…and Team East is taking up the challenge:

While some people are slowly walking home through the neon-lit streets, or getting ready to hit the club scene, others are on their way to a more unusual nocturnal hangout — a bookstore.

The Eslite store in central Taipei opens 24 hours and has more night owl visitors than most Western bookstores could dream of during their daytime hours.

Here, young and old sit side-by-side on small steps or around reading tables, deeply engrossed in literary worlds.

Others stand and some sit on the floor, all reading in hushed silence as soft classical music seeps out from the speakers.

The mix of literature and design has made the store a hangout for hipsters as well as bookworms, allowing the company to shrug off the challenges of the digital age.

“It is our belief that the more digital the society (becomes), the more we treasure the warmth of the interconnection,” (company spokesman Timothy) Wang says.

- from “Nightclubs for literature? Why book selling is booming in Taiwan” via CNN World

taiwan book storeCustomers at Eslite’s bookstore on Dunhua Road, Taipei read books
in the early hours.
The store is open 24 hours a day.

It has its issues and according to the article, books are only part of the mix – but they do account for about 40% of total sales. Something I’ve been saying about bookstores in the US – that in order for brick-and-mortar stores to survive, they have to expand the definition of a book “store”. That doesn’t mean you abandon the reader in favor of commodity – but you do add to the atmosphere and the draw and provide a more human(e) connected experience.

It’s a struggle.

But I do hope this makes you feel a bit better today…

Onward into the week!


From designer Duncan Shotton – putting it on my list and checking it twice:

When we find something that’s important, inspiring, or just worth noting, it’s useful to flag the page for quick reference later.

The concept design for these sticky page markers came from thinking about what these flags could become not just as charming things on their own, but as a collection.

Use these paper post-its to bookmark pages containing important or lovely quotes, photos and sections of books, catalogs and documents, and create a miniature landscape as you go!

sticky page markers
Above is the New York pack that includes the Chrysler Building, the statue of liberty, the Empire State (including King Kong at the top), yellow cabs, tower blocks and apartments

There are 10 different packs that contain 20 sheets of each of the markers within it. The markers are made from paper and use a gentle adhesive that won’t damage pages.

sticky marker

Go visit Duncan Shotton’s Kickstarter Page – choose from designs such as Tokyo (includes Godzilla), London, Hong Kong, and landscapes like Polar, Desert, and Ocean (including icebergs).

Beats using torn magazine corners, expired coupons, or at the risk of The Brunette’s wrath, a pen or pencil from the nightstand.

He also makes these incredibly unique Rainbow Pencils…maybe the shavings could be potential markers…go see…

Daniel Mendelsohnn of the NYT Book Review gives us another reason to visit Paris (aside from some wine, a crusty thick slice of pain de campagne from Poilâne’s, and maybe a few hours outside at a local cafe…):

The fact is that a unique glamour, a cachet for which no other country has an equivalent, has attached to intellectual activity in France for nearly a millennium — from the 12th century, when the city’s newly founded university began attracting fervently opinionated scholars, into the 20th, when the City of Light drew its famous literary expatriates: Gertrude Stein and James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway and Samuel Beckett.

Whatever the cultural reasons, books in France are indeed an “essential good” — the designation coined by the French government that served to justify the very concrete steps it has taken over the years to protect its precious literary culture. The most prominent of these are laws outlawing the advantages (deep discounting combined with free shipping) that big chains and Amazon enjoy over independent booksellers in the United States and other countries. These help explain a phenomenon that inevitably strikes American visitors to France today: As even big chains such as Borders and Barnes & Noble have faltered here, every block in central Paris seems to sprout at least two small, intelligently stocked bookshops.

- excerpted from Should the United States Declare Books an ‘Essential Good’?, NYT Book Review, November 11, 2014

abbey bookshopThe Abbey Bookshop
29 Rue de la Parcheminerie, 75005 Paris
“Beautiful books piled haphazardly to the ceiling, warm lighting, jazz music playing in the background..”

