Moving to Freedom, .Org

Apocalyptic Reading Expectations

zombie, from astounding science fiction

With our growing acceptance of ebooks, we should ask ourselves: what happens when the apocalypse comes around, of the zombie or whatever variety?

Paper books rely on some infrastructure to produce, but they’re durable when finished. They don’t rely on power other than an external light source. Ebooks require a higher level of civilization to sustain them. Will our technology hold up? I have my doubts. I work in technology, and I follow politics. I’m afraid we’re doomed.

We’ll need “real” books in the coming dark ages, to preserve our knowledge and provide entertainment when the electricity’s all gone.

When the zombies take over — or when the One Percent leave in their spaceships and take all the jobs they created, leaving our infrastructure in ruins — it won’t be easy lugging paper books around, but at least we’ll have the option.

Zombies mostly ignore books. Many of them will survive, and in a pinch, a hefty hardcover makes a good weapon. Can you imagine trying to bash a zombie’s head in with a dainty little Kindle reader?

My post-apolcalyptic visions were fueled at a young age by the book, Lucifer’s Hammer, in which a comet slams into the earth. (No zombies in Hammer, but there are cannibals.) There’s a great passage where this guy seals up a bunch of his books in plastic bags and drops them in a tank of water for safekeeping. I remember thinking at the time this was such a great idea. Yes! Save the books!

Imagine that paper books have largely become a novelty item and you have your ebook reader with 10,000 books stored on it. Zombies are milling around in your front yard. You grab the reader and make a run for it, hoping desperately to join up with a well-armed group of survivors out in the wilderness. Maybe the battery is fully charged and this late-model reader can easily last for two months. Six months if you use it sparingly.

Obviously, you have a lot of survival books loaded up, just in case, so you’re accepted into one of the non-cannibalistic groups of survivors, and often called on to open up that U.S. Army Field Manual to learn about proper latrine maintenance and skinning bunnies and peeling potatoes and whatnot. The battery is going fast.

You think about how much you just want to read something escapist, but the device is watched closely and people yell at you for reading “non-essential material.” No TV. No internet. No cat videos. Ten thousand books and nothing fun to read. Toilet paper rapidly running out. The zombies have “learned” to congregate around big box stores, making supplies much riskier to acquire.

You know what? We’re not going to last much longer than six months anyway, are we? Might as well sneak off to read some smut, of which there is also plenty saved on the reader, just in case.

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