Three Reasons to Keep Physical Books

Question: How are eBooks changing the way we consume books and media?

Margaret Atwood: Well eBooks are another method of text delivery.  And I did run a... I ran a blog on this subject sometime ago and it was called "Three Reasons for Keeping Paper Books."  And the three reasons were:  solar flares which would wipe out communications, towers, and also any electronic media that you might happen to have stored.  Grid overload resulting in brown-outs which would have similar effects.  And internet overload.  Unless people are going to build the grid out more, going to build the net out more, There’s pretty soon not going to have much space on it because of all the spam and porn to the percentage of 95, I’m told.  So it’s very crowded out there.  

So building out the net, building out the grid and what are you going to do about the solar flares.  Well I guess a lead-lined box is about the best you can do.  All of these things point out the fact that electronic storage is pretty fragile.  If you want to keep something permanently, you should probably keep it in paper form and that is why an e-version of your Will is not acceptable.  Another reason is it’s very hackable and forgeable.  As I said, the net is leaky.  And a number of other legal documents, which of course drives people crazy because those paper things take up so much room.  So it’s a problem facing businesses, what to do with the paper?  What is the alternative to paper?  When can you use e-storage, etc.?  It’s also a problem for people, for instance, with small apartments who like to read, where are they going to put all the books?  

The e-reader gives you portability, it gives you instant accessibility and it gives you the possibility of having whole bunch of books with you at once on this little device.  So for that, it’s very, very handy.  Those are the pluses.  

I personally think it’s going to increase reading because you can acquire a book very quickly.  You don’t have to wait, you can just push the button and it’s there.  If you really like it and want to keep it, you may then go get a paper version.  It does remove the element of serendipity, by which I mean, you walk into a bookstore with the idea of getting this book and you see three or four other books that you really feel you must have, but you wouldn’t have known about them unless you run into the store.  So how to create in an e-version that experience of serendipity.  It’s really hard.  

So people are thinking about this a lot the other virtue of the e-reader may be that it’s helpful for kids who are having reading problems because they an isolate blocks of text and make the letters bigger.  So it makes it more visible.  They can see it better, maybe.  I don’t think they’ve done the studies on that yet, but it’s being talked about.

Recorded 9/21/2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

Books are important because electronic storage is fairly fragile. That said, e-books provide many advantages, especially for those with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.

Car culture and suburbs grow right-wing populism, claims study

New research links urban planning and political polarization.

Pixabay
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Canadian researchers find that excessive reliance on cars changes political views.
  • Decades of car-centric urban planning normalized unsustainable lifestyles.
  • People who prefer personal comfort elect politicians who represent such views.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

NASA astronomer Michelle Thaller on ​the multiple dimensions of space and human sexuality

Science and the squishiness of the human mind. The joys of wearing whatever the hell you want, and so much more.

Flickr / 13winds
Think Again Podcasts
  • Why can't we have a human-sized cat tree?
  • What would happen if you got a spoonful of a neutron star?
  • Why do we insist on dividing our wonderfully complex selves into boring little boxes
Keep reading Show less