Until recently, the surest way to erase history and destroy knowledge was to burn all the books. Thousands of years of human knowledge have been lost by fire and violence. The Library of Alexandria. Gone. Hundreds of thousands of books at the University of Louvain. Burned to ashes. Ancient Confucian teachings. Wiped out of history.
Books have been the brain of the world. Each library destroyed meant a part of the brain lost forever. Until recently.
The World Wide Web grew out of the 1990s and kept growing. Today, it’s like a second brain growing out of the first. As people digitize the world’s books and physical records to put on the internet, the book brain loses its usefulness. Eventually, the digital brain will replace the book brain, just as books replaced oral tradition a millennia ago.
Storing knowledge on the internet instead of in books has many advantages. The main advantage is redundancy. World War III can start today and some vile dictator can order the destruction of all books, computers, and data centers. But that is unlikely to destroy much knowledge for good. Each day, more than 2 billion gigabytes of data is transferred through the internet. Most of the data are copies. When you read a news article, your computer stores a copy of that article. If the data center storing the original article is destroyed, the article would still exist on your computer.
While books aren’t going away anytime soon, you can take part in the digital knowledge revolution today by switching to digital books. More and more people are adopting e-books as their primary reading material. Millennials are discarding as many physical possessions as they can to adapt to a more mobile, more global lifestyle. Even IKEA has been changing their bookshelves to reflect the gradual shift in reading habits.
Making the Switch to Digital Books
Your Smartphone is Now a Book
For me, one of the biggest changes I’ve made to my life is changing my reading habits from reading physical books to reading on my phone. Most people have smartphones now, and smartphones can run apps. I’d say 95% of my books are on Amazon Kindle now. Wherever I go, I have access to most of the books I own.
I have the Kindle app installed on my phone, and I use it every day to read books while working out at the gym. It’s also useful for reading while waiting in the doctor’s office, waiting in really long supermarket lines, or waiting nearly anywhere.
If you have a smartphone, download some reading apps and give it a try. It might change your life. Some apps to check out include Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Google Play Books, Apple iBooks, and Wattpad.
For something bigger to read on, try Amazon Kindle. They sell several types including front-lit and back-lit Kindles.
Front-lit devices like Kindle Fire is essentially a tablet computer like the iPad. They are great for reading books with color pictures, interactive features, or lots of graphics.
However, research has shown that the backlights from most electronic devices (including iPhones, Kindle Fire devices, and computers) suppress your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone your body produces to regulate your sleep. That means looking at back-lit devices like your phone at night may be giving you insomnia. If you want to read e-books at night, it’s best to find a front-lit e-book reader.
One device to consider is Kindle Paperwhite. The Kindle Paperwhite is front-lit, so you can read my books at night before bed without worrying about getting insomnia.
Reading on Your Computer
For people who prefer not to carry an e-book device around, Amazon also has a Kindle website set up where you can read e-books on your computer. I find this very useful for going through my notes and referencing my books while working on my computer or laptop.
The Last Holdouts
While the world is switching to digital, some holdouts remain in the physical realm. The older, more obscure books on your bookshelf might never have been digitized. Despite the efficiency of computerized search, many people still prefer their reference material in physical form. Most children still read physical books. Workbooks are still safe from digitization. Gifted books are also still most popular as physical goods.
The time has come when you can finally burn all your books without destroying part of the collective knowledge of the world. Or, you can just donate them to your local library.
Disclosure: Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links. Buying something after clicking one of those links is akin to grabbing some coins from Amazon’s tip jar and tossing them into mine.