Read An Ebook Week, for 2009, runs from March 8 to March 14. The yearly event (listed in Chase's Calendar of Events), founded by Rita Y. Toews, inspires a flurry of interest and activity in digital reading. A number of author and publisher websites will be offering free ebooks during this unique week.
EbookWeek now has a lovely website, where you can keep track of the week's activities, read an interview with Rita, and find other useful information about ebooks.
If you are doing something special to celebrate the week, contact the website and let them know.
For even more information about ebooks, jump to our popular post 30 Benefits of Ebooks, and see the links to more ebook information at the end of that post.
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Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Joy comes to America, as we end an 8-year reign of error, and a new president leads us into a brighter future. Everyone I meet is smiling, singing, dancing on the street. At last we have a leader with intelligence, integrity, compassion -- and a vision for a sustainable (green) society. And at last we -- all Americans -- have an opportunity to make positive changes in our world.
Shown in the photo is a Halloween pumpkin carved in the shape of Mr. Obama. (Photo Copyright (c) 2009 by Michael Pastore.)
And here is the great, historic speech by President Obama:
My fellow citizens:
I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.
So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land — a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.
Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America — they will be met.
On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.
On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.
We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.
In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted — for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things — some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.
For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.
For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.
For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.
Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.
This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act — not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.
Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions — who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them — that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works — whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account — to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day — because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.
Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control — and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart — not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.
As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.
Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.
We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort — even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.
For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.
To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West — know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.
To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.
As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment — a moment that will define a generation — it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.
For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.
Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.
This is the price and the promise of citizenship.
This is the source of our confidence — the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.
This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed — why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.
So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:
"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."
America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.
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This is the day!
Today, January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States. Hundreds of thousands of people will attend the ceremony in Washington, D.C., and millions more persons around the world will be watching via television or the Internet.
You can watch the ceremony live, right here:
If this fails, go to the CBS news site:
Joy to the world!
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Saturday, January 17, 2009
Is it possible to find a task manager that gives you the perfect combination of "powerful features" and "easy to use" ? ... Process 3 does it all. You won't need to watch a 10-minute video tutorial just to create your shopping lists. New projects and new tasks (called "items") are made with a keyboard shortcut or a couple of clicks.
The first great feature is the big yellow note pad that sits under every new task you create. Whether you are organizing your doctoral thesis about the polarization of Xenon nucleii, or doing something far more complex -- such as finding a birthday gift for your niece -- Process's yellow pad lets you immediately add essential information. And whenever you click on the task, that information appears exactly where you need it: right in front of your eyes.
If your task needs to link to more information, then you simply drag any file to the bar above the notepad. Drag a photo or URL link, and you'll see the picture or the website in the viewing window. If you link this task to a word processing file (such as .txt or .rtf) then this file appears, and when you make a change in the window in front of you, your source file is updated as well. That's a useful feature found in my $ 1,200 InDesign software: I hardly expected to discover it here.
Of course you can set priorities for your tasks. It's easy, and the result is a colored bar that lets you see the big picture in one glance. When you're ready to get the most out of this software, you can set up "smart projects". You choose the conditions, and whichever tasks meet those conditions are placed into the smart project. For example, I can choose to place all the "highest priority" tasks, from all my projects, into this one smart project. The result shows me what needs to be done today, or very soon.
I'd love to see some new features added in the future: a folder to hide projects I'm not currently working on; a global search; and a way to back up all the projects with one click. These are small things compared with the essentials that Process 3 provides, including many features that I haven't yet tried (such as sharing projects with colleagues and friends). Simplicity, power and elegance -- at a low price -- all combine to make Process 3 my favorite task manager. Judge for yourself: visit the developer's home page, and try this amazing software, free, for 15 days.
All my project ideas are now in one place, and all the new ideas can't possibly get lost. Ah, to be organized! A strange and wonderful feeling!
