Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Save a tree; eat an e-reader?

Sometimes, the way people's actions come back to bite them can be kind of hilarious. I shouldn't laugh, but I do. I think it's hysterical that people's quest for ease and convenience makes them do things they otherwise rant and rave about. 

Remember in the whole post-9/11 environment when there was a big to-do about whether the Feds could get all up in your reading business, the better to see what suspected terrorists were checking out of the library, or buying at bookstores, and/or the better to find some suspected terrorists by seeing what everyone was checking out from the library, or buying from bookstores?  

I do. I remember it well. I was working for Borders at the time, and, touchy-feely earthy-crunchy company that it occasionally aspired to be, there was lots of jabber as it officially released company statements about how our customers' privacy is respected and so on. If any spying NSA types came in to demand customer data, I suppose that I, as a manager on duty, would have proudly stood my right-to-read ground and protected my beloved customers' freedom from the thought police, or something like that. (This scenario never actually occurred, of course.) When silly young twentysomethings came to my cash register with The Anarchist Cookbook, defiantly giggling and exchanging "what's-she-going-to-say-as-she-rings-us-up" looks, I was unperturbed. "Your secret's safe with me," I wanted to say. That, or "No one cares." 

Well, now? Hello, e-books?  You all do realize that with this whole I-love-my-Kindle/I-read-on-my-laptop/I-never-go-to-bookstores nonsense, with Amazon doing your selling (and credit card saving, and wish listing, and recommending) and with your Nook or Kobo or iPad or other e-reading device noting and tracking and remembering searches, highlights, sales, what was started and not finished, which words were looked up, what was synced, and more, that you are handing over all the data a spying company, government, military-industrial complex, or Orwellian corporatocracy could want? All for the silly "convenience" about which you are so enthused? And that you think, somehow, "saves trees"?  (It doesn't. You run these devices on electricity. You charge the batteries with electricity. You manufacture these devices in factories and with plastics and other products and they are planned to be obsolete within a couple years so that you toss them in a landfill and buy more. Have you ever seen what a coal mine does to get you your electricity? Try visiting Appalachia. Your trees have been destroyed, all right. Books last way the hell longer than you keep your phone or tablet before upgrading it. They're also made of super recyclable paper. They can also be made from recycled paper. Meanwhile, you're blithely pillaging the Earth for your electricity consumption and pretending it's not using resources. For hours and hours and kilowatts and kilowatts each day. A book's production uses the kilowatts once, and that's it. Stop with the "saving trees" line -- it's nonsense.) 

So, enjoy that e-reading folks. You are a data-mining government spy's dream come true! Why should they hassle the booksellers and librarians for your hard copy data when you are willing to upload it all for them with your beloved e-books? 

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