Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I hate books, and you should too

I hate books. I hate books.

Don't get me wrong; I love reading. I go through at least a couple of books a month, sometimes a dozen. So in one sense, I love books, as in long-form texts. But in the sense of bound stacks of paper printed with ink, as a mechanism to deliver said long-form texts, I absolutely despise them. There's so much to hate about them I wonder if one blog post is enough.

First, they're fricking huge. A single book is bigger than any pocket in most of my clothes. And they're heavy, I mean really heavy. I remember carrying textbooks around in a huge, heavy bag when I was in school, textbooks that could fit a million times over in something smaller and lighter than a key fob. I might just need one chapter from a couple of them that day, but I had to carry the whole damn lot anyway. Even the paperback books I carry around every day to read on my commute are the biggest and heaviest single item I have with me when I leave the house.

And that's just talking about the books you might need in a day, or a few days. Your entire collection? Some people have dedicated rooms. Hell, there are these places called libraries that are entire buildings that just store one or two copies each of a few thousand or million titles, when you can fit all of that in your average mobile phone.

You actually have to go to these places, physically, just to access a piece of text. And you're never going to believe this: When one person is reading one of these books, nobody else can! There's no easy way to make a copy. There's stores too, where you can buy them, but get this: Due to their ridiculous size and weight, every store can only carry so many titles. More often than not, they won't even have the one you're looking for, or someone else has already got the last copy! Then you have to order them from somewhere else and wait several days until they're delivered.

But that's not all!

Sometimes, especially for older or less popular books, they won't be available at all. Because get this, it costs real money, well over a dollar, to produce books in batches less than a few tens of thousands, so people just don't do it unless they're sure a lot of people will buy them. If you want one of these "out of print" books, you have to find someone who bought one before they went out of print, and actually convince them to stop having it so that you can have it. I mean, seriously, why?

Do you understand the ridiculousness of the situation? Books are actually unavailable. Get this: Many books don't ever become available because no one is willing to take the risk that at least a few thousand people read them.

We're not even close to being finished.

You know trees, those helpful organisms that consume carbon dioxide, produce oxygen, and generally contribute to a healthy and vibrant ecosystem? You have to cut them down and destroy them, by the millions, to make books. You actually have to destroy forests to make books.

I'm not kidding. It's true. Look it up. It's horrible.

There are 3.3 billion people in the world - more than half the population of this Earth - with a mobile phone, TODAY. The vast majority of these people have very limited access to libraries, bookstores or any other varied source of printed books. We have the ability, TODAY, to give each and every one of these people access to every book ever written, every book that will every be written, in any language. This is not some "5-10 years from now" technology that's "in the lab", it's in your pocket RIGHT NOW. And yet because of our unjust laws, it's impossible to give the world access to this information that can only make their life better, and all the while we're destroying our forests by the millions of acres to print more of these hateful anachronisms.

Let's stop this madness. I want my children to not be constrained in their knowledge by where they are or when they want it.

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