Planning some weekend reading?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Jay Parini writes on the Books Blog for The Guardian the ten poems he thinks have been most influential in US literature. For example, about “One Art” by Elizabeth Bishop, he writes, “It's a poem about losses, small and big, and it's stunning in the way its power accumulates, stanza by stanza. This is a poem to memorise and repeat in the wee hours of the night.” He also links to the full text of each poem and to information about each author. This column is a poetry appreciation lesson in a gift box.

After you finish considering these ten poems, you might ponder ten books you’ve read and enjoyed. The website Goodreads, a free social networking site for readers, will soon implement a new algorithm that generates specific recommendations for further reading once users have rated ten books. In comparison, Amazon provides personal recommendations, but they are based on all purchases. So Amazon's recommendations will be skewed if the purchases were, say, required class reading, or a gift for someone with different interests.

If you are wondering where you’d like to purchase your next book, Amazon is in the news this morning for its prompt decision to discontinue financial relationships with Illinois affiliates, in order to avoid collecting Illinois sales tax. Affiliates are businesses or bloggers who have been making money by posting links to Amazon products in exchange for a percentage of all linked sales. Sounds like advertising, right? But yesterday Governor Quinn signed legislation that stated these affiliates are not advertisers but business nexuses, meaning that if Amazon pays them, then Amazon is operating a business in illinois and therefore must collect tax on online sales from customers here.

Amazon’s brick-and-mortar competitors benefit from this legislation, since they already must collect taxes. Several other states are considering similar laws. It’s interesting to watch how the battle of the retail giants continues to advance: Cyberspace versus parking lots. I hope to be following the news from a corner chair at my local independent bookstore.