e-readers

Long live the (printed) book

A recent article Angling Trade (March 2011) featured an interesting article about books and how they factor into the fly fishing industry.  The article, titled “Now Read This” by Chris Santella, takes a look at how books factor into the revenue stream of fly fishing industry. It also examines the technology trends in e-book readers and how that is changing the book industry, and to some degree the fly fishing book segment of the market.

I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to books.  While I acknowledge the benefits of e-readers I still prefer the organic appeal of a printed book.  I like the smell, the texture, the physical cover art and the tactile ability to dog-ear a page when I can’t find my book mark.  I am not a complete technology dinosaur, mind you, and even bought my wife a Kindle for her birthday this year.  It’s a neat little device.  But I don’t want one.

Some of my reservation stems from the fact that as an author of printed books, I feel just a little threatened by ebooks. Not enough to cause me to lose sleep over it, but enough to make me to pay at least some attention to the trend.

For kids books, however, e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook are not the platform. Even as they build color technology into the readers, the screen display is too small to provide the experience of a large format, illustrated picture book (emphasis on picture).  There are e-publishers who specialize in creating books for the Apple iPad, but even that screen is small by comparison to an 8.5 x 11 or larger format of a printed book. Like any piece of software, an e-book does have the ability to build in interactive features to further enhance a child’s reading/learning experience, and I even went so far as to talk to one such publisher for the iPad. I was disappointed that the publisher wanted to limited the length of their childre’s titles to 15 pages and build in gratuitous animations that were limited in scope and didn’t add anything of significant value to the book. As a former software artist/animator I suggested interactive, animated games and lessons. The publisher said it would be too expensive to build those features. And that is the extent of my experience with e-book publishers for kids.  If I’m going to have my books published on the e-platform, I do not want them to be scaled down or devalued in order to fit a certain software development template.

Then I stumbled upon a Publisher’s Weekly article by Bill Henderson that speaks to another aspect of e-books that many may not have considered: the negative environmental aspect of producing these battery-operated devices.

Some think that the e-reader will save trees. Soon, according to a recent New York Times article, we will possess over 100 million e-readers. What a savings in our forests, right? Wrong.

We often think of the traditional publishing industry as a waste of trees, water and energy sources; chemicals and inks used in printing as bad stuff.  Well, more and more printers are greening up their printing practices by using non-toxic inks and bleach-free recycled paper stocks, etc.  I don’t know enough about the global practices of the printing idustry, but the manufacture of e-readers makes the printing process, to me, seem rather benign by comparison. From the Publisher’s Weekly article:

Here’s what an e-reader is: a battery-operated slab, about a pound, one-half inch thick, perhaps with an aluminum border, rubberized back, plastic, metal, silicon, a bit of gold, plus rare metals such as columbite-tantalite (Google it) ripped from the earth, often in war-torn Africa. To make one e-reader requires 33 pounds of minerals, plus 79 gallons of water to refine the minerals and produce the battery and printed writing. The production of other e-reading devices such as cellphones, iPads, and whatever new gizmo will pop up in the years ahead is similar. “The adverse health impacts [on the general public] from making one e-reader are estimated to be 70 times greater than those for making a single book,” says the Times.

Like I said, I’ll stick to printed books. I like reading them and writing them.

So go into your local fly shop and ask for Olive the Little Woolly Bugger, Olive and The Big Stream, and Olive Goes for a Wild Ride.  They should have them in stock, and if they don’t they can get them through their distributor.  Just don’t expect to find the Olive series in an e-reader format anytime soon.

That’s my story and I shall stick to it, all the way to the poor house.