Sunday, July 03, 2011

The e-Reader Luddite Manifesto:

Brian J. Noggle enumerates reasons why he's in no hurry to buy a Kindle. Among them is one near and dear to those concerned about the Zombocalypse:
If the lights go out, you have nothing to read.
I’m not just talking about TEOTWAWKI. In very recent memory, parts of Missouri have lost power for weeks. If that happens, will your electronic device have enough battery to keep you in books and to help you with that reference material you need? You’d like to think so, but you won’t know so. Also, in the actual event of TEOTWAWKI, your device will only briefly heat your hovel and will release toxic chemicals to do so. Meanwhile, I can burn old Dungeons and Dragons novels for hours.
It's a fun read, so you should. Read it, that is.


Tasso said...

One small solar panel will maintain charge on a 2 ham radios, 3 Nintendo DSen, 1 Kindle, 2 iPhones, and an iPad. We don't have reliable power, so we fixed that problem for $100.

Either that or deal with screaming children during a power outage.

Anonymous said...

Again, by centralizing a large investment in a single place, if you drop it or leave it on the roof of your car, you’re in danger of losing the library instead of a $1 book you bought at a book fair.

So true. This is exactly what led to the destruction of Mordor. Don't put the keys to the kingdom in a tiny little gizmo, kids.


Unknown said...

Ah, but Tasso, do those items have infinite life-spans? I've yet to need a recharge on my slide rule, these last fifty years. :-)

Real books will always have certain advantages. In the event of an attack of Dropsy, a concrete floor won't hurt a book. If forgotten, there's no great monetary loss. And they're not attractive to thieves.

SiGraybeard said...

I think my house would look very much like his if we hadn't carted car loads of things we'll never read again up to the thrift stores and libraries.

As it is, my computer desk has two ceiling to floor book cases on either side, the living room has ceiling to floor bookcases, the ham shack, shop and every room other than our bedroom and bathrooms have shelves. Not to mention small stacks of books in a dozen other places.

And I've got a handful of books on my phone in both eReader (migrated from Palm), iBooks and generic (.pdf, txt) formats.

Anonymous said...

Try wiping your butt with a Kindle.
The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics has me supplied with toilet paper for the rest of my life after the Rapture or zombie out break.


Weer'd Beard said...

If the lights go out indefinitely (moreso that I can't charge my gadgets off my car) I'll be to busy roaming the wastelands with a collender on my face to keep up with my reading list!

I will try to get a crass talking dog, tho...

Standard Mischief said...

# Theft.

Backups, dude.

# Damage. $114
Also, there's always ebay

# The rapid expansion of technology.

You're not going to be reading those gee-wiz books, so why does this matter. unless, of course you're trying to convince the rest of the world that gee-wiz books are the work of satan.

# The rapid obsolescence of technology. Your device can hold today’s ebooks. Will they hold ebooks developed in 2017?

Like the iPod, the DRM in ebooks is just strong enough to satisfy the publishers. Crack them or don't buy the media at all, which is why I still buy CD's for pocket lint on ebay. The iPod plays plain vanilla mp3 songs. The kindle takes plain vanilla ebooks, the kind Project Gutenberg churns out by the hundreds every year.

# You don’t own ebooks.

Again, if I can't crack the DRM, I don't buy them.

# If the lights go out, you have nothing to read.

Debunked by Tasso. I've got enough LED lights to never have to burn tallow from a wick ever again. I've got a portable DC generator that charges up my phone and PDA (and I drive it to work too)

# I don’t think any developments in ebook readers will ever dispel my reservations about them.

Obviously you've never been introduced to grep, which has been the killer app for electronic documents since 1973. Perhaps you've used a tarted-up version already over at google, yahoo, or DuckDuckGo before?

kishnevi said...

Folks, remember this: cellphone towers need power to operate, and their battery backups seem to be designed with only short power outages in mind. Learned that after Wilma, when the only thing functioning was my old fashioned phone.

Which means that Iphones, Ipads, and all other types of Portable Palantirs and Magic Elf Boxes, all the way down to the simple throwaway cell phone like I have, will be useless in anthing other than a short term outage, no matter how much you keep them charged up.

Doesn't apply to Kindles, fo course; but if the Zombie Apocalypse does come, you can bash in the head of a Zombie much more efficiently with a printed copy of Black's Law Dictionary than you can with the Kindle version.

Josh Kruschke said...

I don't think he's ever used a e-book or kindle.

His reasons are in quotation-marks. Mine follow after the hyphen.

