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Nevertheless, my mail box is still filled with junk most of the time.

I do think we're over the hump, here. It probably helps to have all these youngsters around who think sharing intimacy over the web is as natural as skinny dipping at Woodstock.

Seriously, I remember about 15 years ago trying to get students to sign up for their university email accounts. Even 10 years ago, getting them to use email for communications (I like students to talk with each other while I listen in and kibbitz) was like pulling teeth. Now, the only reason we have a library is because it has a good coffee shop and Wi-Fi.

There are still lots of obstacles to going fully digital, some legitimate (notably copyright on commercially viable material, not to be confused with academic writing, and preservation in unfalsifiable formats that will last for centuries). I'm a strong supporter of unions as a way for working people to get their fair share of what they produce. But the downside is feather bedding. (I think feather bedding is an important concept, as long as it gets applied to the bosses, as well, most of whom in my experience do nothing of value.) Anecdotally speaking, I think we could cut "administrative" (i.e., clerical) staff by 50% (some would make a similar case for faculty, although that mostly applies to large lecture classes with short answer tests). I suspect this downturn will force this to happen to some extent (at businesses as well at universities and government offices).

I think there are still enough people around who are uncomfortable with going mostly digital, so it has been hard to force the issue (except now that cost cutting is unavoidable). My wife still prefers to read student work in front of the TV, though she does give feedback on line much of the time. I pretty much read and write everything on the computer, except pleasure reading. But I know people who haven't adjusted at all.

Being a college town, we used to have lots of record stores: all gone except one that sells used CDs/DVDs and ancient records. Those jobs weren't replaced by iPod salespeople, and in fact the expertise of iPod salespeople isn't close to that of stereo salespeople (one store still holding out). There are still a few places renting DVDs, but I'd give that no more than 5 years (mostly because the economy may keep people from making the next move). Like everybody else, we've seen computer/digital appliance stores close (I still want to see if I can find one of the cameras I'm considering in the flesh, though I'll buy it on line unless they can beat the price). I know Michigan is suffering, but most of these stores have been dead wood for years. Same goes for the surplus of restaurants (not, of course, bars that serve under-21s). And, a large part of the auto industry restructuring is killing off dealerships—I forget the figure, but it is something like 4 GM dealers for each Toyota dealer. Add those lost sales jobs to lost real estate sales jobs....

Again, my concern is that this isn't about jump-starting an economy. This is a permanent loss of millions of jobs, possibly tens of millions, with the only hope for replacement this belief that someone will invent something new that will open up a new universe for jobs.

Oh well, I'm in a bad mood anyway, because I've finally caught the bug my wife had a few days back, and chatting on line is about all I can handle.
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