Why Fox would sell a Kindle if you gave her one

Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total.
~Forsyth and Rada, “Machine Learning”

This topic came up a few days ago on a friend’s LiveJournal, so I thought I would post some of my thoughts on the discussion.

Quite simply, if you’re looking at e-readers vs. books and you’re concerned about being “green,” an e-reader is not for you. The green thing is to go to the library and get a book there.

Now, “used books are better than e-readers” is a pretty firm stance, and one that a lot of people argued with. It seemed that most people were at extremes…they either held that view or they felt that an e-reader could be just as green. There was the occasional person waving the banner of “Actually, I think both views are valid,” but that was rare.

But the wording of what I said is important. I’m not comparing e-readers to new books. I’m saying that if green is your thing, then the library should be your first stop for reading material, and that goes for those of you who don’t like e-readers, too (double, in fact). Hands-down, the library is going to be the greenest place for books. Period. There’s a good argument for e-readers vs. new books, but I’m not into new books, either. Unless it happens to be an Elder Scrolls novel, but dammit, even I have to break weak on occasion.

There are certain classes of people who would benefit from an e-reader, yes. If periodicals or quickly obsolete texts (ie, your average college textbook) are available for e-readers, that would likely be a greener option than going dead-tree format. In fact, I highly recommend college textbooks for e-readers. That particular system needs to be completely revamped.

But for the average reader, even heavy readers, such as myself, I don’t feel there’s an environmental advantage to e-readers. I can read to my heart’s content in the library. There are more books there than I could ever hope to read. All of them used, all of them available to [insert deity here, if applicable] knows how many people.

If you want to go with an e-reader for some other reason (you travel a lot, or you’re just into new shiny tech), that’s fine. I’m not arguing that you shouldn’t have an e-reader. This is America, you have the right. I’m just saying that an e-reader is not the greenest option for most people.

As to why I don’t want one, personally? I love books. I love looking at the covers and flipping the pages and smelling them and finding the notes and scribbles other people leave and wondering what they were thinking as they read them. I miss the old days of ink stamps reminding you of when it was time to return the book. I could look in the back and see how long ago the book was checked out and how often. I love looking at my small bookshelf and all the old, familiar friends there. My worn-out copy of “Legacy of the Drow,” which got passed around by my brother until the cover fell off. My marked-up edition of “House of Leaves.” My books on plant, animal, and shopping cart identification, which get referenced quite a bit. Books are very simple. You pick it up, open it, and read. There’s no wifi to go down, batteries to die, things to charge, formats to change, or screens to break. You might batter it slightly if you drop it, but you don’t have to worry too much. You or it won’t die if you drop it in the bath. And they’re amazingly cheap. Free, if you hit up the library, and no transportation costs since I walk or bike there. I like the simple, unhurried, untechy nature of a book. I’ve yet to find a book frustrating, unless it was written by Al Gore, but that would be frustrating on an e-reader, too. And there’s just something nice about loaning or being loaned a book.

And how long will an e-reader last? According to LibraryThing, the average publish date of all the books I can ever remember reading is 1998. I don’t have even a calculator that’s lasted that long, although I’ve seen one. I’ve read two books that were published in the 1940’s. And I don’t mean that’s when the story itself was published…that’s when the book itself was made. I’ve read two books that are, physically, almost 70 years old. Who knows how many people have read those. Those trees did not die in vain.

E-readers are nifty, but like any good neotechnophobe, I’ll pass for now, thanks.

3 Responses to “Why Fox would sell a Kindle if you gave her one”

  1. I’m a big fan of things that are hard to break. Electronics have, sadly, not yet advanced to this point.

  2. maloyo Says:

    I love books and libraries. If I traveled a lot, an e-reader would probably appeal to me. But I don’t, so haven’t felt the need to get one.

    I’ll admit—-I like the low tech of books. Splash some water on a book—wipe it off, and dry it out. Splash some water on an e-reader, and a pricey piece of electronic gear may be history.

    But am a little worried I’m becoming a bid of a Luddite. I still don’t own an MP3 player, as unbelievable as that seems. CDs were such an improvement in weight and size over vinyl, that I’m still impressed with them. I’m quite content with my modest collection, an occasional new or used CD purchase, and small CD player. Anyone who complains about the space CDs take up, never had to find room for vinyl. ;-)

  3. […] No, I’m not a big fan of e-books, but there are other forms of e-media out there that I feel are greener than their physical counterparts. […]

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