college, I don't play any games or apps, I have no photo albums except for other peoples' that I'm tagged in, and I believe I have updated my status or profile roughly once a month for the past year or more.

So I wouldn't lose much by switching to Google+, but then again, I wouldn't gain much either. It's not that I want to do all that stuff and I refuse because I don't like Facebook's privacy policy. I don't do all that stuff because I don't want to. I'm not too gregarious a person. I don't take many pictures worth sharing. I don't feel the need to share my random thoughts with the world. Well, obviously I do, but blogs allow me to be far more wordy than the "status update" tool on Facebook.

Given what I use Facebook for, I'd do just as well on Google+. Maybe a tiny bit better if I can consolidate profile information and stuff between my blog profile and that. I couldn't get rid of my Facebook account unless a whole lot of people switch over, though.

I suppose I'm overthinking this. It's a common problem. I can always create a Google+ account and then just use it as much or as little as I feel like. The burden in time, risk, etc. of just one more profile and set of passwords (or, like I said if it can be shared with blogging, maybe not even that) is negligible.