Dead pixels instead of dead trees

I love books, I love browsing stacks, I love libraries, I love Powell’s in Portland, I like collecting books, I always have a stack nearby to read, I love looking through picture books, and I love books even though I didn’t really become much of a reader until the end of my college years (I never read for fun until then). Plunging into the Internet fed my book addiction further, as I had to read dozens of computer classics to get up to speed and stay ahead of the curve. Every computer desk I’ve had until recently was flanked by bookshelves loaded with titles.

Earlier this year, I remember hearing Cory Doctorow give a talk about how ebooks were going to rule the world and folks would abandon the printed page for the laptop screen. I thought it was a good talk, but I felt the thesis was a bit ahead of its time. There’s really no comparison between curling up with a book and a blanket in front of a fireplace, versus trying to read thousands of words on a screen.

Last weekend I was doing some house cleaning and I kept finding stacks of books. A stack next to the reading chairs. A stack on the coffee table. A stack beside my bed. All these stacks contained books I bought in 2004, but never read. Some, I got halfway through, but even more I got maybe ten pages in. A few I never even cracked open.

When I think back to the last three books I enjoyed, they were all heard on my iPod, while on a road trip. I can’t recall the last book I finished in my hands.

I’m going to take a holiday trip soon to a fairly remote location where there’s not much to do besides read. I’m going to sit and read the only book I’ve wanted to read this year, and I have a feeling it might just be one of the last dead tree books I read for a long time.

As much as I didn’t agree with Cory back during his E-tech talk, I’m finally realizing it’s coming true in my own life. I read thousands of words everyday on my monitors and I rarely take time to read anything on the printed page, and there’s no sign of reversal on that trend. The scariest thing for the bookfan inside me is that I don’t think it’s bad thing, either.

Long live the ebook. Long live the audiobook. So long, dead trees.

Angry old man

I had a moment the other day where I realized I was getting old. And not just having a creaking back or something, I was actually decrying a new technology, in a “get the hell off my lawn with your crazy electronic scooters!” way.

Those new automated supermarket self-checkout machines that let you buy food and bag it yourself? I don’t like them. Even though I own a zillion gadgets and love that technology makes our lives easier, for some reason I actually like the interactions with my local grocery store’s staff as they check and bag my stuff and would hate to see those jobs go. I even go to a local supermarket chain that costs slightly more but has a 1950’s service-is-king quality about it (they have better food choices too).

Then I thought about similar systems I do like. At the airport, I really like the self-check in vs. waiting in line for 45 minutes to get my ticket in 30 seconds from a human. I realized it was probably since my interactions with airline personel are usually slow and unpleasant that I prefer a machine.

But the folks at my supermarket are nice and always helpful to the point that I wish they weren’t replaced by computers.

Damn kids, and your new-fangled checkout machines.

links for 2004-12-10