The Dead-Tree Book Dilemma

I first read the term “dead-tree book” in an article about kids’ sleep. One mother allowed her child to read “dead-tree books” before bedtime. The description sounded odd to me, I suppose because I think about books as either paper or electronic. Dead-tree books has a rather morbid ring to it and resurrected my usual debate between ebooks vs. books.

I’ve blogged about the pros and cons of each format a number of times (read Tangible, Gateway to the World, The Basics of Reading a Book, and Digital Decisions). I’m always conflicted about which one I like better. For convenience, I love the ebook. My ereader is so portable. It’s lightweight and small. Plus it’s easy to read in any position. With regular books, I often find my hands or neck in an awkward position when I’m reading on my side or sometimes laying down on my back.

I find both formats equally immersive. My ereader is only for books so there are no digital distractions. However, I find paper books are better for variety. Many books on my reading list are currently not available in an electronic format.

I’ve been reading a lot of regular books lately. Every time I go to the library they have great books on display and I can’t resist taking at least one. This is one advantage over the ebooks. There are lists of ebooks, but I find scrolling through them can get tiresome. Whereas a good book display is very easy and visually appealing to peruse.

However, hearing the term “dead-tree book” made me think about waste. When I was a kid, throwing out or recycling a book was inconceivable. Now in today’s disposable culture, people can’t even give books away for free. I’m always walking past boxes and stacks of books left out in the elements on the curb for people to take. I’ve seen books peeking through blue, recycling bags and mixed in with other kinds of recycling. I was always horrified by this, but now I’ll look at these things and think “dead tree.”

On the other hand, I can’t honestly say going electronic is any less wasteful. I’ve owned 4 ereaders in the last 10 years. Each one replaced for various reasons. Needless to say, they don’t last very long. Although I recycle them as e-waste, it’s likely they’re hanging around in a landfill somewhere.

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