But I do prefer the Louis Armstrong version over Edith Piaf…

It’s been five weeks now since I left the competitive highways of suburbia for the commuting and walking strategies of NYC. It was a transformation and somewhat of a walk back for me – the building where I work now is around the corner from where I started a career in publishing as well as meeting The Brunette, she in the well pressed world of editorial and me in the rough and tumble alleyways of book production. A match of opposites in a continuing adventure.

The old neighborhood is familiar although it’s filled more with glass and chrome than I remember. Most of the stores, including the narrow luncheonette I used, are gone and replaced. I seem to remember a Woolworth’s across the street now taken over by a chain store with more carefully arranged aisles and lines rather than the chaos of clothing bins and crowds. That popcorn smell that came thru the doors was gone but the humid steam is still coming up from the sidewalk corner vent.

The Helmsley Hotel is still there although its been sold and its name now shortened to The Palace. I remember when it was being constructed, watching them build up and around an elegant brownstone with the circular courtyard just across from St. Patrick’s. It would still come into play years later when, as a salesman, it was my go-to destination for the wooden telephone booths where I could sit, spread my notes out, and talk with my clients on the massive pay phone.

This morning I realized that for the past few weeks, I’ve picked the same seat on the train that I had taken when I first began my commute 25 years ago. I used to sit across from a paper salesman I knew in my hometown who always kept his day’s orders on a single sheet of paper folded in his shirt pocket. As old as he was he was still a street kid with a pair of beefy hands that could handle any problem. He would say things to people just to see the lights go on in their eyes but the smarter ones didn’t tangle with him. Yet he always watched over me like an older brother occasionally showing up at my house with cuttings from his garden for me to plant in the front of the small house we just bought.

But sitting across from me now was a young girl who was methodically putting on eye makeup, pulling all manner of tools and brushes out of her handbag and using them with careful precision as the train bumped and rocked along the tracks. I felt a bit self conscious staring at her so instead watched her reflection in the window which seemed more neutral territory. I felt far too old to engage her in a conversation so instead admired her fashion and technique obliquely while suburban wood frames with grassy yards passed behind her.

Up from the subway, I moved along the avenue across from the Waldorf which always seems to be elegantly dressed for business. With my head up I walked with one hand in my jacket pocket and the other carrying a soft case with my lunch and some old calculators and rulers inside. Oddly, I suddenly thought of my father, walking easy down the block, a day-old newspaper tucked under his arm, his workman’s cap tilted slight back on his head, one hand in his pocket and in the other carrying a small cloth bag.

Who says you can’t go home again…

salignacAn experimental exposure made on the Queensboro Bridge
on February 9, 1910

photo by Eugene de Salignac
New York City Municipal Archives

…and I’m living in the corporate commuter world…will return to shore soon…

washing appJumpstart
by Robb Armstrong

The past two weeks have been a  bit complex – doing a lot of data manipulation on some proprietary and public software and getting used to the life of a commuter once again. It’s a long day – 8 hours in front of a screen and another 4 on trains. Which leaves my circuitry a bit fried at the end of the day. Alan Dugan, a poet who was giving me some guidance back in the day, once told me if I really want to write, then I should get a  job as a cashier in a supermarket so I would have some energy at the end of the day to put pen to paper. I’m beginning to understand the wisdom of those words.

But, so you know I’m not completely slacking off, I put together an article for my LinkedIn account. I do have several lives…

Here’s a reprint in case you haven’t been drawn into the professional version of Facebook:


Human(e) Resources

Gutenberg_Printing_Press2Back in the day, the desktops we sat at were worn wooden platforms you shared with previous generations that had left their marks with carved initials and ink stains.

Today, the newest digital versions of desktops don’t offer those lasting opportunities—instead they update and erase at dizzying speed as we move to faster, more convenient, and more compact versions. It seems that the definition of “capabilities” is something we apply more often to software than we do to people.

