Category Archives: Tech

New concerns over cell phone radiation

Cell Phone Graphic
Written by Thomas Figg-Hoblyn
Photo by Ryan Leibrich

Recently I brought up the idea of writing a story about the dangers of using a cell phone because of radiation to some of my colleagues on staff, and immediately someone interjected “I thought that got debunked years ago.”

And that was pretty much the end of it. I gave up on the idea – and forgot about it.

Two days later as I bounced up and down on a red and gray Muni seat riding the M Line, the subject of cell phones and health circled back to me in the form of a young boy, about four years old, who sat across the aisle from me completely captivated by his mother’s white iPhone.

The brown-haired kid was all up on the smartphone trying to move his slobber-covered index finger on the screen to the frantic pace of some colorful game.

He held that phone like a rainbow flavored snow cone on a hot day in Texas – his eyes bugging out in pure ecstasy as he played – all the time pressing that phone closer and closer to his face.

Then inexplicably, he licked the phone, and then kept right on playing.

It was then and there that I decided to find out if cell phones were really dangerous.

I felt an obligation.

If this kid was coveting his mom’s cell phone like a sugary-treat, then odds were that other kids were doing the same thing.

And according to the Pew Research Center, 91 percent of Americans use a cell phone.

SF State student Arthur Abelardo talks on his smart phone
SF State student Arthur Abelardo on his phone

I started digging around to see what I could find out.

A quick Google search using “are cell phones safe” and/or “are cell phones dangerous,” as well as almost anything related to cell phones and health (I used almost a dozen) turned up a sea of legitimate articles focused on radiation, cancer, and cell phones.

The more I read, the more creeped out I became – to the point that I moved my cell phone to the other side of the room.

My favorite companion and gadget suddenly had a sinister side.

Here are the highlights of the search.

The World Health Organization recently re-classified cell phone radiation as a possible carcinogen similar to car exhaust.

A report titled “Cell Phones and Cancer Risk” produced by The National Cancer Institute states that cell phones emit radiation that can be absorbed into the tissues where the phone is held.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently opened an official inquiry regarding the safety of cell phone radiation emissions.

CBS Channel 58 of Minnesota reported in an article titled “New concerns over cell phone radiation” that even though for years scientists have insisted there was no connection between cell phones and cancer, now there were credible experts re-evaluating the position.

An attorney interviewed in the story says that some lawyers are currently pursuing class action suits, and that  brain tumors were being associated with extensive cell phone usage.

The Guardian reported in August that a new Tel Aviv University, Israel, study, that studied the saliva of heavy-cell phone users compared to non-cell phone users, found that the saliva of heavy-users showed indications of higher oxidative stress, a process that damages all aspects of a human cell, including DNA, through the development of toxic peroxide and free radicals – a major risk factor for cancer.

An international study published in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Medicine states that adults who have used mobile phones intensively for at least ten years, experience an increase in brain cancer, salivary gland cancer, and even rare eye cancers; and some men diagnosed with testicular cancer had the cancer occur in the testicle that was closest to the pant pocket where they stashed their cell phone.

As reported in The Telegraph by Richard Alleyne, Italy’s Supreme Court ruled that a businessman’s tumor was caused by a causal link between his illness and cell phone use.

Inside Edition reported that  Tiffany Frantz, a 23-year-old who stashed her cell phone in her bra since she was a young-teen was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, which was attributed to cell phone radiation.

After scouring the web I decided to go see a local expert on health, Erik Peper, Ph.D., professor of holistic health at San Francisco State University.

Erik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health at SF State smiles next to his biofeedback computer program. The biofeedback machines can measure the effects of cell phone radiation on the body.
Erik Peper, Professor of Holistic Health at SF State smiles next to his biofeedback computer program. The biofeedback machines can measure the effects of cell phone radiation on the body.

“Dr. Peper” as I like to call him, referred me to his fact-filled blog called the Peper Perspective  , which goes granular on explaining the dangers of cell phone use.

Peper says that all cell phones emit radiation by definition because they connect to a local cell tower, and as long as a cell phone is being used for talking, texting or streaming data then it is talking with the cell tower and emitting radiation.