"1) An unfinished e-book isn’t a constant reminder to finish reading it." - One sits on my desk unred the other goes in my pocket to be red at my leisure.
"2) You can’t keep your books all in one place. [That is, in one file format/application.]" - Yes you can. You ether convert the files into a format that you like or get a reader that handles multiple types of file formats. Ether way they can be stored in the same folder.
"3) Notes in the margins help you think." - Every e-reader I've ever used allowed for notes and highlighting.
"4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren’t priced that way." - Say's you. Even a new release just out in hard back is usualy half-price when bought on kindle.
"5) E-books can’t be used for interior design." - ya just what I need more clutter.

To the theft question: Unless they still my device and my home computer I don't lose anything.

Damage: and if your house burns down?

The rapid expansion of technology: So, you will not lose access to the information. I can still play every video game from the 80's if I want to. I know kindle every time the change or up date their file format, you get any already purchased updated to the new formate for free.

The rapid obsolescence of technology: This is the same question as above, so se same answer.

You don’t own ebooks.
"Ask any purchaser of this Kindle edition of 1984. They own the content and they let you borrow it. Read your license agreements and, if you understand them, weep.": This is the sadest one of all...sigh. What 'extra-rights' does he think you get when you buy a book in paper?
Kindle doesn't "own the content" the copy right holder does. Kindle has a licensing agreement with the publisher that is extended out one person to you. You have nomore rights to the content of the book than if you had bought it in paper back or checked it out of the library.

If the lights go out, you have nothing to read: there's really cheep solar tech used for camping that takes care of this problem.

My reasons for using Kindle and other E-readers.

1. Saves me money. With the kindle I can get samples of the books for free. I know longer have to quickly flip through the book at the store. I can read the sample at my leisure. If I decide to buy it, I now have three options; I can add it to my e-library cheaply, I can then go out and buy it in pape for my paper library or both.

2. Weight. I can now carry my library with me.

3. No more carrying a book bag around, got everything I need on my phone.

Just some thought,

Tam said...


"I don't think he's ever used a e-book or kindle.

His reasons are in quotation-marks.

I don't think you read the linked post, or you'd know that those first five reasons are Wired magazine's, not his.

Tam said...


"Learned that after Wilma, when the only thing functioning was my old fashioned phone."

There's a reason that Roseholme Cottage not only has a land-line, but also an ancient rotary Western Electric 302 as a backup to the wall-current-dependent cordless phones.

Joe Allen said...

Misc. Devil's Arguments in favor of the Kindle (in no particular order):

1. In the event of TEOTWAKI, I'm not too worried about being able to access my collection of MHI, Dresden Files and Heinlein etc. Maybe when things get into a routine and I can settle down and take the colander off for a relaxing evening in front of the burning car, I'll be back to reading for pleasure...

B. I paid an ever escalating rate for years for a storage locker to house several thousand of my books. One flood and all the books were gone forever as well as the thousands of dollars of rent spent for naught. I sat on my first kindle and rorschached the screen. Less than 24 hours later I had a shiny new one in my hands and within minutes had restored all the e-books I'd purchased at that point.

III. I read compulsively. If I decide to stop somewhere for a meal and don't have a book with me, I have to buy one, or at least find a halfway interesting periodical. If I don't have my Kindle with me, I can open the kindle app on my smartphone and, thanks to Amazon's cloud, go right to the page I was reading on my Kindle. This works even on books not purchased from Amazon. If I don't have anything I haven't read, I can purchase something from Amazon and be reading it within seconds rather than trying to find something of interest in the local MegaMart.

Finally, there's a fantastic freeware app called Calibre that serves as a central library management system. It works with any e-reader and can process and reformat pretty much any text file format known to mankind.

In just 7 short months, I have become a total Kindle nerd, and I make no apologies for it.

Tam said...

I will probably acquire an eReader at some point in the not-too-distant future, most likely a Kindle, for the three reasons listed in Joe Allen's comment (that, plus I read a fair amount of non-fiction books that I am unlikely to ever re-read, and buying them in hardback or softcover is expensive, takes up space, and is threatening the very structural integrity of the house.)

The thing that makes me most leery of buying a Kindle is that, like Macs and Glocks, they emit radiation that turn one into a humorless, defensive sourpuss on the topic whenever it comes up in conversation. Thankfully it hasn't seemed to affect Joe yet. :)

og said...