"Your sublime outlining application."
from Jumpsoft http://www.jumsoft.com/process/
$ 39 for a new purchase, or $ 19 for an upgrade
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Thursday, January 08, 2009
Ebooks are starting to show signs of life. The high production and shipping costs &mdash of our beloved paper-made books &mdash and new ebook reading devices (and future ones: ala the immanent 9" iPod) are fueling the ebook revolution.
The revolutionaries are storming the house of paperbooks with two opposing strategies.
The first strategy: DRM-afflicted ebooks are sold at a slightly lower price than the paperback. Now and then a "free" version is offered: you do not pay with money but with mind. Advertisements are littered throughout the book. This is an event of historic importance in the history of reading, for an entire new genre has been created: litterature.
Yesterday, I was enthusiastic about the prospect of reading a "free" ebook: it was a historical novel about Abraham Lincoln and his times, written by Gore Vidal. But I could not read very far, because this online version of the book contained a thoroughly tasteless ad. The commercial message showed a naked silouette of a woman's body, which flickered above (and below) every page of the book. Sandals of stupidity and a crown of commercial thorns on the head and feet of my hero, Honest Abe.
Does money matter so much more than the ideas that can renew our culture? ... American society is at a turning point: perhaps a breaking point. Publishing matters: publishers can help us to change the world for the better. But we will need less commerce and more truth. The publishers who thrive (meaning: survive) will be the ones who give us new ideas and a new integrity.
Advertisements have absolutely no place inside of books or ebooks. If you argue that we must have advertising to support free ebooks penned by contemporary authors, then let's see if it possible to include the ads not randomly and annoyingly, but with careful thought and relative good taste. Perhaps these advertisements could be less conspicous and more appropriate to the book? ... Or these ads might be still and frozen, instead of flash-based and distractingly in motion? ... Or one advertisement could be placed inside the book, after every 50 pages? ... Or the publisher could advise us (in the spirit of Lincoln) that the online book can be read free from ads, by using the Firefox browser with an extension called NoScript or AdBlock?
There is a smarter approach to the ebook revolution: ebooks could be &mdash and should be &mdash given away free (and advertisement-free), or sold at a very low cost.
Since 1972, Project Gutenberg has been giving away free ebooks. Other sites do the same. Promising newcomers in this effort are FeedBooks, and the reading software Stanza.
In the near future, I predict ebooks will surge when we get better and cheaper reading devices, the long-awaited "e-paper", and a new generation of ebooks for a buck.
Thanks to AgnosticPreachersKid for the image of the Lincoln Memorial, which is reproduced here under a Creative Commons License:
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Thursday, January 01, 2009
Happy New Year 2009, fellow human beings. May we all prosper this year, with health, and wealth, and loyal friends, and untold happiness.
Enclosed is a slice from a dizzying old life, and a glimpse of my cheerful new one. As Mr. Emerson so optimistically reminded us:
"We are very near to greatness; one step and we are safe; can we not take the leap?"
Remember To Live!
by Michael Pastore
Why do you stay here and live this mean moiling life,
when a glorious existence is possible for you?
-- Henry David Thoreau
Late! Late again!
Minutes before the deadline I send the two-megabyte file, and now -- mere moments after finishing an exhausting project -- I am reminded about an urgent meeting, thanks to ingenious life-planning software and its relentless symphony of emails, jingles, and beeps. The countdown timer reveals a fleeting 1200 seconds to prepare.
I laughed at the stress: It is more important to be well-dressed than on time. Glancing at the online calendar -- “Colleagues at the meeting: conservative” -- I remove my “Obama 2008” T-shirt and then turn it inside out to match the zeitgeist of my belligerent audience. In bold letters, the shirt’s front delivers the message: “My Messiah can beat up your Messiah.”
Swiftly now, I convert some pertinent articles from formats text to mp3 then move them to an audio player. These are read to me aloud, as I grab dinner (one energy bar) from a bookshelf filled with hundreds of these bars, sorted by the chewy decimal system: by protein-content, flavor and size. In one click, I pay three bills with online bill pay. Now to my wife’s phone message (“Do something about the leak in the bedroom ceiling, and water the plants.”) -- with hurried poise I place a potted philodendron underneath the leak. Still listening to the mp3ed articles, I snatch four ice cubes and drop them into clay pots to water my thirsty plants.
