Our way of life has grown expensive—to the planet. And so, with an eye toward moving forward and wasting less paper in the process, Amazon did their part with the debut of the Kindle. The device of tomorrow, they envisioned a world without books. Wouldn’t that be so much better?
But with the maintenance of ecological balance in mind—the need for a living environment that is sustainable—comes the question: is a book made of paper more wasteful than a reading device made of plastic? A device that will never biodegrade? A device that will reside in a landfill forever as soon as the person who impulsively purchased it grows tired of its novelty and goes back to reading actual books?
A friend of mine bought a Nook. He was offended when I suggested that most people who buy e-reading devices don’t actually read. They’re simply gadgets, I told him. But I was wrong. This, he said, was the way of the future! I asked this same friend about the last book he read. He couldn’t tell me.
Trying out an e-reader myself, I was disappointed by how unwieldy, how awkward, how clunky it felt in my hands. It was nothing like a book (hardcover or paperback), which I could shove in my backpack, loan to a friend, toss, drop or use as a doorstop. I love the way each book has its own feel and smell. Books are personal, unique. But on a screen Crime and Punishment looks and feels just like everything else.
I’d sooner pull a *Raskolnikov on an e-reader than sit and try to mentally digest the thoughts of my favorite author.
Speaking of Dostoevsky, my paperback copy of The Brothers Karamazov went through the kind of hell only its author can sufficiently describe: subjected to a Seattle winter, a clumsy owner and the forces of gravity. But if you got your Nook wet it would blink twice, fizzle and die. Drop your Kindle on the kitchen floor? You’ll be on your knees scooping shards of plastic from under the refrigerator.
I asked that same friend what happened to his Nook. He lost the adaptor that recharges the battery—hasn’t touched it since.
*To learn more about pulling a Raskolnikov, read Crime and Punishment.
(Previously published in Central Circuit magazine–Seattle, WA, 2012)