Over on another weblog there has been a lengthy and highly repetition discussion of gentle, kind, but smelly books made of paper and evil digital books that will ruin your eyes but are handy for traveling, at least until the subliminal terrorist messages kick in and turn you into the Manchurian Candidate. The pros and cons are many, quite obvious, and will never eliminate the dialogue. My favorite reason for preferring either format is that books smell so good. Now I am intrigued by the smell of an old-fashined dairy farm and all those cows and all that hay and you finish the series, but I don’t want one to move next to my little shack in the swamp. I wish to suggest a positive attribute of digital books: they don’t smell!
But the wildest reasoning I ran across was the suggestion that if civilization no longer had electricity, the digital books would be worthless whereas paper books would always be available. Now, if the intention was to project a major power outage that exceeded two or three days, then I agree, since the digital book might require recharging, it would be nice to have an old-fashioned paper book on hand (I have about a thousand) … but only in the daytime since paper books are seldom back-lit and are difficult to read in the dark.
But what if the idea was to project a world totally without electricity so that the digital book could never be recharged? The obvious fact is that reading a book might not be civilization’s most pressing problem in this scenario. But I’m thinking that there would be no paper books either: old books would have be used for fuel long ago and without electricity, new books could not be written, printed, and published. Besides, what kind of energy is going to be used to turn the trees into paper for the books, especially when all the trees were burnt as firewood to provide heat and to cook food.
I suggest that the minions at MIT immediately start developing a neural port which allows for the insertion of a static memory device and which feeds the information from the device directly into the brain at a satisfying pace to simulate actual reading. Then all the books of the world can be stored on these memory devices for later use when electricity disappears and all the trees and books are burned to keep mankind warm and adequately fed. Besides, it would make “tell me a story” so much simpler.