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Goldstuck on Gadgets

Read this article or I kill a tree

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E-books and e-readers have come to save the world, or so they say. For those thinking of moving from books made of dead trees to ones that consume mineral resources, ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK offers an overview of the main options ‚ and a few myths.

It’s all your fault. When you read too many books, you’re destroying the rain forests.

Actually, no one really knows how many books or newspapers are produced from each tree, and some even argue that the paper used in a typical book comprises more chemical than wood. But this hasn’t kept the young e-book industry from declaring itself the saviour of trees and wood everywhere.

For some, this is enough justification to rush out and buy an e-reader. But before we go into the options, consider one more statistic sucked out of a fertile thumb somewhere: the construction of an e-reader creates as much environmental damage as the production of 43 printed books. So read on only if you plan to read that many books in the next couple of years.

On second thoughts, if you don’t read on, you may be responsible for a few more e-book author going back to print. And that means you may be responsible for thousands more trees being cut down.

No pressure, okay, but here are the leading candidates in the e-reader market today, mostly available online in dollars:

Amazon Kindle. Comes in versions that use either Wi-Fi or Wi-Fi plus 3G. That means you can buy and download books from Amazon onto your Kindle wherever you are, directly onto the Kindle. The 6-inch screens range in price from $139 to $189. The Kindle DX, a 9.7-inch version intended for newspapers and textbooks, goes for $379.

Sony Reader. The main competition to the Kindle, with a Pocket edition offering a cellphone-like 5-inch screen for $179, a Touch with 6-inch touchscreen selling at $229, and the Daily Edition competing with the Kindle DX for large-format content, but with a 7-inch screen and $299 price tag. E-books have to be downloaded onto a PC, and then transferred to the Reader.

iRiver Cover Story. It’s a 6-inch touch-screen device with a Wi-Fi option. Available at local stores for around R2500, or online for 200 Euros-plus, it was all but rejected by the US market for its high price.

Nook. Barnes & Noble’s response to Amazon’s Kindle, at $149 for the Wi-Fi version and $199 for 3G. Unlikely to catch on in SA unless the parent store opens here.

Kobo. Anagram for Book. Gosh, the sheer genius of it. A little more impressive is the price, at $149, for the Wi-Fi edition.

Many other brands are already adding culture to landfills as the market judges them unworthy. The Foxit eSlick eReader, built by the same factories that made the Kindle but rebranded by South Africans and given a hefty mark-up, has also bitten the hi-tech dust. The Elonex eBook Reader was heavily hyped when it arrived here a year ago, with its main selling point that you could buy it off the shelf instead of waiting weeks for delivery. Guess what? South Africans don’t mind waiting a few weeks for the real thing.

By the way, don’t feel bad if you still have a large ‚ and growing ‚ book collection made from dead trees. Lining your walls with book-filled shelves conserves heat in the home or office, and may well do more for your personal impact on the environment than any number of e-books.

Disclaimer: Arthur Goldstuck is responsible for 18 books made from dead trees, with the latest, The Burglar in the Bin-bag (Penguin, 2010), lining shelves of good bookshops everywhere. He is also managing director of World Wide Worx, and editor-in-chief of Gadget.

Follow Arthur on Twitter on @art2gee

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By the way, I noticed yodidn’tnt mention e-readers on the iPad. I wonder why ???”,”body-href”:””}]

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