Getting hundreds of emails a day can be seen as a pain in the "you know what," but sometimes, if I have the time to really look them over, they can be seen as a fountain of interest.
In recent weeks, there have been some interesting things emailed to me.
I recently received an email with a write-up on how farmers are answering extreme weather conditions and challenges, which are becoming more and more common. Bottomline on this one, according to Claire O’Connor, who writes for the Natural Resources Defense Council, is that we must set carbon pollution limits for future power plants, because increased concentrations of heat-trapping carbon pollution in our atmosphere is the reason our climate is changing.
Another recent email, from Rebecca Lee of Lutheran Services in Iowa, encourages us to remember that May is National Foster Care Month. Lee thanked the many Iowans, and those in Story County, who serve as foster parents, and encouraged all of us to rethink what it means to make a difference in kids’ lives by providing a home to the more than 6,000 teens and children currently in Iowa’s foster care system.
The subject line that caught my eye more than any other in my inbox was this: "OpEd: Barnes & Noble Closings." Upon opening the email, I found a column, written by Michael Levin, a New York Times best-selling author and "Shark Tank" contestant, titled, "Barnes & Noble: Gone By New Year’s."
Most of the book stores I have loved are gone, and while there is no Barnes & Noble in the local area (I think I’ve seen one in Des Moines), I started to read the column because frankly, I don’t want book stores to be gone.
Here’s a little of what Levin has to say: "It’s bad news for people who love books. It’s worse news for the next generation of readers, who may never experience buying a book in a bookstore."
Levin outlines the bleak financial picture of Barnes & Noble, and then gives us five reasons why shopping for books is changing: 1) Amazon; 2) Deep discounts by non-traditional outlets, like supermarkets; 3) Nook’s inability to compete with Kindle; 4) The antiquated model of printing books on spec, putting them on trucks and crossing your fingers that they’ll sell and 5) Book buyers want customer service. "At Barnes & Noble these days, the only way to find a sales clerk is to attempt to shoplift," he writes.
At the end of his column, Levin talks about what the end of bookstores means to us as people – it represents the "death of browsing; and serendipity – the sweet surprise of happening upon an unexpected book – an experience that can only happen in a bookstore."
Levin says there’s no substitute for wandering the aisles of a bookstore. I agree.
I miss the days where a trip to the mall always took me into the bookstore to browse. I also miss the days of going to the movie video rental place to browse. Sure, we can find all the information we want about these things online, but it really isn’t the same. My life has been filled with the enjoyment of browsing books, and probably buying a few I didn’t intend to buy.
The Internet has come with many advantages, but it has also come with some disadvantages in that it is truly changing our way of life. I noticed recently an online campaign for kids, called "Look Up," encouraging kids to look up from their cell phones awhile and engage with others in the world. Slowly, our children are changing what normal "interaction with others" is. Instead of talking to people, they are messaging people or photo-swapping with people as their main way of communicating. It’s a huge societal change that the great World Wide Web has caused.
I don’t know what all these changes mean for the world. Will some of these things ultimately lead to more positives; or sadly, more negatives? I don’t know if any of us has the answer. But one thing that is pretty certain, as Levin points out, if you get a Barnes & Noble gift card this year for Christmas, don’t hold onto it very long. He writes, "Once Black Friday gives way to the 12th day of Christmas, a once-proud book chain may well have reached its final chapter."
(Marlys Barker is editor of the Nevada Journal, Tri-County Times and North Polk Sun.)