Home > Going off topic > E-Reader versus Tree Reader

E-Reader versus Tree Reader

Romantics like me are still clinging to the dead tree variety of books and I suppose we will till those crafty inventors invent an e-reader with turnable paper pages you can dog ear and scribble in the margins.  Should we feel guilty because we have big carbon feet?  The definitive answer is, as always, maybe yes and maybe no.  I’m a big fan of used books.  These trees have already been slaughtered in the name of literature.  There ain’t no bringing them back now; they’re gone.  With a used book you never know what surprise waits the next turn of the page.  Suspicious crusty brown thing stuck to the page or a ten dollar bill used as a book marker, you just never know.  There are billions of them available for pennies and if bought in a thrift store, often the proceeds go to support some cause.

In my home office, book shelves sag with real honest to goodness paper books.  Probably enough to run them through a tree reconstitution device and make a smallish pine tree.  Ironically enough, some of them include Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance and a collection of Thoreau, Muir and Emerson (I wonder where they would fall in the ‘E versus Tree’ debate?).  Also in my office is a bin filled with old electronic devices, chargers, power cords and such.  Sadly there’s nowhere in my tiny mountain town to recycle this stuff, so to avoid the landfill they live in the bin, discarded and no longer loved, till I die and they become someone else’s problem.

I hesitate to buy an e-reader because I’m concerned it will end up in that bin someday.  And I think of the energy used to create the device and the energy it would take to recycle it.  I also wonder how clean the manufacturing process is for electronic gizmos.  There’s also the concern that Skynet will someday send a terminator back through time to snuff me out, so one less piece of electronics is a way to thumb my nose at the machine revolution.

But I do admit that on occasion I’m torn.  E-readers look so convenient and if you can download magazines and newspapers, would save tons of paper.  But like my vinyl records (yep, I’ve still got those too) there is just an unexplained charm and comfort to holding a real book.

Just blathering, Jack

Categories: Going off topic
  1. June 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I’m with you, Blathering Jack. No amount of back-lit glow will replace the sensory experience of holding a book. I may take the time some day to search the Web for a carbon / environmental comparison of electronic vs wooden books (I suspect the wooden ones will win) but, until then, who needs it? Weight, volume, and other arguments aside, give me paper!

    • The Velo Hobo
      June 29, 2012 at 3:07 pm

      I’m thinking paper will win out in the environmental impact department too. They are totally biodegradable, recyclable and made from a renewable resource. But I’m no expert. Maybe an expert will weigh in on the subject. Jack

  2. June 29, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Many years ago I had a group of my design students conduct research into the “future” of the book. We hypothesized that some sort of screen-based device would replace newspapers, magazines, and books. As it turned out, we might very well have presumed correctly but you’d never have guessed it from the results of our research. In a nutshell, it turned out that no one wanted to curl up in a comfy chair with a good computer. People like the tactile nature of paper. That was in 1984; I wonder if this sentiment will hold true for the current generation.

    • The Velo Hobo
      June 30, 2012 at 5:32 am

      Books have no appeal to the teenagers in my home and they are very comfortable with anything video. Unfortunatly this leads to poor written language skills. We try to involve them in the youth program and reading club at our local library and we model being readers, but still, if given the choice they’d rather play video games or use the computer.

  3. June 30, 2012 at 2:07 am

    I am with you, Mr. Hobokian Velocious. As long as the books don’t burn/get wet/deteriorate completely we’ll be able to read them decades, even centuries from now. How long will the newest-latest Kindle last until its obsolete and thrown into the dustbin (or sent over to Asia where small children will rip out the salvageable parts.)

    I know that using e-readers has become a big thing for both minimalists and ardent bicycle tourists (and ardent minimalist bicycle tourist) but for me nothing beats a book. Can’t say I never won’t, but right now I’d rather spend it on other things. Like beer.

    For those who say “books are expensive”, try used book stores. And the library.

