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Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

Posted May 30, 2008 8:09 AM

It's been a common refrain at every food market: Paper or plastic? Now that question might apply to the books we read. Electronic books (e-books) are gaining in popularity, and probably anything that gets people to read is a good thing. Some studies also point to the environmental sustainability of e-books over paper books. The only green advantage of paper books is that no electricity is needed to read it. Other assessments emphasize the toxic impacts of e-book components at the end of their life cycle. So is it paper or plastic for your reading? And do the environmental implications of these options affect your choice?

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#1

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

05/30/2008 10:48 AM

Paper - hands down. Far less eye-strain, I can take it anywhere, sit in any position, and it's difficult to dog-ear pages or makes notes in the margins of an e-book. The only advantage an e-book has is reading in the dark.

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#2

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

05/30/2008 10:55 AM

I don't agree with the premise. If you bought an early gen e-book reader from 2-3 years ago, its worthless. It can't "read" current formats. As the technology improves, e-book readers will become like cell phones, essentially disposal after a few years. I've owned some books for upwards of forty years and they read the same today as when published. I also own books that are 100-200 years old, they've been read by many people without technological upgrade. Simply put, it's a very flawed argument as phrased. The current and likely future model for e-book readers is not at all "green".

An argument I could accept would be that as e-book adoption grows trees may be save because e-books are not (supposed to be) printed. But, of course, there's the corresponding e-waste, so it's not a great argument.

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#3

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

05/30/2008 6:19 PM

Not to mention that a paper book is just a lot more friendly. At least to old guys like me.. I have tried reading books or very long papers on my computer, and I usually give up and print them out....

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#5
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Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

05/31/2008 10:43 AM

It has been a long time since I have chatted with you, Steve. I do want to thank you again for the lunch meeting. My wife was impressed as she thought I was always flirting with women on the Internet, that it was the only thing the Internet was good for.....

As for printing it out, I am with you on this. At least for long articles. Also, I am in a habit of creating "Project Books" and filing important papers in loose leaf notebooks. This way, I can refer back to the article as needed while reading new material on the same subject. I an certain you to do the same thing. It is a habit for most scientist and engineers. Sometimes my project reading files can get quite large. However, since I switched from a CRT (19") to a LCD (also 19") the on-screen reading is far easier. When I built my new machine (AMD X2 CPU on ASUS M2E-E MB with 2 gig DDR2 ram) I included the Acer 19" LCD Monitor, all for under $500. Now I am looking for a good open source or low cost CAD program that can run on Linux. QCad does not yet "cut it" and many others are still too early in development stages, however, CAElinux might make the grade in time.

As for paper of plastic, when I shop, I always request plastic bags. It seems roaches love to lay eggs in paper bags so their hatched young can eat the glue and then infest a new home. If recycled, the plastic bag becomes an excellent use for fossil fuels, too. The plastic locks up the carbon for centuries and thus does not become a threat to global warming. The plastic does, however, require recycling. This can be done to create many useful products while still keeping the carbon under lock and key. Only by burning the plastic do we release the carbon.

So, in conclusion; paper is an excellent way to store information. Both paper or plastic can be used and are quiet useful but both need to be recycled. The human being is the most wasteful of all the animals on earth. He needs to learn to put his waste to proper use. Why not recycle everything, turning waste into energy or into products which can improve our lifestyle while helping to reduce the pollution of the land, sea, and air. This is, as I understand it, the definition of Sustainability Engineering. FYI, my new website: http://www.chtank.org.

Yours respectfully,

tank

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#4

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

05/31/2008 1:43 AM

I own an Amazon Kindle, and I have to tell you that it friggin' rocks!!! It even has a built-in cellular connection (that you don't pay for). When you buy a book, it's downloaded to you Kindle for free using the cell connection. The cell connection also allows you to surf the web for free! Beats the heck out of trying to find a WiFi hot-spot.

New titles are added every couple of weeks. You can even get newspapers and magazines. Again, the list is growing.

One more thing, it uses the "white-paper" display technology instead of an LCD. This means you're not forced into the shade to see the text. The more light the better - just like real paper and ink.

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#6

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

05/31/2008 3:55 PM

So a real green book would be an acid free hemp paper book with archival ink.

A carbon sink that if kept dry will last longer than its owner and possibly many generations of owners, even libraries.

E-books are ok for read once typed material, but unless it is huge with bad indexing(like the tax code) so I need to search it, hard copy book are much more user friendly.

One worry I have of e-books becoming a de facto standard is what happens if a major catastrophe occurs and the faster spread of the written word is even faster lost.

Paper or plastic? Kill a dinosaur or kill a tree? I use cloth, holds more and has handles. Have yet to wear one out.

