04 September 2009

Eating Books

We’re making and using too many books. We must reduce the clutter, leave only footprints, clean the skies, save the frogs. I have chosen to recycle books by chewing and eating them raw. Note: this may cause side effects for those sensitive to colored inks or industrial glue.

I no longer eat brightly colored children’s books, by the way, because of the lead content.

Many modern users of telephone services no longer use phone books. First, the type’s too small. Then there are way too many listings in there. What’s the point of having a cell phone in your pocket if you also have to carry a big book with everyone’s numbers in it? You only need to know your friends’ numbers and the number for your dentist.

Rob Pegoraro of the Washington Post’s Help File answers the question “How can I get the phone company to stop sending me phone books? They go straight to the recycling bin at our house.”

Rob’s answer: There is a new service – on the Internet, where most people now look for phone numbers, he says – that lets you see who is publishing local phone books and then tells you how to beg them to stop sending phone books to you.

We just take them as they come. We throw out the old phone books when new ones arrive, as we already do with The New Yorker, The Newsweek, various catalogs, The Sierra Club Bristly Pine Cone Courier, and other publications that end up in the big blue recycling bin outside our front door.

Those who don’t throw away publications in a timely fashion find their staircases blocked by piles of old magazines and outdated phone books.

Once in a while I still use the phone book. This morning I wanted to call my dentist, but I had forgotten his last name, so it didn’t exactly work for me. But if I still had a memory, it would have.

I googled “dentist in Mendocino” and quicker than one heartbeat I found him AND his phone number, PLUS a map to his office, PLUS an offer to compare on Ebay, whatever that means for a dentist. It was way faster than fumbling through the phone book, because I never turn off my computer.

Google: Fast, wastes electricity. Phone book: Slow, difficult to chew and digest.

I’ve come to rely on Internet look-up for words and phrases in my new language, Italian, and for English words I use www.dictionary.com much more often than “The Unabridged Random House Dictionary” I have in my office, despite the lovely polished wood revolving book stand.

If you set up a browser with your favorite reference sites (start with www.refdesk.com) you’ll find up-to-date data faster than you will by pulling out your favorite outdated reference books. I didn’t used to want to think this was true, but it’s true now.

Of course, somewhere they are mining heavy metals and burning coal to power this Internet thing; nothing that good could possibly be truly free.

Certainly I love books and the experience of sitting down with a juicy pile of them. Fiction wants to be savored. Memoirs call out to be chewed upon. But plain information needs only to be accurate and quickly available.

Did you know that Jupiter at its closest is 370 million miles or 591 million kilometers from Earth? Google does, and getting the answer took 26 hundredths of one second.

If you want to test this idea, search Google as well as your favorite reference book for the phrase “eating books” and let me know what you discover.


From the Washington Post online: Rob Pegoraro attempts to untangle computing conundrums and errant electronics each week. Send questions to The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or robp@washpost.com. Visit http://voices.washingtonpost.com/fasterforward for his Faster Forward blog.

The ALA has decided not to worry themselves overmuch over lead content in children’s books:

From Paul at the UC Davis bookstore:

First the internet tells us to be aware of our kids eating books and getting
really ill.

Then some guy comes along and writes a book about it - a book for kids!!
"The Incredible Book Eating Boy" by Oliver Jeffers, ISBN13: 9780399247491

1 comment:

John M said...

"I have chosen to recycle books by chewing and eating them raw."

Inspired by Kolya in City of Thieves
who hands out cubes of paste from rendered library books. But you're right to suspect modern industrial adhesives, which are certainly non-nutritive, probably toxic.

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