Timer tells me there is one minute, one precious minute, of time free. I toss some old books on top of a beautiful wooden desk in my living room, the desk which I call my “cemetery of dreams”. Here I deposit sacred heaps of notebooks, scraps of paper notes, someday books to read, CDs of music to listen to and languages to learn, photos of friends to contact, titles of books to write, quotations from classic novelists and philosophers, names of charities and causes to learn more about. All the impassioned projects I would tackle wholeheartedly, if some great cosmic power would eliminate the necessity for money and work.
Haunted am I by information in never-ending waves.
Crossing the doorway threshold I hear my computer beep-beep-beep the wild cry of an UNA: an urgent news alert. Is it another wasteful war? The immanent economic meltdown? Some indispensable innovation in one of the fields of my expertise? ... Thinking about my profession -- where to be uninformed is hara-kiri -- I rush indoors to the giant screen. The news alerts me to the fact that a gust of wind has blown a giant inflatable dog turd beyond the bounds of a Swiss art museum, where it flew 200 meters, broke some windows, and took down a power line. The work of art had been equipped with a bad-weather safety system, which of course had utterly failed to perform.
Walking, walking to the meeting, I watch a squirrel make a breathtaking leap between two tall trees. The motto of Goethe strikes me: “Remember to Live.” You see, every day during my working hours (which is almost all my waking hours), I entertain the faraway feeling that I have forgotten something. Something essential for me to understand.
I turn off the audio player in the middle of an article about trends in electronic publishing. An old man is walking -- slower than snail --- in the middle of the street, bent in half like the Greek letter gamma. He drops his cane; and when I pick up the cane and hand it back to him he shakes his head and says: “You work your life away. And then this.”
And then he squeezed my hand and I remembered.
Some years ago I traveled around the world with a backpack and a bike. I had been wondering what would happen to me if I turned off the incessant noise: the computer, the phone, the television, the advertising propaganda, the terabytes of trivial facts, nonsense, and news. I hoped to find cultures, peoples, and individuals who were living a more natural life, a life vastly different from our comfortable — and some might say vicarious, buy-crazy, over-refined — existence in the West. As a traveling Thoreau, I lived simply: sleeping under the stars, eating whatever I could forage or buy inexpensively from farmers or shops, and cycling or hiking to undeveloped places that the guidebooks would never recommend.
During this year-long journey there was only one time when I found precisely what I was looking for. I had gotten myself lost, thoroughly off the map, and had wandered into a small village in a valley between great mountains. On a dirt road, when I first approached the village, I saw enormous blue herons who made nests on top of telephone poles. As I wheeled past them they flew into the sky, flapping their wings awkwardly and ever-so-slowly, graceful reminders of a timeless world. From the pole-tops they would land on what first resembled pillars, thirty feet tall, like stacks of giant mudpies. Hundreds of these heaps surrounded me, all made of dung and straw: I soon learned that this was the preferred fuel for cooking and for heat.
Quickly I began to wonder about the people who welcomed the blue birds and created these practical and hilarious towers. The men in this village wore dark caps with gold sewing needles stuck inside, and spent much of their day yammering in the lone café, and no more than twenty hours per week working in their fields. Though the women worked constantly they laughed more, and seemed even happier than the men. Early in the mornings I would watch five of these women — sitting in a circle around a deep earthen pit — talking and working together to make the bread for the day, the same way their ancestors had worked for centuries before. The first woman started the fire in the bottom of the pit and kept it burning; the second woman mixed the flour and water; the third rolled this mixture into round balls; the fourth flattened the balls into thin circle-shaped doughs the size of a small pizza pie; the fifth placed the flat round dough on the sides of the pit then took it out at just the right moment when the bread was done. There was no word in their language for ‘leftovers’ — the bread and all the meals would be made fresh every day. These simple people believed that food, like life, needed always to be made new.
