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The Real Freedom is in Paper Books

In recent years, for various reasons, I have had to pack my books several times (moving residences or moving some of them to the basement to occupy less space at home). Having thousands of books means lengthy related tasks and heavy boxes to carry.

If all of my printed books were digitally squeezed into an ebook reader, I would carry minimal weight and could access them wherever I went; I would have my complete library at my fingertips. I could also free some space in my house. Nonetheless, I do not regret having purchased and carried my paper books.

Recently, I wanted to try an ebook reader and bought a number of ebooks, especially for traveling. However, I ended up also buying the printed edition, even though this meant carrying they physical books back and forth between Europe and Asia.

Printed books offer a freedom that is still unsurpassed by digital technology. Now that summer is approaching, I can leave my printed books on the beach without fear that they will be damaged by sand or a ball, or be stolen. Coffee and other liquids can stain a paper book but the book will not be completely damaged.

Having a baby around paper books is not a problem. The baby may tear a few pages, stain or step on the book, or use the book as a toy, but the usefulness of the paper book remains. A paper book as an “analogical” technology degrades gracefully, but digital technologies either work or do not work.

Reading a printed book in the sun is easier than reading a screen, despite the best and most impressive advances in screen technology.
When electricity will be interrupted because of energy prices, and I cannot recharge my electronic gadgets, my paper books are still available for reading.

When the failure of only one electronic component jeopardizes an entire ebook reader, my paper books are still around, even though they may be yellowish, damp, or have torn pages.

If I cannot afford to upgrade to ever more sophisticated iPads and Kindles, my paper books will not need an upgrade. When the rare earth metals required for electronics are gone, paper books will be cheaper than their electronic counterparts, when considering the price of the hardware. Paper is a highly renewable resource if used with the right criteria.

A few companies control the ebook market and governments are able to know and potentially control the types of books we read by deciding on what’s good and what’s not good and by interfering with our uploads. If this happens (we are not that far from its occurrence), I will still be able to read my preferred paper books. Prohibited or controversial paper books have always been available, even under the most repressive regimes (though with greater difficulty), whereas electronic information can be easily traced and blocked.

My printed books simply need to be carried, whereas an electronic reader requires the right lighting conditions, electricity or batteries, cables, and often an Internet connection.

My printed books age with me, whereas an ebook reader becomes obsolete and needs to be replaced at regular intervals. My paper books do not blink, do not require Internet connections, do not see others’ annotations and comments, do not connect with readers’ social networks, do not talk, and do not do anything except exist to be read.

Thus the words from a printed book can resound inwardly because of the surrounding emptiness, like the beats from a well-tuned drum.

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Those Tiny Chips With Huge Smelly Footprints

Low Tech Magazine presented the article titled “The monster footprint of digital technology” in which they show how the power consumption of our high-tech machines and devices is hugely underestimated:

When we talk about energy consumption, all attention goes to the electricity use of a device or a machine while in operation. A 30 watt laptop is considered more energy efficient than a 300 watt refrigerator. This may sound logical, but this kind of comparison does not make much sense if you don’t also consider the energy that was required to manufacture the devices you compare. This is especially true for high-tech products, which are produced by means of extremely material- and energy-intensive manufacturing processes… The energy consumption of electronic devices is skyrocketing…There are multiple reasons for the growing energy consumption of electronic equipment; more and more people can buy gadgets, more and more gadgets appear, and existing gadgets use more and more energy (in spite of more energy efficient technology – the energy efficiency paradox described here before).

However, most of the energy involved in electronics is not much about their use. Larger amounts of energy are being used for the production of the technology, the embodied energy.

The energy used to produce electronic gadgets is considerably higher than the energy used during their operation. For most of the 20th century, this was different; manufacturing methods were not so energy-intensive…Advanced digital technology has turned this relationship upside down. A handful of microchips can have as much embodied energy as a car… The embodied energy of the memory chip (of a computer) alone already exceeds the energy consumption of the laptop during its life expectancy of 3 years.

The trend in the manufacture of electronics is going toward more energy-intensive processes and heavier costs in terms of raw materials and resources. Did the fast development in computer processing speed and memory, coupled with the huge amount of energy needed for manufacturing them make them faster and more productive? Every Windows user knows that after one or two years of use the operating system becomes cluttered and slows down considerably.

Defragmenting the hard disk, cleaning the registry and uninstalling applications have little effect. The cooling fan runs often, often the hard disk works like hell with no apparent reason, operations get slower and slower. This can be blamed on the poorly-engineered Windows operating system, but even alternatives like Apple or Linux, though better, don’t come any closer to match the development in hardware at the software level

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