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Some book-related news I’ve come across since last week’s update:

barnes-and-noble-logoBARNES & NOBLE ISN’T DOING SO HOT: Probably not exactly the news of the century, and frankly, it’s not a huge surprise. We all know that Borders’ collapse gave its competitors Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million some breathing room, but that’s probably not enough in the long-term. Stores that sell consumable media — like Best Buy and B&N — as well as brick-and-mortar stores that sell stuff that’s available cheaper online aren’t doing so hot these days. Apparently B&N’s Christmas sales weren’t great and its Nook business is slowly being overtaken by a combination of Kindles and iPads. Dedicated eReaders, I’ve read, are slowly but surely being squeezed out by various kinds of tablets. I only have a Kindle 3 myself, enjoy it very much, and have no plans to purchase a tablet PC any time soon, but I’m apparently in the minority. We’ll see where this goes, but expect a round of B&N store closures by next spring at the latest if this year’s sales continue their decline. Of course, all this begs the question: where exactly do people go to browse for books and discover new ones if they can’t examine store shelves full of them? This is a problem that Amazon has not yet figured out how to solve.

HydrogenSonata_ 615INTERVIEWS WITH IAIN M. BANKS: If you enjoy space opera and/or transhumanist SF, then you really should give Iain M. Banks’ Culture series a try. It’s been a long-time favorite of mine, though it does require some careful thought, as these aren’t what I typically think of as ‘easy” reads. Imagine a kind of post-scarcity interplanetary utopian society run by a coalition of extremely powerful artificial intelligences and you’ll picture something close to the eponymous Culture (that quick description glosses over all the most fun elements of the setting, but it’s a start. Last year, Banks came out with a new Culture novel, THE HYDROGEN SONATA, and has been interviewed about that novel, his views on utopia, technology, and many other issues. Here is one very recent interview with Banks, and here’s a second from last November that I just happened upon.

Buffy-and-Giles-buffy-and-giles-5883760-343-40020 HEROIC (FICTIONAL) LIBRARIANS: It’s probably no surprise that I love libraries almost as much as I love books. I’ve spent a good chunk of my life in various libraries, after all, and I regularly consult with librarians for my academic research. But as much as I like real-life librarians, I love the fictional heroic, super-heroic, and magical kind of librarian even more. Here’s a great list with illustrations and descriptions of twenty fictional badass librarians.