I have several hundreds of books on my kindle. Not one of which I hjave paid for, they are all predominatly Project Gutenberg devices I have placed there which, since it's remote access is turned off, nobody can take from me. A $35 solar charger will keep it useful for eons, and I can carry it in my shirt pocket. I can have the entire contents of my library with me everywhere I go, and refer to it anytime I want. And I have obscure, ancient tomes on it that cannot be easily found in any library and precious few used bookstores. I'm as big a luddite as the next guy, but if I have a choice, my desert island will have a loaded kindle and a solar charger. Long after Brian J and his one or two books have gone barking mad for all eternity, I'll still be fighting off my rescuers so I can finish the Song of Ilium in the original greek again.

Bubblehead Les. said...

I'd make a long comment, but since I've just got a Kindle 2 weeks ago, I'm too busy reading a whole bunch of Discworld Novels that my local Bookstores and Library refuse to have in stock. Enjoy the Holiday!
P.S.: Portable Magic Elf box is on the Next to Buy list when there's an opening in the Household Budget.

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

Well, on at least two of his points he shows that he doesn't know what he's talking about. As others have mentioned, all the ebooks you buy are backed up on the Amazon/B&N/Baen servers, and you can recover them all if your device is stolen or destroyed. Books from other sources (Project Gutenberg, etc.) are loaded through your computer and you can leave a copy there as a backup - and if you didn't, most of those are free anyway, so you haven't lost anything.

Generally, I see ebooks as supplements to real books, anyway. I'll buy the physical copy of books I like enough about to make part of my collection (which ends up being most of the books I read), but if I don't like it, I've spent less on the ebook than I would have on the hardcopy.

Both have advantages and disadvantages, and one is not a complete replacement for the other.

Bubblehead Les. said...

BTW; You know that "I just want one" is a perfectly valid reason for buying an eReader, right? ; )

Now who has a sale on .45ACP to feed my Carbine?

Tam said...

Not if it's going to turn me into a defensive person who has to justify my purchase every time it's questioned. That'd be like buying a Mac. Or a Glock.

LabRat said...

Remember, folks, you have to choose one or the other. Once I bought a Kindle for Stingray for Christmas the men showed up and took my seven bookcases' full away. It was the darndest thing but later on I found it in the fine print.

Tam said...

"Remember, folks, you have to choose one or the other."

This is very important.

I have noticed that when I boot up my Eee, which runs Linux, my Wintel desktop goes to a blue screen of death. And when I use my Android smartphone, my iPod seizes up. I was thinking about buying a Glock 19 this year, but I'm afraid my 1911s would suddenly start to rust or something.

Tam said...

(...only seven bookcases? Well, you're young. ;) )

Drang said...

Y'know, I remember elaborate arguments about "why I'll never get a computer" and "why I'll never get a cell phone", too.

Next person I meet who was born around the turn of the last century, I'll have to ask if they remember people saying "I'll never get a phone, I'l never get electricity, I'll never get a car or fly in an airplane."

IOW, you may think some folks are turned into humorless drones by having these things, but some are turned into humorless drones by insisting they will never, ever get them...


og said...

Like everything else, it's a tool. Buy the one that works for you. The kindle is just a very efficient tool at what it does, like my phone, or my truck, or my computer. I like holding certain books in my hand, but I also love the convenience of never not having something to read- and I didn't realize how much I liked it until I had it.

Apple has been incredibly innovative at making things people don't even know that they need until they have them, but a lot of people are following that business model, and it does work.

jimbob86 said...

"It's a tool."

One I have no need of.

One that, as Marko put it some time back, could decide to "unsell" a particular title to me ...... I'd never consider buying a circular saw that worked only when it's manufacturer decided it should.

One that would be much less cost efficient than my library card. If I'm going to rent a tool, I am not very intersted in buying another $100 tool just to use the rented one.

That and I would have been very reluctant to whack that wasp that invaded my reading space last week with a $100+ piece of electronics .... my dog eared library copy of "We The Living" was, if not the perfect weapon, sufficiently lethal. 100 bucks is chump change to many people, but to me it is comparable to 1000 bullets or several thousand primers....

Randy said...

One that, as Marko put it some time back, could decide to "unsell" a particular title to me ......

So get something without the WiFi/3G access. Or turn it off.

I have a Sony reader with no wireless access, everything is loaded from one of my computers using Calibre. Library is on multiple computers and backed up to DVDs.

And I still have copious amounts of newspapers and magazines to swat wasps with ;-)

Lewis said...

I resisted the Kindle Kraze for a long time, but finally gave in. Since finally giving in, I've bought one (1) e-book, Harold Lamb's Swords from the East. has kept me entertained and amused with: Henty, Dumas, Dumas, Doyle, Twain, Gogol,Sabatini, Kipling and Scott. All these are downloaded directly onto my computer and backed up, then onto the Kindle. (These are all DRM-free, natcherly.) Also the USMC Small Wars Manual, and some other stuff.

Randy said...

Oh, and the Wired list says more about the personality of the author than about anything about the downside of e-books IMHO. Particularly that he (Wired guy, not Brian) does not really understand the technology.

Anonymous said...

"The thing that makes me most leery of buying a Kindle is that, like Macs and Glocks, they emit radiation that turn one into a humorless, defensive sourpuss on the topic whenever it comes up in conversation"

" I was thinking about buying a Glock 19 this year, but I'm afraid my 1911s would suddenly start to rust or something."

Let's see, I have an IPhone, many Glocks, rusty 1911s, and a kindle; I have just harangued the management of the hotel I'm staying in because their idiotic wifi system wouldn't let me on teh internets while telling me I already was on teh internets. They definitely thought I was humorless and that made me feel defensive.

I am the Anti Tam



vw: stops. I couldn't make that up.

I just blame teh internets for everything

Ruth said...

I refuse to buy a Kindle, Amazon has played to many tricks being the Big Busness who does what they want. I do recommend the Nook to folks, and I personally have an iPad I use as an ebook reader. I also have a massive and growing collection of dead tree books (I've so far held off the "either or" men) everything is backed up on the computer and on a seperate server hard drive and a USB drive. USB gets updated periodically along with others for important data and kept in the fireproof safe along with important documents. I love being able to take such a large percentage of my library with me anywhere.

Tam said...

Part of the thing that leaves me unmoved about eText being Teh Savior Of Teh Future is that the First Edition copy of HST's Hell's Angels I just re-read for the umpteenth time is older than USB thumb drives, older than CD-ROM, older than DOS, older than 5.25" floppies, and was, in fact, actually printed in the same year as the first revision of ASCII. It will still be readable when my color Kodak negatives have degraded to undifferentiated henna mush. And it's pretty young for a dead-tree book, actually.

eReaders have their place, which is why I'll be buying one, but the idea that eText completely obsoletes the dead-tree format is best left to those under the age of fifteen or so. ;)

og said...

"but the idea that eText completely obsoletes the dead-tree format is best left to those under the age of fifteen or so. ;)"

True. But it will do one thing, and that is preserve the words that would not otherwise be conserved.

I have several thousand actual books, puechased over the course of nearly a half century of reading. And each of the paperbacks is subject to slow fire; the acid paper embrittlement has taken it's toll. Some of the first books I purchased are already unreadable, and most of them went right to paperback and no acid free hardcover copies were ever printed.

og said...

Lewis: Isn't Gutenberg the bomb diggity shiznit?

Tam said...


I'm just an incorrigible cynic, as anybody with boxes full of 8-tracks, 5.25" floppies, VHS tapes, and Zip-100 cassettes would be.

Thankfully, I don't have to keep my Foxfire books in a Faraday cage, just in case. ;)

Mike S said...

My eyes started glazing over about halfway through the comments, so apologies if it's already been said:

You don't need a Kindle to read Kindle books.

You can download the Kindle reader app to your PC, Elf Box, or what have you, and read your books in all locations.

Amazon keeps track of what you've bought, so if your Kindle gets eaten by a zombie, you can re-download it from their servers.

If your Internets still work, anyway.

Personally, I finally realized the convenience of having a Kindle to house my systems administration library, which is much easier to transport and reference than even a single 600 page Solaris book.

Plus, the e-books are so much cheaper than print, the Kindle "paid" for itself after a few purchases.

Tasso said...

When I was 7, I could be found any day of the week, under a tree, reading a 60 year old Arthur Scott Bailey book. Out of print now since before I was born, my children are stuck with what ever Magic Cul-de-sac Treehouse Schoolbus Club books they can find at the library. Books do not last forever. Some books leave print and disappear, chewed up by an endless series of 7-year old hands.

My daughter's Kindle has e-book versions of the Bailey books, courtesy of It was the only way to buy them for her.

og said...

"Thankfully, I don't have to keep my Foxfire books in a Faraday cage, just in case. ;)"

Neither do I, they're mostly in my head, I've read them so much. Good thing, too, because those are toast, the oxydation will make them unreadable in another four years.

I still have a Flexowriter. And reader. That magnetic stuff will NEVER catch on!!

Tam said...

Mike S,

" can re-download it from their servers."

From whose servers?

Amazon can take a book away from my files with a keystroke. Amazon had better roll heavy if they think they're getting a book out of Roseholme Cottage. ;)

Keads said...

Oh, the snark, it hurts in a good way! "Amazon can take a book away from my files with a keystroke. Amazon had better roll heavy if they think they're getting a book out of Roseholme Cottage. ;)" and this: "The thing that makes me most leery of buying a Kindle is that, like Macs and Glocks, they emit radiation that turn one into a humorless, defensive sourpuss on the topic whenever it comes up in conversation"

"I was thinking about buying a Glock 19 this year, but I'm afraid my 1911s would suddenly start to rust or something." I am buying a S&W M&P Pro and I will watch for that!

Thanks young lady! I have books in dead tree media here! As it should be.

Tam said...


No, seriously, I like the idea of an eReader. I just hope the one I buy doesn't turn me into a humorless fuckwit the same way my smartphone did. Also, I will cover all my paper books with fire-retardant foam, just in case they spontaneously combust when I bring it through the door. ;)

Anonymous said...

I am old and I like books. I'm sure I'll be ok with an e-reader when I get one, but it will always be a gizmo, unlike a 15 year old to whom it will be more normal than a book.

When they went from the papyrus scroll to the vellum codex, I'm sure a cascade of bitching came from the last generation of Antiquity, people whining how knowledge and learning will dive into a Dark Ages, and how Lombards and Vandals and Goths oh my will thunder into Rome and cause its fall. I'm sure the lovers of books are as hysterical as they were way back then.

But when the EMP comes, I'll still have "Omaha the Cat Dancer" and "Cherry Poptart." The e-book will have a blank screen. Also, I have things saved on e-storage media from the mid 80's to 2000 that I can't get to read nowadays. I didn't save printed copies of my newspaper writings from the late 80's since, after all, I had e-copies! Incorruptible, lasts forever! I also have books from the late 1800's that I can open and read as nicely as the day they were printed.

I'm sure I'll love the e-book once its durability has withstood the test of time.

Want to know why photophiles love b&w and not so much color? Color negs have dyes that fade over time, while b&w film, you can print off of 120 year old negs - they stand the test of time.

Keads said...


I do like the idea of an E Reader. Hell, I am a card carrying geek and all that, but still. I have books here I have owned since I was 12. I have a history with many books. I read them again and again. They are like old friends.

I will take care when I put the plastic gun in the safe to insure the 1911's will not rust! I did not think of that!

Oh, send me an email about USCCA stuff. I do have CCH classes here every month. Shot you an email but someone who shall remain nameless said you NEVER respond to email! Or call.

Josh Kruschke said...

Thanks Tam for keeping me honest -

I didn't read the Wired article that he referenced in the fist sentence. I thought the 5 points where his response to it.

This will teach me to not skim and pay more attention to what I am reading. You would think with the trouble I have with the written word I would be more careful.


Standard Mischief said...

Just to toss a wooden shoe into the cogs:

It's on the todo list, right behind my reprap.

My first book was going to be "steal this book" but someone already took care of that one for me.

Dr. StrangeGun said...


Battery: I've got a small rechargable jump-starter around that'll give me 12 volts for an indeterminate amount of time, and the car charger for my phone is "standard USB" so works with other items. I'm SOL on my tablet after ~4 days though.

eReader: Not perfect is my tablet at that task, but mixed with free book providers, not too shabby.

Anonymous said...

Couple of things here - batteries AREN'T forever, formats likewise.

Ken said...

Savior of the future? Not likely, not on their own. A neat tool with a place in the world? Yeah, that. I'm sure I'd have got round to reading Common Sense and War and Peace in print, but Commentaries on the Wars in Gaul? Or Tacitus? Or Spenser's The Fairie Queene? I think that without my Sony and the Gutenberg Project, it's unlikely I'd have got to those anytime soon.

I would not care to try to read my Conway's All the World's Warships (1906-1921 and 1922-1945) on the Sony, and books like Duffy's The Army of Frederick the Great, Nosworthy's Anatomy of Victory are unlikely to become available soon. I see that Chandler's The Campaigns of Napoleon actually is available in Kindle, but I have a Sony Reader, am not sure I'd much like the maps as well, and in any case paid about a third of what Amazon wants for the Kindle edition. So color me ecumenical.

Epsilon Given said...

For years, I've wanted to carry a library with me--indeed, I purchased a Casseiopea with the vain hope of putting my textbooks on it in college.

With regards to annotating text, or even writing my own notes, however, I'd be very interested in being able to draw as well. As a mathematician, and a sort-of amateur engineer, I like lots of pictures and equations; it's very difficult to do either with a keyboard!