There's something magical about opening a new book. Last night I experienced that thrill as I finished reading The Long March and opened Kenichi Ohmae's The Next Global Stage. A quick visit to my office, bedroom, bathroom, or living room (anywhere I stack my books) will reveal that I am not yet prepared to sell my entire soul to the e-age. I doubt I will ever order an e-book. For me, it's got to be hardcover or softcover (in that particular order).
But having said this, I occasionally find it wearying to hold open my hardcover hour after hour as I consume its contents. That's why I was interested in a short article The Asian Wall Street Journal ran last week about little numbers that help us hold open our books at the beach, on the bed, or over the bath. For example, the first of the lot is the easy read. The folks at easy read describe the gadget as "revolutionary". It's a strange looking do-dad, but for US$22 it's worth a try. Warning: it is weighty.
Next up is the BookGem. At first site this appears little more than a traditional bookstand like the kind a mom uses to hold the cookbook while trying a new recipe. I have one of those called the Book Chair. Reminiscent of a beach chair this little fella holds my books while I type away on my Mac. But the difference between this and the BookGem is size (the BookGem is significantly smaller) and you can easily fold the Gem and carry it on the plane or off to a day at the library or beach. It's US$15. Warning: it aint pretty. Looks like something from Dad's toolbox.
If these two don't meet your needs, you can try the Gimble (extra credit for a cool name). It looks like a hanger in the shape of a heart and holds open your novel, non-fiction, or textbook while you free your hands to gulp down a glass of milk. For an extra US$9 you can order the Reader Cushion, which reminds me of a floating device toddlers wear in the pool. (Yes, you literally blow it up.) I'm not ever one for reading in the pool or bath (what if the pages get wet - horrors!), but you may like to chance it. If so, the Gimble (US$9) and it's floating friend may be for you. Warning: the whole thing looks a little flimsy to me, kind of like something I could have made in my apartment. I bet you can come close for free.
Fourth, the Wall Street article pointed me to the PageStay. If you can tell a dog to "stay" I guess you can say the same thing to a book. This helps. Here's how they market this innovation: "PAGESTAY is a British invention that's simple yet brilliant in its concept. Handcrafted from high quality, leather with a sturdy weight at each end, you simply place PAGESTAY on your book and it stays open at the page you need." US$15. Warning: a clear, thin paperweight (which you may already own) does just as good.
And finally, the cutest and smallest of the lot is the Thumbthing. You get the picture. US$4 for this invention and it is extremely helpful if, like me, you value keeping your books in pristine condition. For those serial book killers, like my beloved wife, who first thing break the binding on the bestseller or bend the cover in every direction imaginable the Thumbthing is probably of no use, but for those hoping to build a respectable library some day, this is a neat idea. Warning: your thumb might find this irritating.
All this talk about books has me yearning to get to mine before light's out. Happy reading!
Thumbing through the periodicals at the newsstands these days leads readers to believe poverty is becoming very popular. The news that Warren Buffett, the famous investor and Sage of Omaho, will give away 85% of his $44 billion and that most of that will go the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation seemed to shake the business world and highlight the rare move of two wealthy families working closely together to do good in the world.
Speaking of the Gates’, Bill dons the cover of this week’s Economist Magazine holding an African child under the telling headline: Billanthropy. Shifting his job responsibilities at that little, rarely referenced company he ran and giving more time to his foundation, Bill has quickly become the face of philanthropy not only in the United States, but also throughout the world.
As Bill, Melinda, and their buddy Warren signal the increasing popularity of poverty it occurred to me how important it is to not let these extravagant headlines draw our attention away from the small acts of courage the human race makes everyday in fighting poverty. And one important question we need to be asking is what are the innovations that have been made, are being made, or will be made to come alongside the poor and offer them a season of opportunity and hope? The pennilessness that most of the world endures will require creative solutions well beyond the millions, even billions, Bill and Buffett commit.
To this end I was encouraged by the initiatives taken in several U.S. cities recently that will give access to the Internet for families that are truly needy. In the digital age it is virtually impossible for a young person to be properly educated without access to the Web and yet how can low or no-income families afford to be wired? They can’t. Not unless more political leaders make decisions, like one made in Baltimore recently. An assistant to the mayor of Baltimore announced plans for an “inclusive Wi-Fi plan” that will mean, “new residential development in Baltimore must be built with the infrastructure for high-speed Internet access,” according to cnet News.com.
But Wi-Fi without a computer is useless. That is why “The city has also partnered with a bank to set up loans for families in public housing so they can afford inexpensive PCs. The interest from the loans is funneled back to the bank to fund other families' computers.” Now we’re talking! Wiring for the poor makes use of one innovation to create another and that ultimately blesses families in their efforts to be properly educated for the present and the future.