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Turbofrog

Turbofrog's Entry (first Update)

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Problems

 

While most of the problems people are addressing have to do with the age-old human-use challenges of books, I thought I'd try to take a bigger picture look at the problems books cause, not just on the micro level, but on a macro one as well, and how we can evolve the book to deal with that.

 

So we've got the typical book lifecycle (simplified, of course):

 

tree --> pulp+paper --> printing press --> retailer --> customer --> attic, trash, a friend (and then to their attic or trash)

 

It's an open loop, and even if that book does get recycled, paper recycling is downcycling that still requires energy and toxic chemical inputs.

 

So lets look at another common lifecycle:

 

tree --> pulp+paper --> printing press --> library <--> customer

 

Here we've got a closed loop. The book gets used by dozens, or hundreds of people during its lifespan. And after that, it's likely sold off at a used book store, where it will get yet another use. Nothing's perfect, but this is much better.

 

The ecological footprint of the book stays the same, but libraries ensure that that footprint is shared amongst many more people. Still, libraries need to keep huge inventories (requires investment, space, and organizational power), they require a library card system, are not widely accessible, and are never funded well enough. Can we borrow the sustainable elements from the library and make them even better?

 

Alternatives

 

bookcrossing

n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.

 

Labelling and registering personal books via a website (i.e. bookcrossing.com), and then leaving them to be found by others. Works well as a way of ensuring that other people will get exposed to books, but doesn't make it easier for you to get the book you want sustainably.

 

Take advantage of information technology.

 

When we buy a book, we aren’t really interested in the artifact. In certain cases, the book itself has an interesting or exceptionally pleasing design, but what we really want are the words and pictures that are in it. The book is no longer a medium for archival, but has evolved into a temporary medium for display. So where does that take us? What can we use to create a re-usable display medium for the words we want?

 

E Ink / electronic paper tablet:

 

Pros: Can display any book, lightweight, re-usable, energy input only used to change pages

 

Cons: Expensive, lower resolution (currently ~80 dpi), contrast ratio/visibility not-quite as good (especially behind a plastic screen), tactile feel (deal breaker for book lovers?)

 

 

Reprintable Paper: (http://news.zdnet.co.uk/hardware/0,1000000...39284821,00.htm)

 

Pros: Can print any book from a database, physical qualities of paper, re-usable (500-1000 times), PET is recyclable at end of life cycle

 

Cons: Expensive, paper needs to be maintained, energy input to erase pages

 

 

Temporary Paper: (http://www.xerox.com/innovation/exp_paper.shtml)

 

Pros: Can print any book from a database, physical qualities of paper, mostly re-usable (50 times), cheap

 

Cons: Ink is currently purplish (less contrast), fades after ~16 hours (only for short-term use)

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