To demonstrate Peper placed a cell phone next to a student volunteer who was connected to a biofeedback machine. Right before the phone rings a significant spike registers on the computer in micro-volts showing the high-frequency cell signal going through the subject.

  Continue reading New concerns over cell phone radiation

Mayhem Comes to Los Santos

GTA-V-big
By Justice Boles

Grand Theft Auto V came out this Tuesday, and it’s probably the most important game release of this generation. Few games will be as accessible to so many as GTA V, and even fewer carry the same weight. Players can look forward to spending hundreds of hours ripping through Los Santos in cars, bikes and planes, while causing havoc and mayhem in a 49-square-mile virtual depiction of Los Angeles. Freedom lies in the hands of the player, and anything goes.

GTA V may also be the most expensive video game production yet. So far, the game itself has cost $265 million to produce, and experts say that it could make as much as $1.5 billion in its initial year – more than almost any Hollywood blockbuster.

Millions are on the edges of their seats, ready to step into Los Santos and experience a fully-realized, simulated world built by Rockstar Games.

“The graphics look fantastic, and the gameplay will follow suit with the series in general,” says Ryan Lough, a history major at San Francisco State. Ryan remembers playing the original GTA on his old PC, a distant ancestor of what these games would grow to become. “It’s seems like every Grand Theft Auto game is based off Scarface. Eventually, I think the series is gonna lose it’s wow factor, but it’s visually stunning.”

Rockstar appears well aware that their game is built on the corpses of a million little video game characters. As developers, they strive to build newer and more interesting worlds with the intent that each new one is more compelling than the last. GTA 3 opened up its world like no other game before and is considered the godfather of open world, sandbox-style video games. GTA 4 was a satirical paradise, poking fun at corrupt government officials, pampered celebrities and what’s left of the American Dream. The narrative driving each games gets more complex with each iteration.

GTA V places players in the shoes of not one, not two, but three different protagonists. The first is Michael, a retired bank robber who lives with his dysfunctional family. The second is Trevor, a drug-fueled desert loner. Last but not least is Franklin, a young black man striving to escape the “hood”. The three “heroes” are joined together in their shared desire to rob banks and make money.

The game is massive, on a scale unlike most other games on the market. Activities can range from the standard fare of shooting cops, stealing cars and robbing banks; to yoga, scuba diving and hiking. This Southern Californian simulacrum isn’t just empty space, it’s incredibly dense and filled with advanced artificial intelligence and razor-sharp Rockstar satire, all presented with a dark sense of humor from the game made infamous for killing virtual prostitutes.

In addition, it looks like Rockstar put a lot of focus on multiplayer. Nowadays, almost everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, and Call of Duty is the best-selling game; online multiplayer is becoming more of a must in modern gaming. GTA 4 was praised for taking near-unlimited freedom of the game vanilla and allowing for a shared experience online. It looks like GTA V has taken that a step further.

Arguably, the biggest reason this game is so important has to do with the state of how games are sold today. The two biggest video game companies are Activision and Electronic Arts. Both are known to annually release new additions within their respective franchises like Call of Duty or Madden. While some complain about paying another $60 for a game whose previous entry was only a year beforehand, there’s nothing inherently wrong about this practice. Along with the ever-increasing amount of games, both console and smartphone, that rely on microtransactions – those nuisances that cost a dollar for a power-up in Candy Crush or a new set of uniforms in NCAA Football – for extra revenue, it seems to be the way the market is trending.

Rockstar on the other hand, has made a strong case for releasing games that are intricately deep and garner mass appeal, as well as releasing a game in different franchises every few years. GTA 4 was released in 2008, and their stock has almost doubled since.

“It looks like it’d be worth playing through,” says Ricki Herrera, an English major at San Francisco State. “The story seems engaging and I don’t doubt going on crime sprees will be fun.”

