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September 07, 2011 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-09-07

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6A - Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

6A - Wednesday, September 7, 2011 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

READER REVOLUTION
Off the page and on the web
How the rise of e-books will affect
the campus literary scene
By Jeff Waraniak I Daily Arts Writer

Re-imagining
the rom-com

The most popular page-turn-
ers no longer have pages. The
most popular bookstores no lon-
ger only sell printed books.
Yet even as electronic books
and e-readers have grown in pop-
ularity, University librarians and
local bookstore owners are confi-
dent that the lure of the physical
book will keep it from becoming
obsolete.
Ever since e-readers such as
the Apple iPad and the Amazon
Kindle arrived on the book mar-
ket three years ago, digital e-book
sales have steadily increased. In
July 2010, Amazon reported that
it hadbegun selling more e-books
than hardcovers. And in January
2011, USA Today reported that
the top six best-selling books of
the holiday season sold more elec-
tronic copies than print.
As online booksellers have
continued to win over customers,
Ann Arbor bookstores have strug-
gled to compete. In 2009, Shaman
Drum Bookshop closed its doors
after operating for nearly 30 years
as an independent bookstore, and
the Ann Arbor-based Borders
bookselling chain will be shutting
down all its nationwide locations
within the next few weeks.
But despite these warnings to
booksellers, local bookshop own-
ers have not been intimidated. Jay
Platt, the owner of West Side Book
Shop in downtown Ann Arbor,
says he is not worried about los-
ing his business, nor is he worried
about the fate of the printed book.

"Books have survived for quite
a while, and there's a reason why
they have," Platt said. "With (a
book) it's a tactile relationship.
It's something you can hold."
Platt says there are so many dif-
ferences between a printed book
and an e-book that he doesn'tcon-
sider them to be the same thing.
"It's a different product," Platt
said. "It's an entirely different
experience."
Bill Gillmore, owner of Ann
Arbor's Dawn Treader Books,
agrees that e-books and printed
books are too different to com-
pare. For one thing, Gillmore
says, when a person buys a physi-
cal book, the book belongs to him
or her, but when a person buys an
electronic book, there is a great
difference.
"When you buy a book on an
e-reader, you don't own it," Gill-
more said. "All that's yours is the
electronic device and not its con-
tents."
This is the reason why Gill-
more believes that printed books
will never become obsolete. When
people buy books, Gillmore says,
they're looking for more than just
the ink and paper.
"Physical books aren't just
books," Gillmore said. "There's a
certain icon aspect to them, and
that's what people are after."
Gillmore admits that he has
lost business to online booksell-
ers because of their convenience,
but asa seller of printed books, he
believes he still has at least one

advantage over online stores.
"The one real advantage that a
shop like mine has over an online
shop is browsing," Gillmore said.
"It's very difficult to browse
online, and I would bet that at
least half of all the books I sell
are books that people didn't even
know that they wanted."
The ability to browse is an
advantage that local bookshops
share with another sanctuary
for the printed book: the library.
Libraries allow visitors to search
for certain books within a catalog
and scan the shelves for related
titles. From there, visitors can
physically grab the books, hold
them and mark them up, which is
a feature that University library
specialist Kathleen Folger says
e-readers will need to have if they
are to replace printed books.
"E-readers will need to make
it easier to move quickly through
pages and to highlight and mark-
up text," Folger said.
Yet even if e-books become
more interactive and easier to
navigate, Folger neither fears for

the future of the printed book nor
the future of libraries.
"I don't think print books will
ever be completely obsolete,"
Folger said. "But they will be far
rarer in the future than they are
now."
Folger adds that libraries
becoming obsolete isn't a concern
to her because of their wider pur-
pose beyond what's in print.
"Librarians help people navi-
gate complex information," Folg-
er said. "We did that in the days of
print and we do it even more now
in the electronic environment."
The electronic environment
has undoubtedly changed the way
books are shared, but longtime
booksellers like Platt have learned
to adjust to consumer trends. And
even amid all the changes, there is
at least one thing about books that
Platt believes will always remain
the same.
"People will always treasure
having a printed book," Platt said.
"And if you want to keep one,
you're going to want to keep it in
book form."

n the popular vernacular,
"romantic comedy" is syn-
onymous with "bad movie."
A romantic comedy is trite, overly
sentimental and devoid of real
comedy or
romance. It
is the apogee
of every over-
used film con-
vention and
represents
everything
wrong with PHILIP
Hollywood CONKLIN
today.
The roman-
tic comedy's recent history has
earned this lowest rung in the
hierarchy of film genres. As cer-
tainly as Kate Hudson, Matthew
McConaughey, Katherine Heigl,
Gerard Butler, etc. will continue
starring in "romantic comedy"
films, those films will be ter-
rible. These clich6-ridden movies
follow the same banal formula,
substituting one indistinguish-
able pretty face for another, and
we are forced to watch the same
vapid characters play out the
same lifeless story over and over
again, in an interminable series
of filmic torture.
Clearly, I do not intend to
defend these films. ButI intend
to defend the romantic comedy
genre as one that garners near-
universal disrespect. Because
there is nothing intrinsically
wrong with idea of romantic
comedy. In fact, it is one of the
most beloved of all film genres
and was once one of the surest
paths to critical and financial
Historically, comedy and
romance are inextricably linked
in film; as long as there has been
comedy, there has been roman-
tic comedy. In the early days of
silent slapstick comedy, every
Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton
two-reeler, though dominated by
inventive slapstick gags, featured
a romantic narrative. Whatever
hardships the hapless protago-
nist endured, if he "got the girl,"
it was all worth it. And even
through to the sound era and the
Golden Age of Hollywood, nearly
every mainstream comedy film
had a romantic plot to drive the
narrative. Even the wonderful
Marx Brothers comedies, famous
for their anarchic incoherence

