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July 24, 2011

Sunday Book Thread

Book megastore Borders closed up shop this week. It didn't break my heart -- Borders stores (which included the old Waldenbooks chain) were rarely a pleasure to shop in. Their stock was limited; their employees were usually surly, disconnected, and had little knowledge of the books they sold; and their stores were often cluttered and grubby. Even many professional writers, who have cause to mourn the death of the corner bookstore, don't seem to be all that put out by Borders' demise.

I've been an Amazon customer for years, but when I do buy books locally, I go to either a used-books place I know (for rare or hard-to-find stuff) or to Barnes and Noble. B&N has its issues, but it's still a fairly pleasant book-buying experience. My main beef with B&N is that their in-store stock often seems very shallow -- I'm used to having a vast catalog of books available to me via Amazon, and my reading tastes have become fairly eclectic over the years. Also, their markup on books (plus tax) often means I have to pay up to 20% more than I would for the same book from Amazon. (And paying $80 per year for Prime means I get all my books shipped for no extra cost.)

So, yeah -- I feel bad for the thousands of employees who are getting laid off (which is going to put an extra hurt on the economy), but Borders fell prey to market forces. This "creative destruction" is a necessary part of the economy, however painful it might be in the short term.

Speaking of Amazon, I got the books I mentioned last week in the mail -- Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India by Lawrence James and The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan by Yasmin Khan. I'll start reading them shortly, but first I have to finish Alan Guth's The Inflationary Universe. If you're into cosmology, in particular the history and development of the Big Bang theory, this book is required reading. Guth is a lively and entertaining writer (considering his main job is that of a physicist) and he keeps the equations to a minimum in his book. I wouldn't call it an easy book to read, but it's definitely approachable by non-specialist readers with an interest in science.

What's everyone else reading?

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posted by Monty at 09:21 AM

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