It’s no secret that next generation gaming is upon us. The Playstation 4 and XBox One will be released in a few months rendering everyone’s beloved 360s and PS3s obsolete. Grand Theft Auto is about as big a name as can get in the gaming world, and the GTA V is being released on the heels of this dying game-system generation. One way or another, GTA V will be instrumental in the future development of video games and the industry as a whole.

Turn of a Page, Click of a Button

Photo by Jamie Valaoro

Words: Emily Gadd
Photos: Jamie Valaoro

The smell of freshly bound books filling the air of a bookstore; the yellowed pages of old books in a library; the sound of fingers rubbing against two pages to separate them; the quick flipping between pages to get to a certain spot in the book. These are things that could all be gone someday — if the current eReader trend continues.

The trend shows no sign of slowing down. With the recent release of the iPad mini, more people are sure to begin using eReaders and tablets instead of books. According to the The Harris Poll, 13 percent of Americans say they will most likely purchase an eReader in the next six months. That leaves a significant chunk of people who aren’t but it’s a still a huge increase from years past. 10 percent were unsure if they would purchase one or not.

The most recent federal statistics show that 1,000 bookstores closed between 2000-2007 leaving only 10,600 open. Although it is difficult to credit eReaders with these changes, it is undeniable that both markets are changing; negatively for bookstores, and positively for eReaders.

Electronic books and electronic readers have a longer history than many might imagine. Michael Hart is the creator of the eBook and Project Gutenberg, the movement to put more free-use text on the Internet. Hart wanted to make books more accessible. He began the effort in 1971 when he typed up the Declaration of Independence and posted it online. Hart expanded the project by typing in other bodies of text like the Bible. By the eighties Hart’s online public library contained thousands of titles. Project Gutenberg still exists today, allowing readers to download thousands of eBooks for free on their computers or eReaders.

There have been several models of eReaders, but one of the first well-known devices was released in 1998 by Nuvo Media (now owned by Gemstar) called “The Rocket.” It didn’t really catch on as later models would. The release of Amazon’s Kindle device about a decade later would make eReaders much more visible to consumers.

The first generation Kindle launched in November of 2007 at a retail value of $399. It was only available in the United States through Amazon.com and sold out in five and a half hours, although it is unknown how many of the devices were made available to customers the Kindle remained out of stock until April 2008.

Barnes and Noble released the first generation Nook in November 2009 and it came equipped with a few qualities that the Kindle device didn’t have. While both devices had 3G capabilities, Nook was the first to give its users Wi-Fi access and had memory extension abilities. By comparison, the Kindle was lighter, possessed four more days of battery life and had a text-to-speech feature. A 2011 survey by pewresearch.org asked American adults if they had read an e-book in the past year, or purchased an eReader. It found that 17 percent of American adults had read an eBook in the past year and 10 percent owned an eReader. After Christmas time the survey was given out again and eReader ownership jumped from 10 percent to 19 percent, and 21 percent of adults had read an e-book compared to the 17 percent just a few months before.

Does this mean that smooth computer screens and shiny buttons will replace old-fashioned books? Barnes and Noble Digital Sales Lead and San Francisco State University alum Daniel DeFord doesn’t think so.

“Readers who own a tablet or a reading device of any brand, about 76 percent of them still buy real books. That’s huge,” says DeFord.

What could explain why people still choose to buy hard copies of text? DeFord says, it’s simply a case of nostalgia.

“Despite the fact that they have a better device, they’re going out and making a hugely unwise economic choice to buy something. Why? For sentimental value… We sell products that have a sentimental value to our customers and they will buy them even when it’s a bad idea to do so.”

DeFord is in charge of helping customers of San Bruno’s Barnes and Noble with any Nook questions, in a similar fashion to Apple’s Genius bar. Deford believes that Barnes and Noble’s possession of actual stores and flesh and blood people to sell you their eReader is what gives them an edge on Amazon.

“That’s one of the most amazing things in marketing, right? Actually selling something that is in no way different, but you’re buying the brand,” DeFord says. “That’s exactly how Barnes and Noble can survive and thrive because you see that brand value just going into the store. You want to have a store to go to, so that funds the brand.”

