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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Books

I realized something the other day that astounded me. Recently I've been reading more electronic books than paper books. That's a big transition that slowly snuck up on me.

The problem with electronic books is that I never feel like I really own them. Doesn't matter that I may have spent good money on a PDF download. It still doesn't feel quite real to me.

A paper book doesn't need a whole support system to access it. Daylight works just fine. Electronic books require so much more. There's the platform itself: bookreader, laptop, netbook, desktop, PDA, or what have you. Everything either needs batteries or house electric. It's complicated. Things can go wrong. Machines break. The grid goes down. Batteries die.

Formats change over time. We've many paper books in our house that over 100 years old. How many electronic formats last even 10 years? Recently I discovered some important (at least to me) files that only existed on 3.5" floppy disk. Fortunately I still have a computer that could read it. Converted it other formats. How often is information lost because the device needed to read it is no longer available?

People say just print out a copy. How often does that happen? Sure, you may print out a few pages of important information, but books worth? Few do. I just printed out about 240 pages of text and finished off another expensive printer cartridge. If you want the document to last, better use acid free paper and archival inks. Both of those things cost money.

There's a lot of information that never made the transition from paper to electronic. Plenty of useful farm and household books from years gone by won't make it to electronic format. That information is in danger of being lost. We may have a time when those old skills could come in handy.

Never mind the practical stuff. What about the simple pleasures of being able to read a book? If the grid goes down, or an EMP event takes out your electronics, at least you can escape into a good book.

Sixbears

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