Technology and culture: a test case: eBooks & Books Compared in Germany & The USA

Nicholas Carr:

There are also economic differences. In Germany, publishers set book prices, and the prices don’t vary from store to store. E-book prices follow these same rules, which means that they have not undercut print prices to the same degree that they have in the U.S. But this policy, too, is rooted in culture: it is aimed at preserving the diversity of the book trade. (It must pain Eric Holder enormously to travel to Germany and see so many flourishing bookshops.) E-books are also taxed at a higher rate than print books, which enjoy a tax exemption in Germany – another manifestation of the book’s special place in the culture.

Leonardo da Vinci’s resume


Before he was famous, before he painted the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, before he invented the helicopter, before he drew the most famous image of man, before he was all of these things, Leonardo da Vinci was an armorer, a weapons guy, a maker of things that go “boom”.

And, like you, he had to put together a resume to get his next gig. So in 1482, at the age of 30, he wrote out a letter and a list of his capabilities and sent it off to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan.

The Guardian’s Open 20: fighters for internet freedom

James Ball:

British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the world-wide web, champions open data to governments.

Rickard Falkvinge

Founder, the Pirate party

Falkvinge founded the Swedish Pirate party in 2006 to focus on reforming copyright, patents and file sharing laws. The party now has an often marginal presence in 22 countries, with significant presence in Sweden, where it has two members of the European parliament, and Germany, where it polls as the third biggest political party.

The 20 Best Small Towns in America

Susan Spano and Aviva Shen:

There are lists of the best places to get a job, retire, ski, golf and fall in love, best places lists for almost everything. We think any best place worth traveling to should have one quality above others: culture.

To help create our list, we asked the geographic information systems company Esri to search its data bases for high concentrations of museums, historic sites, botanic gardens, resident orchestras, art galleries and other cultural assets common to big cities. But we focused on towns with populations less than 25,000, so travelers could experience what might be called enlightened good times in an unhurried, charming setting. We also tried to select towns ranging across the lower 48.

Rebooting the Internet dev process

Dave Winer:

PS: I wrote this story in response to a request from my alma mater that I explain the value that Madison has for me. It’s pretty simple. It turned my life in a great, productive and happy direction. That’s a lot to ask of a school. But it delivered. I’m sure they didn’t know they were doing it, but that’s fine. It’s not their job to know, just to create an environment where these kinds of things can happen.

I completely agree with Dave’s words. The UW-Madison provided me with a fertile environment to think and create. I hope it continues to do the same for decades to come.

How tiny Estonia stepped out of USSR’s shadow to become an internet titan

Patrick Kingsley:

Viik says you could walk 100 miles – from the pastel-coloured turrets here in medieval Tallinn to the university spires of Tartu – and never lose internet connection.

“We realised that if the government was going to use the internet, the internet had to be available to everybody,” Viik said. “So we built a huge network of public internet access points for people who couldn’t afford them at home.”

The country took a similar approach to education. By 1997, thanks to a campaign led in part by Ilves, a staggering 97% of Estonian schools already had internet. Now 42 Estonian services are now managed mainly through the internet. Last year, 94% of tax returns were made online, usually within five minutes. You can vote on your laptop (at the last election, Ilves did it from Macedonia) and sign legal documents on a smartphone. Cabinet meetings have been paperless since 2000.

Doctors only issue prescriptions electronically, while in the main cities you can pay by text for bus tickets, parking, and – in some cases – a pint of beer. Not bad for country where, two decades ago, half the population had no phone line.

Central to the Estonian project is the ID card, introduced in 2002. Nine in 10 Estonians have one, and – by slotting it into their computer – citizens can use their card to vote online, transfer money and access all the information the state has on them.

High Church

William MacNamara:

In a cave on a mountaintop in northern Ethiopia I meet a Christian monk reputed to be 140 years old. Even if this were true, he is markedly young compared to the relics hidden around him in these holy mountains. A few steps away from his hermit hole is a wooden door set flush against the rockface. It is the entrance to St Mary Korkor, one of more than 100 churches buried in the mesas of Tigray, in Ethiopia’s far north.

Push open the church door and you enter the mountain. In the gloom of the nave are frescoes depicting scenes straight out of a Renaissance chapel: the Annunciation, the Last Supper, St George slaying the dragon. But the faces of Jesus and the saints are African, and they were painted 1,200 years ago. This region is a Christian heartland, familiar and yet fascinatingly different. Easter, for example, is celebrated with church services, then family get-togethers and meals – but not this weekend. Instead, it comes after a Lent fasting period of 56 days, on April 15 this year.

Revolution in Personalized Medicine: First-Ever Integrative ‘Omics’ Profile Lets Scientist Discover, Track His Diabetes Onset

Science Daily:

Geneticist Michael Snyder, PhD, has almost no privacy. For more than two years, he and his lab members at the Stanford University School of Medicine pored over his body’s most intimate secrets: the sequence of his DNA, the RNA and proteins produced by his cells, the metabolites and signaling molecules wafting through his blood. They spied on his immune system as it battled viral infections.

The Story of the Death (and Rebirth) of Polaroid Film

Harry McCracken:

In 2008, Polaroid discontinued a product which seemed to be pretty much obsolete in the digital age: instant film. Except that it wasn’t obsolete at all. A lot of people still liked taking Polaroid photos, and found things in the medium which digital couldn’t match.

One of them was Dr. Florian Kaps, an Austrian fan who missed Polaroid film so much that he spearheaded an effort to buy a shuttered Polaroid factory in the Netherlands and restart production. His aptly named Impossible Project now sells new film for classic Polaroid cameras, operates gallery/stores in multiple countries and generally makes the world a better and more interesting place.