Thursday, April 28, 2016

Freeing the Textbooks: Open-Source Textbooks and the Next Generation of Education

Sticker-shock isn’t just something that happens at a car dealership. Each semester, college students across the country are faced with an increasingly expensive tab at their school bookstore as they struggle to afford the textbooks that are required materials for their courses. While financial aid helps millions of students afford college, the funds often don’t cover expenses such as textbooks and course materials, even if they are required.

Many students with limited financial resources are forced to make a tough choice – depend on high-interest credit cards to pay the bill, or try and get by without buying the textbooks for certain courses, which can put their academic performance in jeopardy.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Update on Google Books as Fair Use

In the early 2000’s, Google, in cooperation with certain libraries, publishers and authors, began the monumental task of scanning and digitizing books for the purpose of creating a database that would be publicly available and searchable. It launched Google Books in 2004. Although initially limited to the collections of a few major libraries, Google hoped to eventually include all available publications. 

Google Books is a nifty site that performs full text keyword searches of various works (more than 25 million scanned to date) to provide basic bibliographic information and links to bookstores and libraries where a book may be purchased or borrowed. Complete copies of books that are no longer subject to copyright or for which permission has been granted are available for complete view; sometimes they can even be downloaded. Previews or “snippets” may be available for works that are still under copyright (and included without the author’s or publisher’s permission), and in some cases, only basic “card catalog” information may be available. 

Monday, April 18, 2016

That’s a crazy idea for a business…

This past week I visited London, which turned out to be a perfect choice for my first vacation overseas.  What an amazing, historical city!

While there, strolling through Covent Garden, I came across the most curious business I’d ever seen.  It took up two store fronts, and bore the name “2theloo.”  I watched, wide-eyed, as customer after customer dropped their coins in a slot and proceeded through the till to use the restroom.  Could this be for real?

I found the company’s website, which promises “public toilets the pleasant way.”  This business first opened its doors in 2011, and now boasts over 200 “toilet stores” worldwide!  In addition to offering a clean, “better than home” experience in the restroom, these stores sell toiletries, gifts and gadgets, provide a platform for artists to display their work, and promote a green planet through sustainable choices.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What: David Halberstam, The Fifties (Random House, 1993).

Why: A skillfully drawn portrait of the creation of the world we now inhabit and the society we have, for better or worse, left behind.

The state of America’s middle class is (among many other “interesting” issues) one of the themes consistently arising out of this year’s unconventional presidential campaign. Depending on the candidate, we are given to believe that the middle class is resentful about its shrinking piece of the pie, is angry about being forced to bear more than its share of society’s burdens, or perhaps both. Some argue, with some justification, the middle class is in fact shrinking, losing members as prosperity wanes or is more selectively allocated.

Leaving aside the question of how we define middle class (which is itself something of a contentious issue), this hand-wringing often harkens back, sooner or later, to the good old days. Those of us whose parents formed the Greatest Generation know that this is code for the 1950s, which David Halberstam ably chronicled in his lengthy but lively and readable book, The Fifties.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Women and Money Project

If you (a) enjoy art, (b) enjoy sharing your opinion, (c) are, identify as, are related to, or care about a woman or a group of women, or (d) have ever dealt with money, you should mark your calendar for an exhibition called the Women and Money Project. Through art and related programming, the exhibition will create a forum for audiences to investigate and engage their understanding of the relationship between “women, art, money, exchange, and social hierarchies.”  The exhibition, which will take place later this year, is being organized by The Minnesota Chapter of Women’s Caucus for Art, the University of Minnesota, and The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Monday, March 28, 2016

More Than a Hobby: The Story of Hobby Lobby

This past weekend, I finished reading the book More Than A Hobby: How a $600 Start-Up Became America’s Home & Craft Superstore. The book, written by Hobby Lobby Founder and CEO David Green, recounts the Green family’s modest beginnings in 1970, operating a miniature picture frame-making business out of their garage, and eventually turning it into Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., a privately-owned arts and crafts retail giant that is today headquartered in Oklahoma City and operates over 600 stores nationwide.  

Understandably, for readers who are not arts and crafts enthusiasts, your only familiarity with Hobby Lobby may be its role as a defendant in the controversial Supreme Court case, Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which was decided in June of 2014. The Green family’s Christian values certainly influence Hobby Lobby’s business practices, including the chain’s retail hours of 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday, the closure of all stores on Sundays, and the full-time paid chaplain at corporate headquarters. But religion aside, certain of Hobby Lobby’s other business practices may prove influential to entrepreneurs.  

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

A Call to Action on Important Seed Capital Matters!

Frequent readers of this blog know that I prefer to write on topics of interest to entrepreneurs that seem somewhat removed from the practice of law (e.g. musical theatre, my travels, Shark Tank and even the occasional comic strip). Yes, it’s true, I also sometimes post on “mundane” legal topics like Regulation Crowdfunding.

This time, I’m asking for your action on a couple of important matters. The good news is that it won’t involve attending any political rallies or making you dig in your pockets for extra cash (something entrepreneurs often don’t have anyway). 

Here are two places where your help is needed: