Flying home from Desert Code Camp yesterday I noticed that one or two of the passengers had a new type of reading device in which each page of the book was on a separate piece of paper, all glued together.
I spoke with one of the passengers about this new paper-intensive form factor. She seemed very happy with it, but when I pressed her on features, the best she could say had to do with such intangibles as it having a better “smell” than her Kindle, and that it looked good on her shelf when she wasn’t reading it (!) She didn’t seem bothered by the absence of dozens of Kindle conveniences. She did point out, however, that if she didn’t like her book she could just throw it away (harder to do with a Kindle, I’ll agree).
Frankly, I don’t mean to be a Luddite, but I’m a bit worried about this new fad catching on. First, I’m afraid it will encourage people to read pages out of order (it has totally random access to any page in the book at any time) possibly ruining the reading experience and turning off young readers. Second it seems like these things would start to pile up and create a great deal of clutter. Next thing you know, magazines and newspapers will be released in this form factor, and we’ll be in a sea of paper. They are so cheap that they will certainly cause a severe litter problem.
More pressing, because the “paperback” comes with a fixed font size, I can imagine that they will cause significant eye strain for many people, raising health care costs and causing an epidemic of damaged eye sight. This will be exacerbated when people try to read in the dark, given that there is no backlight.
In addition, just one paperback alone was heavier than my Kindle holding a dozen (or a hundred) books (electrons are wicked light). The strain of carrying multiple paperbacks might well lead to tendonitis, back pain and other medical problems.
In short, while I’m all for progress, I’ll be sticking with my Kindle for now, and hoping that these paper-intensive reading devices will go the way of analog watches, radios, televisions and other “retro” affectations.