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November 04, 2005


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"Go legit"? I wasn't aware that I engage in morally, much less legally, dubious conduct when I browse in Borders (or any other bookstore). Setting aside shrink-wrapped books, I find your description of ordinary browsing quite troublesome, since it seems to buy into the idea that copyright owners ought to be able to control that activity even in the physical world. The fact that most books aren't shrink-wrapped suggests that even the private benefit of unconstrained browsing to copyright owners outweighs the private cost, and, even if it didn't, that would hardly make browsing "illegitimate." You also might want to look for a bookstore that treats its customers a little bit better, if yours hires clerks who try to make customers uncomfortable.

Randy Picker

Oh gosh, I was just having fun with the description. Many years ago, there used to be a book store in Hyde Park that did shrink wrap the books (Staver's was the name if I recall correctly). The woman who ran it claimed that she didn't mind if you took the wrap off as she would rewrap, but I am sure I bought very few books there.

Tom Mandel

Ah, but Staver's - located on 57th street, right where the Seminary Co-op is now - was a *wonderful* bookstore. It was no trouble to remove the shrink wrap, rather thrilling in fact. You recall the store as run by a 'woman', but I'm older than you and remember both halves of the elderly couple who in deep devotion to their stock, to the point of fetish I suppose, wrapped each volume. In a population itself devoted to books, it was a fetish many shared, and I think decrepitude did them in rather than those who like you 'bought very few books there.'


Hello. This post is in response to the comments mentioning Staver Booksellers. As it's been nearly a year since the original comments were made, I am uncertain as to if this comment will be seen. But just in case....

I am in the beginning stages of developing a web site on the history of the store. Any information, experiences, or memories you may have of the store would be very much welcomed. My contact information is located on the site at: http://www.staverbooksellers.com.


Law Student

You made many thought provoking and interesting observations. I agree that Amazon is on the right track with its new technology.

When considering these new delivery formats, I tend to prefer increased availability of free material, requiring people to pay for convenience rather than mere access. That is, everyone should have access, but people should be able to pay for convenience. Access may be in the form of reading a book at the library (in paper or computer format). Access may also be in the form of free access at home after a certain period of time---say, 20 years (like patents). Convenience may include online search functionality for a book you just purchased.

However, the notion that people should pay for online access seems to take a step backwards in light of the information age, where more information is available to more people, allowing society to benefit from the information, and using new revenue models (ads, for example) to reward content creators.

The current copyright period of life plus 70 years is laughable. It is out of touch with the constitutional purpose of copyright (advancing the arts and sciences) and it is the opposite of the free exchange of information that has propelled productivity since the dawn of the information age.

In summary, thank you for your thought provoking post. I hope this new technology is used to increase access and convenience for all rather than merely provide another way to make money by charging for access.

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