Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

A NEW-ISH WORLD

WE ARE THANKFULLY, tentatively, and carefully feeling our way through this world pandemic. Winston Churchill’s comment of August 1942 World War II is most appropriate: “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Paul Krugman offers insights in “The Pandemic and the Future City,” The New York Times, March 15, 2021. About life once the pandemic subsides, he writes,  “Of course, nobody really knows. But maybe our speculation can be informed by some historical parallels and models.” Here are selected tidbits gleaned from Krugman’s article.

Paul Robin Krugman, Albany, New York-born 1953, American economist, Distinguished Professor at City University of New York Graduate Center, winner of the 2008 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, Opinion columnist at The New York Times since 2000.

How We Choose to Read. Krugman notes, “A decade ago many observers believed that both physical books and the bookstores that sold them were on the verge of extinction. And some of what they predicted came to pass: e-readers took a significant share of the market, and major bookstore chains took a significant financial hit.”

“But,” Krugman cites with linked examples, “e-books’ popularity plateaued around the middle of the last decade, never coming close to overtaking physical books. And while big chains have suffered, independent bookstores have actually been flourishing.”

SimanaitisSays has reflected this indie bookstore trend with its use of IndieBound, a website identifying book details, together with local independent sources for those who include zip codes with their literary queries. By the way, the three means of SimanaitisSays linking, IndieBound, Amazon, and AbeBooks (a secondhand specialist), have “associate” status, earning modest spiffs whenever a link results in a purchase. (I report a tidy $30 or so annually as “hobby income.”)

Why Was the Reading Revolution So Limited? Krugman has an opinion about e- versus traditional books, with which I agree: “The experience of reading a physical book is different and, for many, more enjoyable than reading e-ink. And browsing a bookstore is also a different experience from purchasing online.” 

Krugman says he can find any book online that he’s looking for. “But,” he observes, “what I find in a bookstore, especially a well-curated independent store, are books I wasn’t looking for but end up treasuring.”

The Work Analogy. Krugman predicts, “The remote work revolution will probably play out similarly, but on a much vaster scale.”

He observes, “The advantages of remote work—either from home or, possibly, in small offices located far from dense urban areas—are obvious. Both living and work spaces are much cheaper; commutes are short or nonexistent; you no longer need to deal with the expense and discomfort of formal business wear, at least from the waist down.”

Image by Bruno Barbey/Magnum Photos from The New York Times, March 15, 2021.

Krugman says, “The advantages of going back to in-person work will, by contrast, be relatively subtle—the payoffs from face-to-face communication, the serendipity that can come from unscheduled interactions, the amenities of urban life.”

“So,” Krugman predicts, “the best bet is that life and work in, say, 2023 will look a lot like life and work in 2019, but a bit less so.”

There’s an analogy here: Remote work is the e-book; the office offers serendipity of a real book bought at a real bookstore. And, though Krugman doesn’t mention it, there’s the office birthday parties too. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2021

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