Trisha Paule, a senior at SF State, is a Kindle user but still relies on traditional books, especially for school. “I use [Kindle] mostly when I read for pleasure, [I] hardly ever [use it] academically, so [I use it] anywhere between eight to twelve hours a week.” Paule explained. “I chose it because I assumed it would have a wider selection of books than the Nook.”

SF State creative writing major Cheyanne Cooper noticed when she started taking upper division classes she felt like she was getting buried under books. She wanted an eReader to help her carry around all of her books for school, and decided to purchase the Nook for what she describes as simple reasons.

“When you compare the two, they’re nearly identical in function,” Cooper says. “I chose the Nook because I wanted to support a bookstore and because I liked the look and the ability to add a micro SD [secure digital] card to give me more storage space.”

Both devices give readers the ability to consolidate their libraries into small devices and save them the hassle of going to the bookstore every time they want a new book.

“I have a huge library at my disposal,” Cooper adds. “All I have to do is click ‘buy’ instead of trekking to the store.”

Cooper sees what DeFord emphasizes is the Nook’s greatest function: the ability to keep Barnes and Noble stores open.

“I call it the ‘book amusement park,’ you know, where that’s what’s making it run is the concessions,” Deford insists. “It’s the food you buy in the amusement park that keeps it open. Likewise, it’s the Nook product that you buy that keeps Barnes and Noble open. But that’s not the only thing you get at an amusement park. You get rides, you get fun, you get memories. That’s what Barnes and Noble is! It’s a book amusement park held up by Nook.”

Although eReaders are a more convenient way to buy and store books, some readers will never be able to give up actual books.

“Yeah, it may be more convenient if you’re going on vacation and want to pack like 18 books,” SF State sophomore Audrey Marra says. “But what’s wrong with old fashioned books? I love the way they smell and sound when I buy a new one. It’s something I can basically keep forever and give to my kids.”

Marra is obstinate in her commitment to literature that you can hold in your hand. She is also wary of books becoming digital and experiencing the problems that come with technology, like shorting out when getting wet or contracting viruses. “A real book will never be lost in cyberspace.”

Instagrammers of SFSU

Words by: Erin Browner

Maybe it’s San Francisco’s love for the fusion of technology and photography, but Instagram is becoming a favored sharing platform. Users don’t have to be photographers, techies, or smart phone geniuses to appreciate the zillions of photos to explore on Instagram. There’s nothing like riding Muni to school and scrolling through images of the Transamerica building or Golden Gate Bridge complemented with the Hudson filter in our palm.

Problem is, most Instagrammers are doing it wrong. We’ve wasted too much data loading those damn self-portraits to our Instagram feed, it’s time to broaden our Instagram horizon. Check out these expert ‘grammers of SFSU for a little inspiration.

Beth Sohn, 18
Undeclared with an interest in Child and Adolescent Development

Handle: @saturatedlaughter
Followers: 615
User since December 2011

What does your handle mean?
My definition of saturated is when something is completely soaked-in and at its maximum capacity. I have a rather boisterous laugh, and I thought by describing it as saturated, it made sense and also doubled as describing my style of pictures, as I am always drawn towards saturated colors. It just clicked and I knew it fit.

Describe your Instagram style.
The words that pop into my head when looking through my pictures are energetic, organic, unique and most importantly — colorful.

Most inspiring subjects:
Fruit, farmer’s markets, and nature.

What’s your favorite spot on campus to snap an Instagram?
My dorm. There are always people walking around on campus, and I get embarrassed when people see me crouching down or stopping in the middle of a walkway to take an Instagram picture. In my dorm, I can spend as much time as I want setting up or thinking about a picture without feeling judged.

What’s your favorite Instagram?
I really love the picture I took of myself holding up a pineapple against the sky. The sky is such a gorgeous color blue, the clouds are pure white — I just really love how bright and wonderful everything looks together! It was also a challenge to get the right balance of focusing on the pineapple without the sky being too dark, or vice versa, and I spent a lot of time deciding what angle I liked the pineapple to be.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
@tarantula_tamer is probably my favorite Instagram user to follow. I have always had a fascination of reptiles and insects, and he posts the most incredible pictures of such a huge variety of species!

