Kindling Literature #1: Ease of Use and Customer Service

[amazon-product]B002Y27P3M[/amazon-product]Purchased a Kindle just before New Year’s, and have been impressed with it from the start – except for one problem.

Since I rarely travel, and seldom even spend extended periods away from home, I figgered the WiFi version would be good enough for my purposes, and it has been. For sheer pleasure of reading, I still much prefer the look and feel of paper, but being able, near-instantly, to download both the English and German versions of a classic text, and have them thereafter at hand, at no cost or close to it, sets more than mere fetishism of technology, or frugality, or impatience against the good old best ways of doing things. For popular and especially new books I’ll quite likely spend a lot more money this year than last, but I expect to spend a lot less time driving to the library and back, I won’t have to turn return dates into deadlines for writing reviews, and I won’t anywhere near as often find myself reading the book that happened to be available rather than the book I wanted.

There are other conveniences offered as well as questions raised by the Kindling of literature, especially of classic literature, that might be worth going into at some later point, but my main reason for posting on the subject now, actually, related to the problem I mentioned:  not to note it, but rather to offer a testimonial regarding Amazon Customer Service. On Kindle, anyway, it may be the best I’ve ever encountered.

Unfortunately, at the point where I was about halfway through the first book I ordered for the device, a dark spot, call it wart-size, showed up on the screen. It was near the edge, in the margin, so didn’t interfere with reading, but it’s always there. Rather than plan to live with the dark wart through however many thousands and thousands of pages of Kindling, I decided I had to ask to have the device replaced.

Couldn’t have been easier. Went to the Kindle “Help” page, picked the “defective” and then “call me” options. Was speaking with a polite CS rep within a minute who already had all relevant information on the order at this fingertips.  We spent another minute or so verifying that the problem was mechanical, and I then learned that Amazon ships replacement Kindles immediately:  The fellow said I’d be getting the new one in one day – and I have 30 days to return the old one, using a pre-paid shipping label delivered via the Web.  I had been girding my literary loins for at least a few days:  Reading addict that I am, I had first verified before calling that a book on actual paper I also recently ordered would hold my attention for whatever extended period.  ‘Twasn’t necessary at all.

Obviously, Amazon isn’t doing things this way simply out of the goodness of its corporate heart, but it still counts as a best practice, and it deserves, I think, to be noted and praised.  If you’re thinking about giving Kindle a try, you can at least feel confident that Amazon knows its best interests lie in minimizing customer headaches.

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Writing since ancient times, blogging, e-commercing, and site installing-designing-maintaining since 2001; WordPress theme and plugin configuring and developing since 2004 or so; a lifelong freelancer, not associated nor to be associated with any company, publication, party, university, church, or other institution. 

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Noted & Quoted

TV pundits and op-ed writers of every major newspaper epitomize how the Democratic establishment has already reached a consensus: the 2020 nominee must be a centrist, a Joe Biden, Cory Booker or Kamala Harris–type, preferably. They say that Joe Biden should "run because [his] populist image fits the Democrats’ most successful political strategy of the past generation" (David Leonhardt, New York Times), and though Biden "would be far from an ideal president," he "looks most like the person who could beat Trump" (David Ignatius, Washington Post). Likewise, the same elite pundit class is working overtime to torpedo left-Democratic candidates like Sanders.

For someone who was not acquainted with Piketty's paper, the argument for a centrist Democrat might sound compelling. If the country has tilted to the right, should we elect a candidate closer to the middle than the fringe? If the electorate resembles a left-to-right line, and each voter has a bracketed range of acceptability in which they vote, this would make perfect sense. The only problem is that it doesn't work like that, as Piketty shows.

The reason is that nominating centrist Democrats who don't speak to class issues will result in a great swathe of voters simply not voting. Conversely, right-wing candidates who speak to class issues, but who do so by harnessing a false consciousness — i.e. blaming immigrants and minorities for capitalism's ills, rather than capitalists — will win those same voters who would have voted for a more class-conscious left candidate. Piketty calls this a "bifurcated" voting situation, meaning many voters will connect either with far-right xenophobic nationalists or left-egalitarian internationalists, but perhaps nothing in-between.

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Understanding Trump’s charisma offers important clues to understanding the problems that the Democrats need to address. Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking. It’s also crucial to recognise that, like Britain, America is at a turning point and must go in one direction or another. Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion. While Weber’s analysis of charisma arose from the German situation, it has special relevance to the United States of America, the first mass democracy, whose Constitution invented the institution of the presidency as a recognition of the indispensable role that unique individuals play in history.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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