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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Electronic Publishing Will End Civilization

You might be asking yourself: how the heck can something so revolutionary and so seemingly wonderful bring about the end of civilization? And I might ask you where you've been the last five years and why you haven't considered the most important and most dangerous thing to a technology-oriented society ever imagined: zombies.

You see, in the post-apocalyptic zombie-ridden future,
the people who are more likely to survive are going to be those old curmudgeons like myself who think that holding a real book in your hands is still far more enjoyable than a little electronic device. I'm part of a group of endangered species that actually favors page texture and smell over the click of a button when it comes to my reading. And I'm going to survive the zombie apocalypse while all you traitors who have begun to forsake the printed form in favor of something without texture, smell, or function in the post-apocalyptic world are more likely to end up infected, dead, or starving somewhere in a hole, bored out of your mind because your silly little electronic reader ran out of batteries ten weeks ago, leaving you in the dark with nothing but some rotten food and the sound of zombies pounding on the door.

And the reason for all this? When push comes to shove, a good book can also be a good weapon, in the most literal sense, and using it as such doesn't make the product unusable. Maybe I should explain that better.

There are three kinds of books in the world: normal paperbacks (light, slightly flexible, and conveniently sized), hardbacks (slightly heavy, hard, and less conveniently sized), and Big Bertha books (i.e. massive dictionaries, encyclopedias, and so on). If, for whatever reason, I have run out of suitable bludgeoning tools, guns, or other forms of traditional weaponry, I can use all three of these book forms to not only entertain myself, but also to combat the undead. How? Here are a few examples of books turned into weapons using little more than some pointy things:

  • The Pocket Star
    If you have a few pocket-sized books (preferably square) lying around, you can easily convert them into brain-busting throwing stars. All you need are some nails, or other pointed items, and some rubber bands. Stick them through the binding, tie the book up with the rubber bands, and start practicing. One good throw from these suckers can put down a zombie in seconds.

  • The Whacker
    Any trade paperback or light hardcover can become a decent whacker. The taller the book, the better (because of your wrist movements), but you also want a fairly light book. All you need is one really good nail pushed through the binding (preferably a thick one), some rubber bands to hold the whole thing closed, and a willingness to run around whacking zombies in the head. You've got to be quick, though. The problem with the whacker is that it's really easy to get stuck in skull bone. If you're really good, you can create some sort of wrist band that keeps the whacker attached to your arm during battles.

  • The Distractor
    Some books won't do the job of killing zombies, but will do the job of confusing the hell out of them or getting them out of your way. A world atlas book makes a particularly effective Distractor, since it can be used to whack zombies out of the way if swung properly and with the appropriate amount of force. One good smack to the head will send a zombie reeling. It's an easy tool to find and can absolutely work in a pinch.

  • The Devastator
    If you're a true book lover, you'll most likely have some books with unusual dimensions and very thick covers. These kinds of books make wonderful Devastators for two reasons: they can take a lot more damage than other kinds of books and they are easier to swing like a baseball bat. All you need for a Devastator is a very tall or very wide hardcover book, some pointed objects, and some rubber bands. Instead of putting the nails or pointed things through the spine, put them through the cover and wrap it all up with the rubber bands. The Devastator has the effect of being extremely deadly--especially if you concentrate your nails/pointed objects in one area--and distracting due to its weight--kind of like the Distractor. If you're really adventuresome, you can create a Double Devastator by using both sides of the book.
There are plenty of other book-based weapons you can make, but these four should provide strong enough support for having a large and diverse personal library of books, because without them, you're not likely to survive very long. Your Kindle or Nook or whatever isn't going to last long against a zombie's head. It'll likely break after the first couple blows, leaving you without anything to read (assuming, of course, that your battery didn't die well before that). Beyond that, there are some other good reasons for having a diverse personal library:

  • Guns and Other Weapons Will Be Scarce
    Those of us with zombie contingency plans likely have "acquire weapons" somewhere high on the list. The problem? So does everyone else. You're not the only one who wants guns, bats, swords, and ski poles. Everyone wants them, because that's the best way to defend yourself when the heat is on and that's one of the first things other than "run like hell" that pops into our heads when something terrible happens.

    The reality is that most gun stores will be emptied of their stock in the first few hours, leaving you and a whole lot of other people without projectile weaponry or bludgeoning tools. With a few books, you can avoid this problem entirely. You also shouldn't forget that ammo is limited. You will run out of bullets, and those guns you tried so hard to get will become little more than heavy nuisances.

  • They're Good in a Pinch
    Think about it. A zombie breaks into your house, or you encounter one at the local library, where you've decided to hold up for a few hours. If you're not already armed, or can't get to your bat or gun, then what are you going to do? Run? Sure. You can do that. But if you're dealing with the running zombies type, you're going to need more than a little speed. And a nice, hefty book can make a great, spontaneous weapon. But, hey, if you don't have any books, I suppose you can just run like everyone else--like all the cowards out there...yeah, you heard me.

  • They'll Save Your Life Double Time
    People say that books can save a life. Usually they mean that in the social sense, because books really are great ways to drive people away from crime and so on. But books (and here I mean real books) can also save you in other ways. They can be converted into weaponry and used to keep yourself educated, which will be beneficial when the zombies are ousted and society begins to reform itself. Even more important: your books will serve as emblems of modern society, used to help everyone as power plants are brought back online, order is restored, and civilization returns. You and your book friends will be at the top of the totem pole.
So, the next time you think that it'd be a good thing for electronic books to take over the publishing industry, leaving the print medium in the dust, consider all of the above. Because in the end, the people with the books will be the people who survive the longest. They might also be the people that take over the world and restore knowledge to its rightful place. Don't be stupid and get yourself killed by a zombie just because getting rid of print books is convenient or"inevitable." Think about your children, and their children. Think about the future.

P.S.: This post was inspired in part by Cat Rambo's discussion of electronic publishing over at the SFWA blog.

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  1. It wouldn't really en civilization though, since you say those with "Real books" will still survive...

    So I'm pretty much incapable of making a real comment on this because it's so silly. xD I guess I'm going to get eaten by zombies and die, not because I own a e-reader, but because I wouldn't want to waste the few "real books" I intend on keeping by chucking it at a zombie, or something. Dostoevsky deserves better than that.

  2. Well, maybe. See, the problem is that the zombie apocalypse might happen in my lifetime, or it might not. If it doesn't happen in my lifetime, there's a good chance that few people will have actual books when the zombies attack. We might convert them all to digital and either burn all the originals or at just have one place where we keep important books locked up, which is good, but also not very useful for defending oneself (it'd be sacrilege to use the original Gutenberg Bible as a weapon, after all, just because it's an important printed text...I'm an atheist, so the whole Bible thing is irrelevant to me).

    But that all depends on the future. If we're not careful and we don't get our kids to love texture, we'll be screwed, because they'll teach their kids nothing about texture either, and the zombies will come and eat them and everyone will die...all because we all wanted an ebook reader!

    Dostoevsky, by the way, makes the best book-based weapon. Hefty more ways than one.

    And of course it's silly :P