What hashtags do you use?
When I choose hashtags, I try to not be very specific and use ones I know people look at a lot, like #iphonesia and #bestoftheday. I do not really know what they mean, but I have seen others use them and when I use them, it makes it easy for people to stumble upon my picture. I also like making up random re-makes of the word Instagram, like if it was a picture of hair, I might say #hairstagram or #instahair. I do that because I think I am being funny.

How many photos do you upload?
I aim to upload about once a day, quality over quantity.

Adam Zollar, 21
Stylist

Handle: @zollyw00d
Followers: 1007
User since November 2011

Describe your Instagram style.
Mostly everyday activities/items approached as “artsy” as I can. I try not to stick to one certain type of photo.

Most inspiring subjects:
Myself, nature, and alcoholic beverages.

What’s your favorite Instagram?
Anything when I’m in drag because I look fab.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
@jeffreycampbell because they’ve given me some love and who doesn’t love looking at shoes all day?

What kind of photo will you always “like”?
HOT MALE BODS.

What hashtags do you use?
The only hashtag that I’ve used is for my drag persona. People take hashtags #way #too #far. #ew.

How many photos do you upload?
I don’t upload daily. I would say about once or twice a week depending on how exciting my life is.

Christina Rose Hanlon, 22
Criminal Justice

Handle: @xxtinarose
Followers: 835
User since October 2011

Describe your Instagram style.
I take pictures of almost anything. I’m an open book so what better way to take pictures of my day. I am also into photography so from time to time I will post pictures of things I have taken while on photo adventures.

Most inspiring subjects:
I seem to take a lot of pictures of my cat Louie. I also like taking pictures of super colorful things like sunsets or art on the side of a building. And just pictures of my everyday life.

What’s your favorite spot on campus to snap an Instagram?
I usually sit in front of the Cesar Chavez building so I actually have taken a few pictures there in between studying.

What kind of photo will you always “like”?
It can be anything, from fashion to food to pets to the sunset. Anything I like, I “like.”

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
I think I have become more inspired to actually take pictures. I recently saved up and bought myself a Canon and since that day, I have been using my camera to take pictures of almost anything.

Kristina Kerley, 22
Journalism Major and Server at American Cupcake

Handle: @allbingeandnopurge
Followers: 1065
User since December 2011

What does your handle mean?
It’s the name of my food blog. On a larger scale though, I regard it as how I try to live my life. I want to take in all the world has to offer (binge on it) and never forget even the tiniest moments (no purge).

Most inspiring subjects:
1. Fresh ingredients – like a cut up fruit, fanned out around a wheel of cheese.
2. Desserts – because they really require perfection, frosting has to be swirled just right atop a cupcake, or a berry compote has to be falling ever so gently down the side of a tart.
3. Visible herbs/seasoning – such as a Caprese salad where you can see the ground pepper against the white mozzarella or the grains of salt still sitting on top of the tomato.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
I really don’t think I could pick just one, I probably have a Top 5 list, and all but one is food related. My favorites include: @thaoism @ilanafreddye @kazuxxx @lobese @trotterpup

What hashtags do you use?
#food #foodie #foodporn #foodgasm #foodphotography #igfood #sharefood #instagood #instafood #tastespotting #foodstyling #healthy #homemade #cooking #baking

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
I definitely style my home cooked food more, since now I pretty much photograph it all. And it’s the running joke with my friends and family that whenever we go out I have to photograph every dish before anyone touches it. I would also say that Instagram has been the best platform for me to connect with other chefs/foodies around the world. There is a community of food lovers who I have gotten to know and learn from, I definitely draw inspiration from the people I follow.

Brandon Tran, 20
Business

Handle: @dopensteez
Followers: 3,055
User since October 2011

What does your handle mean?
@dopensteez is a reflection of my own take on fashion. It is a description of my unique style and personality.

Most inspiring subjects:
My numerous amount of accessories, bright socks, and distinctive settings.

