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I recently read Terence Eden’s blog named: What if civilisation doesn’t collapse?. The main idea is making the case for ebooks over physical paper books, which is not something I agree with.

Addressing Throwaway Article Points

I’m not treating the following points made seriously, but thought I would address them anyway…

But the other day I had someone scoff at me and say “Good luck reading when civilisation collapses! I’ll still be able to read by candle-light.”

This is nonsense. In the case of a Zombie Attack, am I really going to lug a few hundred kilograms of books with me? Or am I going to slip a lightweight eReader into my pocket and have ten thousand books at my disposal?

Most significant survival-like scenarios will likely require you shelter in-place. In the UK for example, there is some 80 million 1 people, there is nowhere where large amounts of desperate people can actually go. This idea that you will be running around to survive is just nonsense. Our recent “apocalypse” scenario was simply a bunch of scared people cowering in their homes.

Also, where is he getting all those candles from? My eBook has a built in light which is less likely to attract Zombies and isn’t a massive fire hazard.

You can make candles and lanterns pretty easily. You could get a 500ml beer can, fill it with sand and splash some flammable liquid in it for a slow burning fire for light and heat. (More advanced methods exist.) Not to mention, the majority of time could be spent with daylight.

Perhaps he’s concerned that an eReader battery won’t last more than a couple of weeks and then I’ll be stuffed. OK, sure. But I have a solar powered portable battery. As long as the dust clouds don’t blot out Earth’s yellow sun, I should be able to read indefinitely.

Assuming your solar powered battery is portable, it will keep going some 5 or 10 years? After which you are in trouble anyway.

Generally I think it is disingenuous to pretend that somehow your ebook will keep running after 20 years, but a book almost certainly will be in reading condition. No, you can’t carry 10k physical books in one go, but you can do what those before you have done for hundreds a years - return a book and pick up another.

But - and this is a big but - even if eReaders are vastly inferior in an emergency… so fucking what?

Agreed, the scenario is a prepper’s dream. Onto the real point…

The Main Point

If civilisation doesn’t collapse, I’d’ve wasted time, energy, money, and effort maintaining a physical library. I’d be limited to how many books I can take on a beach holiday. Every time I moved house I’d be straining my back carrying all of them. The fire-risk of hundreds of books would have been for naught.

Maintaining a physical library takes little to no effort. You just place books in a bookcase. Keep them dry and out of direct sunlight and they could serve you well after your death.

You will not need to worry about taking books on holiday with you - soon you will not have enough carbon credits to go visit that lovely beach anyway.

The fact that you are moving house so regularly is a different problem entirely, one I’m not going to address here.

It’s the same as people who don’t pay into a pension because they might be hit by a bus tomorrow. Sure. But what if you’re unlucky enough to reach old age?

Realistically none of us are going to make the age of our recent previous generations because the NHS will collapse. We have simply run out of money to run it.

In our local area (I don’t care what you think goes on in yours), the process to get an appointment is as follows:

  1. You realise you need to see a doctor. In typical British tradition, something that was previously fine is no longer fine, you’re quite concerned and the reason you are phoning is not without reason.
  2. You go into the local doctors. It’s empty. The receptionist tells you “you cannot make an appointment here, you need to phone”.
  3. You walk outside and phone. The same receptionist picks up and starts asking for all the details about your condition. The receptionist, who is not a trained medical staff, then triages your case and decides if you get an appointment with the doctor.
  4. A week later (if you are lucky and still alive), the doctor calls you. You then have to describe your symptoms within the 10 minute call slot. The doctor will give you any drugs you think you need, anything recommended by Doctor Google if it makes you stop calling.
  5. You go to pick up your medication at the pharmacy, who have run out of the thing you have been subscribed and substitute it with a cheaper alternative. It’s cheaper not because it doesn’t have the same active ingredient, but because the quantity of the active ingredient is less well controlled.

This is an extremely real situation for millions around the UK.

The following is the total public sector net debt in the UK:

UK’s Public Sector Debt 2001/01 tp 2027/28

Since 2000 our public sector debt has ballooned by five times, and yet our GDP hasn’t matched that growth. Short-term thinking is built into the UK leadership structure, pushing problems such as debt onto people of the future. Worst still, such short-term thinking is even rewarded.

You can either live each day like its your last - and deal with the consequences of tomorrow when they come - or you can take a reasoned approach to the inevitability of the future.

So I’m going to enjoy all the comforts of an eReader now. Come the end-of-the-world, I will regret… well, probably nothing.

You take a dig at short-term thinking, and then go onto embrace short-term thinking?

I don’t want to live like a prepper and have a basement full of pickled vegetables slowly fermenting, or a library of paper slowly crumbling.

Crumbling books is simply not the case. They would have to be stored in poor condition. I have multiple books in excess of a hundred years old in perfect working order.

Digital Book Gatekeepers

The real reason I oppose ebooks is because using services like Amazon, I never really own it. Far more likely than a world ending scenario is simply that the political winds change, and ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarves’ is rewritten to be ‘The Bearded Lady and the Seven Twerking Gays’. Whether or not I like the new rendition of the book is besides the point, Amazon now helpfully patch all existing copies on Kindles.

I may have a copy of Mein Kampf so that I can understand how desperate and good-meaning people were indoctrinated by evil ideology. One day I find it deleted off of my Kindle, and a new entry on Wikipedia’s banned book list. All for my benefit, don’t you see?

The point is, a physical book I own. It will outlast me, it will always be there. Publishing companies could retract it, governments could ban it, Amazon could go bankrupt, the digital format could become obsolete, the UK’s main language could be switched to Mandarin - and yet my physical book remains as a snapshot in time.


Don’t get me wrong, I myself own ebooks and have collections of digital books for reading out and about. There is no doubt of their convenience. But. Anything I really value I get a physical copy of.

  1. The population of the UK greatly depends on the true immigration statistics.↩︎