Literature, with the naughty bits

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For me, the publishing industry's potential for waste, particularly when sustainable materials are available, seems more obscene than the objectionable contents of nearly any book. If you feel the same way, behold the Environmental Defense Fund's Paper Calculator, now appearing inside books that are at least partly made from recycled materials.

An aside: ebooks are at best an imperfect solution to the problem of waste, since they rely on electricity, the production of which is one of our largest sources of environmental pollution. They're also distinctly inferior to real books in one or two practical particulars: they don't smell like library paste; a real book's battery never dies; and reading a narrative should be a physical--sometimes geographical--experience. Claiming that the two reading experiences are equal misses the point as badly as the fourth edition of The Elements of Style did when it claimed that a word processor's Cut function was the same as a pair of scissors. It's not, and any writer who has physically hacked through a manuscript knows that there is no substitute for tactile interaction with a book.