Bookman’s Alley

Borges would approve. Stack upon stack of used books. A labyrinth tucked inside an alley. You enter and see a Tiffany lamp cast shadows on the dark wooden stacks. An older gentleman peers over his book.  Ancient maps, esoteric histories, musty Persian rugs and philosophical tracts. A vintage chair invites you to sit.

Those are the fragments of my recollection of Bookman’s Alley bookstore in Evanston, Illinois.

During my Northwestern days, I would occasionally stroll into to that singular bookstore.  One day, I walked in and picked up a copy of History of the Yale Law School: The Tercentenary Lectures  Little did I know that this obscure book (as randomly obtained as can be obtained by any stochastic process) would re-shape my entire outlook on the law as a subject rich in realism and experience.

I was sad to learn that Bookman’s Alley, as reported by Chicago Today, is scheduled to close in July.

Google’s Book Democracy?

A reader sent me this New York Times  article that explains Google’s book project, which recently had to settle copyright infringement lawsuits filed by authors. With the new Google service we will all have greater access to information, a lot of which is under copyright. However, the full service appears to be limited to subscribers. The loophole is that public libraries will have a terminal that allows visitors to access the database for free.

If you come across any interesting intellectual property controversies, please send them my way.

The value of news

New York Times Op-ed piece recently commented on how newspapers should consider switching to an endowment model supported by philanthropy vs. the current attempt to operate and survive as for profit enterprises.

I particularly like the Thomas Jefferson quote,  “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right. And were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter.”

I got wind of this article by a a blog discussion written by Dan Gillmor at the Center for Citizen Media. Dan’s post criticizes the overall logic of preserving the current model, with all of its flaws, through the endowded non-profit model. Praise is given, however, to the article’s effort to suggest new models to sustain journalism, a vital endeavor in any free and progressive society.

The deeper question, may not be about which model works best, in either a for profit, or non-profit model. It might instead concern how we consume and value factually accurate and relevant information. My sense is that future generations seem less interested in objective truth and information. As a society, we should all be very concerned.