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Digital pulp

December 22, 2009

Jeff Jarvis, the author of What Would Google Do?, said in his book that “books are where words go to die.”  He pointed out that books get thrown out when they are no longer needed and end up as trash or pulp, and that 40% of printed books published never get sold.  He said that multimedia can be searched, updated or linked to and can be available to all online readers.  He also implied that it is a much more sustainable option.

Digital pulpWhile it is true that books often become dust magnets on shelves, there is no substitute for print on paper, its feel on your fingers and the smell of a new book.  We can’t achieve the same sensation while pressing the plastic buttons of the Kindle e-book reader or touching the glassy play button on an iPod to start an audio book.  This got me thinking about how I have unknowingly changed the way I read books.  I used to buy hard copies but now I selectively tend to read them as e-books or audio books (yes, I’ve thought about this one and I ‘read’ audio books).

Hard copies: It is greener to not buy books but some books can only be experienced on paper.  Examples of these include my favorite Richard Meier monograph, or the beautifully illustrated Francis Ching book.

E-books: I buy e-books more for the convenience of being able to carry many books on an e-book reader without carrying the extra weight.  I found that even though I buy graphic intensive non-fiction e-books, I end up buying a hard copy as well because it is easier to flip the pages and refer back to pervious chapters to view a chart or graphics. On a Kindle tables and charts do not display well.

Audio books: I tend to buy novels and other non-fiction books as audio books from Audible.  If I feel there is reference material that I will need to refer to in the future I usually supplement it with an e-book or a hard copy.  Audio books are fun because they are like listening to a performance such as a play on the radio.  A disadvantage of audio books is that you aren’t able to visually see what chapter you are on (although an audio book is separated into chapters, unfortunately they don’t always correspond to the chapters in the book).

How have you been reading your books lately – hard copies, e-books or audio books?

-by Noerah

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Talia permalink
    December 22, 2009 2:57 pm

    I can’t believe 40% of printed books never get sold. Maybe there is a better printing model that is somewhat greener. The kind of on demand printing of at least prevents all those unbought books being trashed.
    I was also wondering how many books you need to read on a kindle or similar to make it ‘greener’ — there is a lot of embodied energy in those devices.

    • Diane permalink
      December 22, 2009 7:05 pm

      I went into one of our better book shops yesterday and would have liked to buy so many of the the books. I have learnt to resist a little, mainly due to the ever-increasing cost of the dear things. What can replace lying on ones bed and reading the written word?

  2. Omar permalink
    December 22, 2009 4:34 pm

    Call me old fashioned or “un-green” but as big of a techie that I am, and as easy as it was for me to replace my CDs with an iPod, I’m still unable to let go of my books.

    Imagine Atlas Shrugged or Catcher in the Rye on a kindle….!!!!

    • December 23, 2009 7:40 am

      That’s true- some books are impossible to replace with digital versions. I will soon write about Lulu and Blurb- these are print on demand services for books. This reduces needless printing and wastage.

  3. Indira Banerjee permalink
    December 22, 2009 9:49 pm

    Reading e-books can get pricey. It is very easy to get books n Kindle. You can buy anything that is listed in Kindle store almost from anywhere.

    Unless the e-book is free you may end up spending quite a bit of money buying these e-books. We miss the good old neighborhood library!

    Kindle does not allow sharing the e-books among readers at present. I believe that the new e-book reader called Nook that Barnes and Noble is selling allows borrowing among friends for 14 days from the date of the purchase.

    • December 23, 2009 7:45 am

      The great thing about the Kindle is that you don’t even need wifi where you are ordering from. Unlike the previously popular Sony e-book reader you never have to connect it to a computer. It’s a stand alone device, great for people who don’t care too much for computers. Geeks love it too.

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