In a phone conversation last week with a peer about print producers in the industry, we spoke of the skills that, no matter how valuable they once were, are no longer needed, and how quickly we can age out of our careers. Where once, for instance, we had to work with outside vendors like compositors and separation houses, now all can be done in-house using templates, filters, and actions and in a fraction of the time.

But as much as designers still need composition and layout skills, there are still some things that can’t be chosen using drop-down menus and software.

Author and marketer Seth Godin touched on that point recently in his blog, writing about the need to personalize what we do, especially at a time when “the web now makes just about every task outsourceable with a click.” He gets into the details, adding that “clients will notice when you do it…they notice your presence, or they notice the unique nature of what you create… Because the work matters to you…”

But how exactly do you communicate those qualities, especially to those looking to hire you? That problem was brought home to me recently when I was suddenly thrust out into the marketplace. Now I had to confront and redo a resume that I hadn’t edited for nearly two decades. Using all literary and creative qualities I had both as a production manager and salesman, I came up with several versions that I also took comments on from close friends and peers. Had to be the hardest job I’ve ever tackled (Alan Watts once called the task of defining yourself as “trying to bite your own teeth”).

Then, after final editing and submitting to search firms and web sites with the reader in mind, I found out that most companies used filtering software to pick up on keywords and phrases to screen potential candidates. If you didn’t have those keywords, you were parsed into oblivion and left without a possible chance at an actual conversation.

But what about the qualities that you gain over the years that have nothing to do with the schools you attended or the titles you attained?

One potential employer, in a recent LinkedIn article, “What Kind of Soft Skills [Are] Required to Be a Great Project Manager?”, listed qualities such as enthusiasm, honesty, listening skills, and even a sense of humor. But are these things that can be measured by a robotic process? Data is what fits into templates—not people.

Résumés, for instance, are just snapshots and should be treated as such. We seek “engagement’’ —but how do we find it, or even nurture it, if it’s not part of the process? If you want someone to give you what you want, then certainly hire from the text version. But if you want someone, either employee or vendor, who will truly provide you those soft skills you need, and will fit into your own culture as well as your company’s, then you also need to spend some time using your own personal listening skills.

There just isn’t an app for that.


explorers- from A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit

I started a new job this week. In a sense it’s an exploration since it’s a new position calling on some old skills but using them differently. To use a metaphor it would be flying from the US to England, renting a car, and even though you know how to drive, finding the steering wheel over on the right and needing to drive on the left side of the road.

It’s a bit of a step to the side that opens different doors. If there’s one thing I’ve never backed away from its been an open door. Curiosity has always driven me – not acquisition. Which is more likely the reason I’m in my current financial position. Certainly a depressed economy, thin budgets, and cheaper resources have added to the stress. So the forces applied had to be answered by packing my duffel and boarding a ship to any land that would have me.

It’s been several months wandering since I’ve been on some solid land. Unpacking my tools is not the issue – its finding what’s needed and fitting it all into a new culture. What was useful before may not work in this country. But just being back on even unfamiliar shores is something to be thankful for.

Last night a friend, a highly creative professional who’s struggling in this new landscape along with me and many others, gave me some advice:  “What I found challenging is putting aside what you already know to learn new stuff because your head is looking for reference to build on especially when there is pressure to get on board quickly. When I finally got it–it was much easier than I thought.”

Never hurts to have a few friends along for the trip. And maybe a desk lamp and a few photos from home…

dobuzhinskyNew York Rooftops
Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, 1943
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, UK

…if only it could be this easy…

by Tom Wilson and Tom Wilson, Jr.

kerouacKerouac quote is from The Dharma Bums…released the year after On The Road…both tucked away here on the shelves inside and at home…

[h/t to Design Crush for the image…]


From Rebecca Solnit’s A Field Guide to Getting Lost:

Read more about the book here at Brain Pickings

© Bill Israel

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