It’s okay, friends – I’m not up on my piracy soapbox today. But I was recently asked for my general opinion of ebooks and realized, I seldom think about them. As you know, I love books with a fervour that approaches the religious and have plenty of opinions about technology, but where those two things collide, I just shrug and go, “Meh.”
Basically, I’m suspicious of the medium. Dedicated e-readers look frumpy, cumbersome, fragile. When I look at them, I think, “Landfill.” Smartphones are sleeker and newer iPads have some green credentials, but they’re still not that sustainable. Analyses vary, but the number I hear most is that you have to read at least 40 ebooks a year to outweigh the environmental cost of the same number of new paper books. (That’s if you believe the most-quoted figure.) For how many years? More than it takes to get the next generation e-reader, for sure.
I already spend my days on a laptop, drive a car, fly long distances to visit family, and eat for pleasure rather than sustenance. Sometimes, I slip carrot peelings into the garbage instead of the composter. And without going all Willy Loman on you, I’m putting off buying a dishwasher because new ones are designed to last only 6-8 years. I think I’m turning into a cranky hippie but basically, I dislike stuff.
So today, I’m thinking of things that need to happen before I’d want an e-reader or smartphone. My first device should:
- last more than 5 years
- be made without sweatshop labour
- be recyclable (and not just in theory)
- cost less energy to produce than, say, 25 paper books (roughly the number I bought new last year)
- be beautiful
And that’s excluding all the readerly functions I’d want: huge range of titles, full-text searchability, linked index, ability to turn more than one page at a time, proper illustrations.
What about you? What are your criteria for getting an e-reader? If you already have one, what persuaded you it was worthwhile?