As the village guest, I was treated with grand hospitality and kinglike esteem. In a week I was able to learn enough of their language to explain where I was from, what my life in America was like, and why I was a-traveling. And after the explanation a young boy, perhaps ten years old, took me by the hand and told me that he wanted to show me something, and that this sight would be the best and most interesting attraction that I would find anywhere in his entire town.
He led me to his great-grandfather, an old man working in a field. The moment the old man saw me he removed his hat and placed his hand over his heart. He called to his family to make a feast for me, and to chop wood for my warm bath. By Western standards he had few reasons to be happy, and yet all the time I observed him, in all moments, he was radiant with joyfulness.
I stayed the night in his best room, and in the morning I loaded my bicycle, pointing the front wheel to the west. I described my destination (a large lake in the mountains); I explained that although I carried a map I had become entirely lost. With a great smile, he told me some words which I carefully wrote down -- it would be months later before I understood. “My son,” he said, placing an arm around my shoulder. “My son, listen to an old fool who in his whole life has learned one thing alone. No matter how far you’ve traveled on the wrong road, turn back.”
My summer of unending labor continued, and nothing eventful happened until a certain Tuesday in the Fall, the fourth day of November in the year 2008. Gripped by my computer screen, I watched the early election returns. Those of us who had suffered over the past eight years felt that this night could change the course of history. It would be a revolution, a genuine revolution, an expansion of consciousness in America and the entire world.
My wife played a piano version of Sarasate’s “Gypsy Airs” as I tallied electoral votes. I had wandered to my cemetery of dreams, and unconsciously began to sort the heap of papers into project piles. I picked up a biography of Goethe, where long ago I had bookmarked a page with the gem: “As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live.”
What would I do if I could paint my paradise and walk in? ... I would master the arts of loving and being kind. I would center my life about relationships: with family, neighbors, and friends. I would balance my life with Dr. Montagu’s prescription: “Health is the ability to love, to work, to play, and to think soundly.” I would use my encyclopedic knowledge and savvy about the latest technologies -- not to worship and improve technology itself -- to advance a sustainable lifestyle, a healthy planet, safe havens for all species, freedom, peace, justice, education, great books, and the creative arts. I would live more simply and wisely, and encourage others to do the same. Like Noah, I would start huge foolish projects, and not care a damn what other people might think.
“He’s winning,” I told my wife, after adding the prospective votes from Washington,Oregon, and California. “Let’s walk.”
The streets in our little town were quiet until an hour before midnight. Then, from the center of the town known as “the Commons”, we heard a cheer -- an enormous roar. What joyful freedom sounded in that colossal cheer! My wife squeezed my hand. Two young black teenagers, both female, came running down the street shouting “Obama! Obama! Obama!” Some Autumn leaves must have fallen from the trees into my eyes: how else could I explain my wet cheeks, now covered with streams and streams of tears?
And I tell you now, that despite all the obstacles our culture throws at us, and all the struggles our creative spirits must endure -- that night I promised myself I would remember. And act every day on that remembering, and begin my life anew. It would mean sacrifice: I would have less, I would be more.
There is so much good in all of us, so much kindness, so many noble dreams. I know now that Goethe meant: “Remember to live sincerely, passionately, intensely.” The person who has lived the most is not the one with the most years or the most wealth, but the one with the richest experiences. To remember to live is one thing mainly: to remember to love.
This is our moment. This is our time.
Michael Pastore is the Editorial Director of Epublishers Weekly, and the the author of more than a dozen books of fiction and non-fiction, including the forthcoming The Tao of Information: How to Simplify Your Life, Keep up with Technology, and Harvest the Internet’s Essential Facts and Ideas in 30 Minutes a Day. (Zorba Press, Spring 2009).
This essay is copyrighted. You may reprint it on your blog or website, if you give us the credit we deserve: add the tag, "From Epublishers Weekly."
To reprint this entire essay in a print publication, or in other electronic sources, contact us by email. Thanks. -- MP
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