TASTE
From Page 5A
also be superior to another. People
start to covet, to lie, to reach for a
culture just out of their grasp -
aspirational viewing, if you will.
And then there's the issue of
definitions. There's a lot of trou-
ble with the term "Fine Arts" at
the Daily when it comes to clas-
sifying articles. Is it something
that's just simple, performance-
based sorts of art - plays, musi-
cals, lectures, poetry readings
and the like? But what about art
exhibits? What about museums?
What about books? What about

food? You can see where it gets
complicated.
My own experiences with the
term stem back to my high school
years. A group of friends and I
decided to start a coalition called
the "Finer Things Club," which
basically meant that we watched a
lot of Woody Allen movies, drank
tap water out of plastic cham-
pagne flutes and called ourselves
fancy. Bourdieu would have said
that we aspired to be part of a
class greater and more romantic
than our own - which isn't too
far from the truth of a 16-year-old
living in tree-lined suburbia. So
at its most politically incorrect,
is Fine Arts merely a type of arts

enjoyed by the more "privileged"
of society? As uncomfortable as
that term might sound, it's per-
haps not a wrong characteriza-
tion to make.
The reasons for our unease are
symptomatic of our own class
consciousness. The root of the
matter isn't whether Bourdieu is
right or wrong about his assump-
tions on taste, but that we should
feel guilty about likingsomething
because of the expectation it car-
ries. Aspirational viewing isn't
in itself a dangerous activity, but
being dishonest about one's own
personal preferences on the basis
of class ambition is.
Taste initially evolved as a

kind of way to collectivize com-
monalities, and it still exists in
that respect today. I've made
some of the best friends I know
bonding over ABC Family teen
dramas or the Academy Awards,
some of whom I would have
never come into contact had this
shared interest not existed. The
beauty of taste is its capacity
to be shared, to overcome lan-
guage and income barriers - not
its power to exclude. As long as
we don't come to think of class
groupings like prisons, there's
no harm in the concept of la dis-
tinction. After all, when a certain
taste gains enough momentum, it
becomes a part of culture.

and lack of story, had romantic
subplots.
Granted, in some of these
early romantic comedies, the
romantic part feels perfunctory,
as if the studio shoehorned it in
just because they believed that's
whatthe audience wanted. But
I would argue that it is what the
audience wanted, and still wants,
at least when it comes to com-
edy. Because, although many are
satirical or critical, a comedy's
primary goal is to entertain.
This makes romance the
perfect compliment to comedy.
There is nothing more entertain-
ing than a romance that ends
happily, and the ones in roman-
tic comedies always do. This is
why screwball comedies, which
were always romantic comedies,
were so popular during the Great
Depression. The impoverished
public wanted an escape from
their troubles, and romantic
comedy offered the best way to
do that.
And romantic comedies, apart
from beingsome of the most
commercially successful films in
Hollywood's early period, were
also critically more successful
than they are today. In the early
years of the Academy Awards,
though dramas still dominated,
romantic comedies often won
Best Picture. "It Happened One
Night," a 1934 romantic comedy,
one of the best-loved of the genre,
won five Oscars - Best Direc-
tor, Picture, Actor, Actress and
Adapted Screenplay.
We're caught in
a bad romance.
But "Shakespeare in Love"
(1998) and Woody Allen's "Annie
Hall" (1977) are the only roman-
tic comedies to win-Best Picture
in the last 40 years. Although
this can be partly attributed to
critical snobbery (comedies in
general tend to be snubbed at the
Oscars), it's mostly due to the ter-
rible quality of modern romantic
comedy.
So why did this previously
beloved genre become one that
is almost ubiquitously reviled?
Paradoxically, the romantic com-
edy has become so hatedbecause
of its earlier success. Since they
were so well loved, and so com-
mercially successful, these films
sunk into the familiar formula
that we see so often repeated
today, and the genre became
stagnated. Most of its modern
conventions were present in
the screwball comedies of the
1930s, the difference being those
early films still maintained some
wit and originality. Butwhen a
genre's tropes have existed for
this long, a certain amount of
stagnation is to be expected.
And these films have become
so bad that there is a stigma to
the romantic comedy title - ifa
film is good, there is a hesitancy
to call ita romantic comedy. But
there are still good films being
made in the genre. Every Woody
Allen film, with a few exceptions,
is a romantic comedy; most of
Wes Anderson's films can be con-
sidered romantic comedies; even

Judd Apatow's films, with their
crudeness and ostensibly male-
targeted humor, are romantic
comedies at heart.
The reason these filmmak-
ers succeed (some of Mr. Allen's
recent work notwithstanding) in
this generally despised genre is
that their films fit the narrative
conditions of romantic comedy,
while pushing the genre's bound-
aries visually and thematically,
and retaining their own original,
creative voice. They carry on
the storied romantic comedy
tradition without succumbing
to its pitfalls. And while the
few recent, successful romantic
comedies don't make up for the
damage done by the execrable,
populist Hollywood rom-com,
they show that to have romance
and comedy ina movie shouldn't
immediately condemn it. After
all, we like to see the guy get the
girl, and laugh along the way.
Conklin wanted "27 Dresses"
to win Best Picture. To chide him,
e-mail conklin@umich.edu.

*t
0

04

RELEASE DATE- Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis

VISIT THE WEBSITE
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ISBN: 9781 4620 21437 21451 (ebook)

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champs

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0

By Michaelsharp
{c)2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

09/07/11

i

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