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Sunday, December 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Overcast
The Paper
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Agents of change

The book industry is among those most profoundly affected by the advent of digital technologies. Your Nooks and Kindles and the like, the ability to download volumes through the ether, have taken their toll on the venerable book-selling trade. Bricks and mortar are under siege, and all the norms of the publishing industry are being recalibrated.

But one technology, as I'll term it, is unassailable, and that is the ability to read. So the Wisconsin Book Festival, which began on Oct. 19 and continues through the 23rd, has undiminished relevance, as information becomes more and more the currency of the age. The happenings in this year's festival are contained in the festival program that accompanied your Isthmus on Oct. 6. Should you have foolishly not picked up the paper that week, or misplaced the insert, you can access the information at

Technology is not the only agent of change. How about a recession verging on depression to alter courses? Our cover story this week, "How I Beat the Recession and Found a Job" by Mary Ellen Bell, presents five case studies of people whose lives have been altered by economic conditions but who have persisted and achieved, if not absolute success, at least the prospect of it.

In one case, a 65-year-old is embarking on a new career and plans to work it for the rest of her life. Interestingly, 50 years ago, the average life expectancy after retirement was five years. Now it's 25 years. So starting over at 65 doesn't seem so absurd in these times. Also, in a number of cases the out-of-work person turned entrepreneurial, demonstrating that sometimes the only path left open to you is the one that leads to your dream.

Judging by the performance of our Washington leaders so far, the surest way out of this malaise is doing it ourselves. If we're going to fix this economy, it seems we'll have to do it from the bottom up.

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