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Another death in the family

Bumper stickers are as dead as Latin.
And now comes another doomsayer to suggest that they will be joined on the trash heap of forgotten means of communication -- ALARM! -- the telephone call.
Timothy Noah, writing in the Sept. 18 issue of Slate, says it's past time to write the obituary for the phone call after all these scores of years being awakened in the middle of the night by a jailed child, for example, or sitting by the black object on your coffee table to hear about the arrival of your newest grandbaby.
Texting is the new way to message. "Message" is now a verb, by the way.
I do not and will not lament the passing of the phone call.
My hearing is not what it once was, and talking on the telephone is neither fun nor informative for me these days.
When I outgrew those long phone conversations of my teen-age years, I never liked communicating by phone very much, even though I was a reporter for quite some time and the phone was our tool of choice. After I became an editor I counseled by reporters not to use the phone so much, to get out and do face-to-face interviews. They hated doing that, for the most part. I can't imagine they now sit in their offices and text interviews, but I can sure see them doing a lot of interviews via email.
Oh well.
We seem to live in a world wherein real human contact is to be increasingly avoided.
Have a comment?
Don't call.

An abandoned form of speech

Political candidates may use bumper sticker slogans more now than ever, but they don't get them off bumper stickers anymore.
At least around this part of Texas, no cars have bumper stickers.
Oh, once in awhile you'll see a sticker that says "Keep Austin Weird" or "Keep Wimberley Weirder," but those are also fading away -- literally.
Four years ago, I saw only a few bumper stickers for the major party candidates, and my wife and I even had one on our only car.
Today? I see none, and I have none.
I suspect other folks are like me: They fear having their cars keyed or otherwise smashed because of what they might have on their bumper.
It's just that nasty out there, isn't it?
Too bad it's come to this.
(That sounds like a pretty good bumper sticker in and of itself, right?)

A new textbook fee

Many college profs do worry about how much it is costing students to take their classes.
They know that college costs have risen dramatically and that state aid has been reduced substantially in recent years. And they know that students have had to borrow unprecedented amounts of money to pay for their higher educations.
Some seem to know that a key factor in rising costs is related to textbook costs, so some of them are using open-source books to save students money. Some are not requiring texts at all, although that's pretty hard to do in some disciplines.
So what are enterprising text/materials publishers to do in the face of this revenue stream decline?
Well, rest assured they don't plan to lose money.
Come now "access fees."
Students have to pay these fees to access texts and related materials that professors require -- on the internet.
The New York Times reported Sunday that about a third of courses in a recent survey required students to buy these codes at a cost of about $100 each.
The publishers may think this is enterprising. I call it exploitation. Professors should be in the corner of their students, not in the pockets of the publishers.

On the other hand ...

The high cost of textbooks is one thing. The new publisher ripoff called purchase access codes is another.
On the other hand altogether, there's the OpenStax online publication effort by Rice University.
Rice just released a report showing that 1.5 million college students have used a free text from OpenStax at a total savings of more than $70 million.
That's just involving 25 books, all of which are designed for introductory courses.
Yeah, but that's a huge start, isn't it?

A troubling trend line

Statistical reports are filtering in about book sales from the first quarter and the first half of the year.
Since many reporters are only semi-literate when it comes to numbers, some of these reports are confusing.
The New York Times had a piece over the weekend that tends to clarify the data. E-book sales are off for the quarter, when compared to the same quarter in 2015, for example. Audiobook sales are up. Books of hardbacks are relatively flat, and profits are down a little bit.
The Times article actually manages to paint a little brighter picture than the situation merits.
Down at the bottom of the story is the real headline.
It says:
"Some studies show that leisure reading of literature is in decline in the United States. A survey released in August by the National Endowment for the Arts found that in 2015, only 43 percent of American adults had read “a work of literature” for pleasure in the previous year. In a similar study in 1982, 57 percent of adults surveyed said they had read a literary work for pleasure in the previous year."
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