Who’s your favorite Instagram user to follow?
@Princepelayo. I am inspired by his photos because he dresses very bold. He is not afraid to take risks. He has a very simple and sophisticated look which makes him stand out from other fashion stylists/bloggers.

What hashtags do you use?
#OOTD, which stands for ‘Outfit of the Day.’

How many photos do you upload?
It depends on how busy my schedule is. Most of the time, I try to squeeze in about two to three photos a day.

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
Not only has it given me a whole new perception of what fashion is, but it has also helped me boost up my confidence. It has taught me to be myself and to not be afraid of being different. It has pushed me to become more comfortable within my skin. I was able to bring out my true personality. Instagram was the tool to help surface my passion for fashion.

Chanel Phengdy, 20
International Relations major; Chinese Language minor

Handle: @ahappyphace
Followers: 364
User since August 2011

What does your handle mean?
Keep a happy ‘ph’ace on, even if you truly don’t have a happy face.

Describe your style.
Insignificant things that may not matter to others a whole lot, but I find to be quite significant.

Most inspiring subjects:
I always love to shoot delicious food, amazing scenery, and random quirky things I find along search for good food and scenery.

What’s your favorite spot on campus to snap an Instagram?
The famous “No Name” Lake at my study abroad campus, Peking University.

What’s your favorite Instagram?
A sepia-toned photo of me at the Great Tangshan Earthquake memorial site in Northern China. The train tracks I’m standing on are remnants of the actual earthquake, and I believe the photo captures the ambiance of the real scenery quite well.

Who’s your favorite user to follow?
@_YEONG, a Korean with a cute and quirky style for Instagramming. Her life seems pretty sweet and “picturesque.”

What kind of photo will you always “like” when it shows up in your feed?
Anything food-related. I’m a bit tired of eating mainly noodles and dumplings (standard Northern Chinese cuisine) in Beijing.

What hashtags do you use?
#iphonesia, before Android users used Instagram. #joking

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
Instagram has definitely made interacting with people easy and entertaining. For example, it’s pretty neat being able to follow a total stranger somewhere else on the globe and discover how similar we all are.

Jon-Pierre Kelani, 32
Sociology alumni 2012

Handle: @EsqueJon
Followers: 691
User since August 2011

What does your handle mean?
It means in the manner or style of Jon. It’s about how I carry myself.

Describe your Instagram style.
My style generally reflect where I’m at and what I’m doing. It also reflects what I see. I’m always looking for a combination of high and low light contrast and from there I let the light guide me as I compose my subjects.

Most inspiring subjects:
My style generally is all capturing light on the street, people, and portraits of friends.

Who’s your favorite Instagram user to follow?
@Koci is a IGer that has inspired me because I try to mimic him after I dissect his images.

How many photos do you upload?
I try to upload one maybe two per day. I feel it’s an obligation to myself to take photos as much as possible.

How has your life changed since using Instagram?
Instagram has inspired me so much because it’s a mobile platform that allows me to share snapshots instantly.

A Technological Pursuit

Words: Jennifer Sandoval

East of San Francisco past Pleasanton lies the small city of Livermore. The city is normally quiet and quaint, but at two in the morning it holds an urban legend. Just behind the Safeway supermarket, a pair of railroad tracks stretch onward, inviting those who enjoy ghostly encounters to drive along the desolate and dark street beside it. The lights that kept the daring safe from their own fears slowly becomes less frequent until there is nothing left but a row of warehouses, a cement wall splattered with graffiti that divides the street and railroad tracks, and a dim florescent bulb coming from one of the warehouses. This is the destination for those who want to meet Rock Boy.

Although there are many versions of this tale, one story says that long ago a young boy often walked along the railroad tracks as a shortcut to get home. One day, the boy got caught in the tracks and threw rocks at the cement wall as a plea for help. No one was there to hear the clack of the rocks hitting the cement wall.

Clack. Clack.

It is said that if anyone dares to roll down their windows and turn off their car and call Rock Boy three times, he will try once again to get the attention of those who are looking for him.

