Thursday, September 9, 2010

Freedom of Speech/Religion Means Freedom to Make Bad Choices

I’m a little tired of hearing all the media coverage about the a pastor of a tiny church who wants to have a Qur’an (Koran) burning and the Imam who wants to build a mosque/community center near New York City’s 9/11 ground zero.

The media is making big stories out of both issues, and are likely the ones fanning the flames. Yes, the media has the freedom to cover these stories as they see fit, but, in the case of the Qur’an burning pastor, the media has now given it so much exposure that the event may endanger Americans by inciting Muslim radicals. The issue with the mosque being built near the site of the 9/11 terror attack is really a local issue that should have been resolved locally, but the media has made it a national issue.

As the media has already fanned the flames of two small “brush” fires and now have created a forest fire, the only issue left now is what freedom of speech, and freedom of religion, means.

The pastor is clearly within his right to burn whatever he wants to burn – well, as long as where he burns it, an open fire is allowed. Is it a smart thing to burn the Qur’an in protest? NO. It is a senseless act that does nothing but promote religious intolerance. How would the pastor feel if a rabbi decided to burn the New Testament of the Bible? People in the United States have the right to choose their faith (or not follow any religion) and worship without government intervention. The Qur’an has every right to be published and read in the United States, just as the Bible or any other book for that matter, religious or not.

The Imam wanting to build his mosque in New York near the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is also within his right to do so. But, considering the sentiment of many in the city who were directly affected by the terrorist attacks, the place the Imam has chosen may not be the best. I do believe if the facility is done right, it could be a step in the healing process, but if it were me, I would not be building it in that location – it would not be worth the constant controversy.

The one lesson that we can learn here is that our freedoms sometimes come with a price. Our freedoms sometimes mean that we are free to make decisions that are not always in the best interests of those around us. It also means that the media is free to cover issues that frankly don’t affect most people. As people sometimes don’t always learn even after repeating mistakes, I don’t think these current situations mean the end to this lesson

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Friday, September 3, 2010

eReaders and eBooks: I Think I’ll Pass

I love all the latest technology – who doesn’t? – but not everything is better when technology is added. Take eBooks for example. Something seems so cold and clinical about sitting down with an eReader and reading a book electronically. It seems more like work. On the other hand, reading a book the “old-fashioned” way – you know, opening the book and leafing through the pages as the story progresses – seems far more leisurely and relaxing. It’s also a lot of fun walking through a bookstore and just seeing what's out there. Sometimes the process of buying a book, for oneself or as a gift, can be fun and entertaining. One never knows what treasure one will find.

The biggest drawback to eBooks is not the delivery of the product from a reader’s eyes to their brains; it’s the PRICE of the eBook. Something that is delivery electronically – no paper, no binding, no handling, etc. – seems to have a fairly hefty price tag. While it may seem less than the cost of a hardcover book, it’s often far more than the cost of a paperback. If publishing an eBook has taken so many raw materials and labor out of the process, why are consumers not seeing a savings? I can’t imagine that the marketing of an eBook is any more costly than the marketing of a normal, print book.

eBooks also have another annoying trait – there doesn’t seem to be a way for a person to lend an eBook to a friend or family member to share. I also don’t have to pay extra to buy an eReader so I can read my printed book – or my print newspaper.

eReaders, and products like the iPad, seem to be products that were created to deliver content to consumers, so publishers of printed books, magazines, and newspapers can find yet another way to make money. The problem with newspapers and magazines is that they already let that horse out of the barn when many publications offered free content on the Internet. Of course, that was after they discovered that many people don’t want to pay extra for news and magazine content on the Internet. Some newspapers are trying to re-institute pay walls, and I say good luck with that.

I am not completely closed to the idea of eReaders and eBooks, but I do believe that they need to price the readers AND the books at much lower price points if they want the masses to accept them. With so many more options for entertainment these days, people can afford to walk away from books as entertainment if the delivery mechanism and content is too pricey.

So for now, I am going to pass on an eReader. Call me a romantic, but I like getting something tangible – you know, something that I can hold in my hands or lend to someone if I see fit – for my head earned money.

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