True green products don't become obsolete or wear out under normal use. Of course there are few repeat customers and fewer marketing opportunities. Thus green is inverse to quick profit unless there is a fad marketing angle to it. More environmentally friendly is more accurate.

On the other hand in High School the "green ones" were suppose to make you horny.

Brad

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#7

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

06/02/2008 3:39 AM

Nothing is better than a good "traditional" book... Maybe I look like old-fashion but I rather prefer a book than an "e-book"... There are advantages and disadvantages for its choice: the book need some space (in your library) while the e-book doesn't... An e-book need a PC (not always available though)... Although a book need the consume of wood (thus trees), electronic devices are not enviromentaly friendly too, as they consume energy and pollute the environment after their withdrawal (in Europe after the adaptation of the RoHS regulations this problem is limited though)... One of the main problems with the e-books is that you cannot easily read an whole "book" through your screen, as your eyes are getting "tired" after a while... So, sometimes is easier for you to print an e-book in order to read it in a more convenient way (so, again, you consume paper)... In the near future we could overcome this problem with the commercial disposal of the e-paper...

In general I prefer to read "short texts" like articles or datasheets of products (for my work) in an "e-form" through my PC... and when I want to read a book, I read it with the "traditional way"... (of course I have, also, read e-books... very inconvenient though...)

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#8

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

06/02/2008 9:29 PM

I've only read a dozen e-books cover to cover on my computer and found I can read them faster than paper once I learned to scroll and read at the same time. I'm also far sighted in my mature years and my focus without glasses is best just past my finger tips, so I enlarge the print a little, set back in my recliner and scroll with my track ball.

But a Book can be a work of art as well as a depository of knowledge and some of my old books would never be comparable in e-print.

Brad

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Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

06/02/2008 10:48 PM

I can't stand reading stuff on my computer, however, the Kindle is another matter. The form factor is great, the white-paper display is great, you can even dog ear the pages if you want to. The only disadvantage of the Kindle is that a book doesn't have batteries to worry about.

Standard, it can handle about 2,000 books. I have the 1 gigabyte upgrade - so I have no idea of its limits. Kindle books are cheaper ($9.99 for the hottest titles). You can even send your own documents to Amazon to be converted and downloaded to your Kindle. Furthermore, I'm sure someone is hacking a Kindle as we speak - sooner or later it's going to become an open-source thang.

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#10
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Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

06/03/2008 9:51 AM

I could not read anything very long when I used my 19" CRT monitor, however, I find that I can read forever with my Acer 19" LCD monitor. In fact, if needed, I can read the text without my glasses by going to view and enlarging the text somewhat. It seems that the flicker and flutter of the CRT is not there and the glare of the whites are removed with the LCD. Excellent contrast, too. It do not find the same when you switch to the LCD, perhaps it is because I run Linux, too, but I do not think the operating system should matter - the video card might, though.

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#11

Re: Bibliophiles: Paper or Plastic?

06/03/2008 12:55 PM

I am ambivalent on this issue. I have many older paper books that have become "my friends" and would never consider parting with them. Yet I find I am more likely to read a new e-book than a new paper one.

I'm a very long time user of PDAs; I owned a Newton 100 and was one of the five people in the Continental United States that liked it. My e-books are on my iPAQ PDA and I always carry it with me and thus always have a moderately large library -- ~200 books -- at hand. I can read while waiting in a doctor's office, while the previews are running before a movie, waiting to be served in a restaurant, etc. On one pleasant occasion my friends and I were having a discussion relating to the witches curse in the play MacBeth and I was able to pull up the exact text.

Unlike many of the people who have posted, I find that it is easier for me to read on my PDA. I can increase the size of the text and change the text and/or background colors that will. At work, I'm retired now, if I had to really study a document I would move it to Microsoft Word and read it on my computer. Adding comments was trivially easy either as footnotes or directly in the text. I would use color to identify classes of words. People were highlighted blue, enzymes and chemicals were highlighted green, and things that I needed to do were highlighted red. If I ran across a particularly difficult sentence -- many scientists write very poorly -- I would break it up with carriage returns and indents until it made sense. Furthermore, if I have the sudden urge to read a public domain book -- The Epic of Gilgamesh, The Oedipus Trilogy, Dickens, Poe, Melville, etc. -- I can download it from project Gutenberg conveniently and at no cost.

On the other hand, I cannot lend an e-book to a friend nor can they lend one to me. When I change PDAs, which happens about every three years, I must go through the process of re-downloading any e-books that I have purchased from their respective "bookstores." Purchased e-books are usually locked and will only work on the PDA for which they were downloaded. In the back of my mind is always, what will happen if I change PDAs and this e-book bookstore has gone out of business?

Books that I really want to keep I buy in paper, public domain books and books that I read for fun/relaxation I read in electronic form.

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