Wednesday, May 5, 2010

iPads = eWaste and nothing more.

Earlier today, I posted and commented on an article from Tree Hugger about iPads and how "effed" we all are (http://www.treehugger.com/files/2010/05/this-is-why-were-all-effed-ipad-tops-1-million-sales-3-g-version-is-identical.php?campaign=daily_nl Thanks Jaymi Heimbuch for saying exactly what I feel!!!). This led to a small and fun conversation with a friend. I thought I would share it here. Of course, I have cleaned it up from messy chat-speak so as not to reveal any foibles.


T: RD, I'm curious about your hatred of the eBook.

Me: oh?

T: Granted they are not recyclable, but they do prevent paper waste and deforestization. I"m not ARGUING... I just don't see your perspective clearly. I'm trying to learn.

Me: To clarify: I don't hate e-books but e-readers.

T: Noted.

Me: They create a lot of useless e-waste. Books can be made from any supply of recycled, reclaimed paper, no need to de-forest. I've even seen a book made from reused plastic. Also, many publishers are now embracing a print-on-demand system when the book will not be printed until ordered. No waste.

T: Interesting.

Me: A book can be handed down throughout the generations. An e-reader only lives as long as its obsolete date. A book from 50 years ago is still around and able to be enjoyed. Where will any given Kindle be in 50 years?

T: How do you feel about the iPod? Not the iPAD, the iPod?

Me: Well, I have an mp3 player... the tiniest I could get. It holds 250 songs... more than enough. It took a dump one day. I could have replaced it for $20 but instead a found a recovery tool and salvaged it. I love my mp3 player. So far as iPods go, I think people treat them WAY too disposably and I think that Apple, in its pursuit of profit, makes them entirely too short-lived.

T: Okay, so as long as there is electricity and back-up drives, the contents of an e-reader can survive, too, right?

Me: ...no.... I think e-readers have planned obsolescence. Besides, as my husband is fond of saying, if I drop a book, I pick it up and find my place again. If I drop a Kindle, I have to go buy another.

T: CONTENTS of e-readers is what I said. I have a Sony reader and it's already past its prime. I use it DAILY to read the newspaper, but still... My point is the contents can live on, much like any electronic data can (now) which is similar to any other media--- including Edison Wax Cyllendars and wire recordings... which have been converted to more contemporarly media for preservation.

Me: This is true. But we're talking about the e-waste of the delivery systems.

T: IS there a way that the e-waste can be reclaimed somehow? You would know much better than I.

Me: They claim so. Every unit can be painstakingly disassembled and the various components go their ways.
Which begs the question... is there profit in that? No. And if there is no profit, there is no incentive to reclaim this stuff. So, while in THEORY these things ARE recyclable, in REALITY, they are going to live in a pile in some 3rd world country that we pay to take our trash.

I enjoyed that conversation quite a bit. It's like my friend reached into my brain and asked exactly what I would have wanted to be asked. I love books, I love to read, and you can hardly keep me out of a used book store. I've bought my share from eBay, too. (Re-using!!) I never ever ever ever want an electronic reader. I'm hoping we never see a day where we can no longer get BOOKS. Sure, I'll read on my laptop, but my laptop serves other purposes... it's not just a reader and as disposable as those are. iPads? All I see when I look at them is e-waste. They'll last, what, a few years? Then, it's a new model, a "better" model, something else new and shiny and different. Some argue that Apple will take the units back and do... something (?) with them. Uh huh. Just like when we throw the plastic water bottle in the recycling bin, it's SURE to be recycled. (Um, no.) Not to be overly crass (oh what the heck, that's opening the door to be crass, who am I kidding), but when I see an iPad, I think it is about as useful as the other kind of pad out there... the ones that jokes between such and the iPad have already been made... once used, all you can do is throw it away.

I'm willing to see what we have done with Kindles and Sony Readers in 5 years. 10 years. Maybe putting them on the Moon? Shooting them into space in waste capsules? There's NO PROFIT in breaking them down and recycling them, so that is not going to happen anytime soon. It's just not. All we can do is NOT buy the stuff. But we buy it, because we have to have the latest shiny new object to distract us from oil spills and climate change.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to curl up on my couch with the latest book I bought used off eBay. When I'm done with it... well, I'll still have it. Maybe I'll even, oh, I don't know, pass it along? What a novel idea.