    • The Velo Hobo
      June 30, 2012 at 5:41 am

      Libraries are great and I wonder what their future will be like a decade from now. Ours is now offering downloadable e-reader books. Google has a ton of free e-books and some are pretty good. Last year I purchased an e-book from Google (for my laptop) to see if I would enjoy e-reading. It’s a really good book, the second Dwarves book by Markus Hietz. It’s been a year and I’ve only read two chapters.

      Maybe someday I’ll warm to it, but for now I just don’t enjoy e-reading.

  4. Chris P.
    July 1, 2012 at 9:59 am

    I’ve had 2 e-ink type e-readers — the current one I can write in the margins! It’s the Asus eee-note EA800 but it seems to be impossible to buy directly unless you’re in Asia.
    Mine came from ebay (new) and I can’t understand why it’s not available more wide-spread than it should be.
    As an academic who is constantly reading (and making notes), I love books of all types — but I never overlook the fact that I read for the *content*.

    • The Velo Hobo
      July 2, 2012 at 6:14 am

      E-ink sounds very sci-fi. I understand microsoft is coming out with a new tablet to compete with the I-Pad. It’s interesting to see where all this is going and they may win me over someday. Alot of what I read is pretty obscure and I doubt it’s availble in an electronic version, but I do use a laptop daily both at work and on occasion at home, so it’s not too big of a leap to lose the keyboard and use something more mobile. But still, I’m not there yet.

      Thanks for the comment, Jack

  5. JimCee
    July 2, 2012 at 6:23 pm

    I don’t own an e-reader, and don’t have any desire to do so. My adult daughter has a Kindle that she received, to her apparent delight, a couple of years back as a Christmas present. On a recent road trip to Colorado and New Mexico (from Arizona), all I saw her reading were paperback books!

    I enjoy my personal library of books, and don’t particularly find an advantage in reading another LCD screen…

    • Chris P.
      July 3, 2012 at 12:36 am

      God forbid, someone with a Kindle reading a paper-book — you’d assume from that small snapshot that somehow they were exclusive?

      Another analogy: car drivers (in the wrong) often assume that cyclists don’t also drive cars.

      Personally (to repeat myself) I read for the *content* — I don’t care — as long as it’s readable. To repeat this in another way — the device itself is actually cheap compared to the hundreds of books on there. And if you’re diligent and keep back-ups, transferring 1000s of dollars worth of books to a $200 reader may put the question of CONTENT as the primary value.

      Also, I mentioned e-ink, not LCD. The kindle (with e-ink screen) is wonderfully easy on the eyes — those who preach otherwise won’t let their pride alone be told otherwise.

      But, yes, it is romantic to admire the thing to be read as an object in itself isn’t it?

      • July 3, 2012 at 2:26 am

        I think if we were judging by content alone, yeah, you have a point Chris P. But it isn’t strictly about “content” alone, it’s also about the devices required to use such content. Technology like this becomes obsolete at an alarming rate these days. Just ask anyone who has a VHS collection. Heck, I’ve got some Zip Discs lying around somewhere, good luck finding a reader for those these days.

    • The Velo Hobo
      July 3, 2012 at 6:14 am

      Hi Jim,
      most of my day is spent staring at a computer screen (odd, I went into mental health to work with people, and I spend most of my time doing “paper” work). I’ve been suffering lots of eye fatigue, so reading a real paper book at the end of the day is a nice change. Jack

      • JimCee
        July 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm

        I’m also on my computer a great deal, and since I’m retired it’s entirely volitional! I don’t, however, enjoy reading long articles, much less a book, on an LCD screen and much prefer the print version. If that makes me a troglodyte, then I’m guilty as charged!

        • The Velo Hobo
          July 9, 2012 at 6:14 am

          I’m the same and I usually skim articles of more than a couple of paragraphs on the computer unless it’s required reading for work. Much of what I read for pleasure is old science fiction and funny enough, many of the caracters are using an electronic reader.

          I’m sure someday I’ll be won over to e-readers. Most likely because I’ll have no other choice for newspapers and such.

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