The New Age of Reading...

… is upon us. Analog books, despite how wonderful they are to curl up with on a rainy afternoon, may soon be replaced by more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Me, I’ve got a library of over 500 books. Most are for sale on Alibris, as I’ve run out of decent room to store them. I’m a firm believer that books are too good to be stored in boxes. This summer I broke down and purchased my first audio book to listen to on the long drives between Ottawa and Toronto. It was Snuff, by Chuck Palahnuik (author of Fight Club). It was a fantastic listen, and many a trip I’d wonder where the miles went between Kingston and Bowmanville.

I then bought the audio book for My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. I’ve just started it, on a plane trip last week.  The trouble with audio books is that it’s hard to curl up with them. Especially if you are just curled up. Where do you look? What do you do with your hands? To the outside world, it looks like you are daydreaming, or napping. ;-)

E-paper and e-books get rid of that feeling of inactivity when enjoying a good book. LG Philips has come out with an e-paper that support colour. The University of Cambridge has developed super-thin e-paper, as light as a magazine. Still, it’s just flimsy plastic. There’s no weight to it… the curling up factor is low.

The Amazon Kindle might be the perfect fit between e-paper and analog books.
It’s the size of a trade paperback, perfect to curl up with… but can easily contain the works of dozens of authors. Added wifi capability, and a qwerty keyboard gives it more options than you can imagine. Of course, as I write this, and wonder if I can get a Kindle on my Christmas wishlist, I realize that the wireless connectivity comes free-of-charge, since Amazon has made a pretty neat deal with Sprint for free wireless service. Sprint, IN AMERICA. No such coverage in Canada at this time. Can’t I just get a Kindle that’s wi-fi enabled? I don’t need wireless network connectivity out of the box. I don’t mind downloading books over my home network. Still, it’s the first cut - who knows what Amazon has up its’ sleeves?

A price tag of  $359USD doesn’t put it out of the realm of possibility as an alternative to traditional books, if you think of the money you dole out for great reads. Still, there are some considerations - battery life, sensitivity to the elements, the odd food fingerprint. This isn’t your momma’s Danielle Steele novel, it’s a piece of sophisticated electronic hardware. Does it change the relationship between reader and artist? Does more respect have to go into the vehicle, than what’s in the words on the screen? Of course, there are many more options than just the Kindle, but it was the Kindle that sparked my interest in the first place.

Unless all traditional books are printed on recycled paper, and even then, it’s going to get very costly, very quickly for printed materials. The energy required to print a run of analog books os soon going to make it cost prohibitive to purchase anyways. With e-books, the energy is expended once, to create the reader. The books are then just downloaded. No muss, less fuss. No landfill space required.