Clack! Continue reading A Technological Pursuit

Page Against the Machine

IMG_2228
Dan Weiss, employee and event organizer of Alley Cat bookstore, talks to a customer, Feb. 28, 2012. Weiss has organized a series of events in February and planed more for March. Photo by Hang Cheng.

Written by Victor M. Rodriguez

@vrod18

Walking in from the busy streets of the Mission, the ambient smells penetrate the nostrils and carry a familiar coffeehouse scent. The perpetual shelves squeezed tightly together display books, from the latest to the greatest. Either by curiosity or assignment, a title is found. As the first few pages are read, a sanctuary for knowledge is once again found, free from the technology that is striking down heavy covers and bound papers.

Despite the growing trend of people relying on thin machines like iPads and e-readers to obtain readings, Kate Rosenberger comprehends that there is nothing like sitting down to turn the pages as the story progresses.

“There is a romance that comes from reading a book,” says Rosenberger, who owns four bookstores in San Francisco. “No pleasure really comes from picking up plastic as when picking up a book to sit down and read.”

Rosenberger combined her passion for reading with an interesting business endeavor about 26 years ago when she and an associate opened Phoenix Books on 24th Street in Noe Valley. Since then, three more stores now offer the same services, including its largest that resides in the Mission district, Dog Eared Books.

“The whole idea about bookstores closing has always been around,” explains Rosenberger. “But people build too much of a relationship with books for paperbacks to just disappear.”

Though she opens a bookstore every seven or so years, Rosenberger strives to appeal to different interests, like art and news, while giving the community a place to fine-tune their literacy.

Other places also see fit to move into a new location. Modern Times Bookstore, which was open on Valencia Street in the Mission for 20 years up until June of 2011, now opens its doors each morning to a loyal clientele just a few blocks southeast on 24th Street. Despite the smaller space, the premise of selling books remains the same.

“It became hard to afford the rent,” says Ruth Mahaney. “But the plan was to make sure we stay in the Mission.”

Mahaney has been a collective owner since 1973, and the decision to stay in the neighborhood serves the purpose of being part of a community that needs places like these.

“We’re trying to stay alive because just like people want books, we also help them fight for justice.”

It could mean many things, but some of the key strategies for these neighborhood stores are to offer a place for like-minded peers who seek to extend their knowledge.

IMG_2263
Customers browse through the books in Alley Cat Bookstore on 24th street in the Mission district, Feb. 28, 2012. The bookstore is one of the four own by Kate Rosenberger. Photo by Hang Cheng.

 

“We normally hold different events from open mics to poetry readings,” says John Escamillo, one of the newer members of the Modern Times family. “We also support important movements such as Occupy Wall Street.”

Standing behind a glass display and greeting customers with a smile, Dan Weiss prepares a film event at Alley Cat Books, the newest of Rosenberger’s stores. Carrying a popcorn machine to the vast space behind the shelves that categorize books in French, he recounts, “Spearheading this short film night, it’s just one of many events yet to come.” Though the turnout rate is a bit small, the purpose, according to Weiss, is to build a community presence and offer their clients an “artistic hub,” a place that will also sometimes feature a band or poetry night.

With the closing of Borders, a major retailer of books that had a strong presence all over the country, one might think that bookstores everywhere will be coming down. If not now, then sometime in the near future. NPR reports that almost four hundred Borders bookstores closed last September, a mix of various factors contributing to its demise. Among those, perhaps the biggest ones are e-book and finding better prices online.

“The rise of corporate book-selling came in the 90s,” says Weiss. “But at some point, some of these corporations are bound to fold because people will find alternatives to buying it in these stores.”

Weiss ascertains that while these huge stores offer a good amount of books, they have no character and usually serve as a reference point. That relationship with the community is not built.

However, local bookstores beg to differ, and they are still fighting the good fight to preserve literacy, culture, and knowledge amid growing apathy. San Francisco is probably one of the few cities exempt from the notion of disappearing books, according to Weiss.

“The Internet has served to make more readers out of us,” he says. Thus, the attempts of the stores can be seen as Ernest Hemingway describes guts: grace under pressure.