The following is a guest post entry into our Survival & Preparedness Writing Contest.
Reading when TSHTF
With the advent of e-readers in recent years, the landscape of reading and of books has changed dramatically. What’s not to like about the ability to carry numerous books on one device? But in an EMP or similar scenario in which power is out for a prolonged period of time, what will become of e-readers? What could be better than a good book when there’s nothing else to do, but it is not accessible because it was only located on an e-reader?
As a minister, I have a profound love of books. I, for one, have not bought an e-reader. I personally love the real thing. I have taken a dozen books with me at times for my study when I have had to be out of town. It is laborious, but I love to have the physical copy in my hands to mark up and write in. While you can “highlight” on an e-reader, you can’t simply flip open to the page on which the highlighted material is found. While it is convenient to have many books on one device, I have found that it is more convenient to have the actual books on hand to refer to. I can bookmark them easily and access the content I’m searching for in just a few short moments.
I hope it’s easy to see that physical books will be of great use in a SHTF scenario. When my friends with e-readers and electronic book-licensing programs are unable to power up and access their “books,” I can continue enjoying what I have on the shelves. I can fire up the oil lantern or light a candle and read late into the night even.
Books are not merely for the lone individual either. Great books are meant to be shared. Our family loves to read good books together. We can laugh together and cry together. Discussions open up that may not have opened up otherwise. I suppose one can share a book on an e-reader. But in our experience, the opening of a physical book allows for focused attention. When a physical book is opened, it’s time to read and listen!
Furthermore, if you have seen Eli, you know the importance of rebuilding culture after a SHTF scenario. Whether in a physical or memorized form, great books were necessary for society to get back to a sense a normalcy. Good books have value far beyond an individual’s enjoyment. Good books tell something about the human condition. Good books take us back in time so that we can re-live history, this time hopefully doing things right. Good books seem to tap into a community consciousness that allows a culture to grow together. If relying on an e-reader, access to these cultural heritage holders becomes severely limited.
Shared knowledge becomes a powerful driving force for a group of people. It has been said that knowledge is power. Where will a society in collapse recapture its knowledge? I believe it will be through the written word. Provided that certain books don’t get burned in an apocalyptic event or through book burnings, books will continue to have a necessary place in society.
E-readers have their place, especially for travel. But they do present some limitations. I would encourage everyone who owns an e-reader to enjoy them. . . for now. But have on hand a collection of good books. Have on hand the physical copies of your favorite books that you only own electronically. Books are a great source of comfort and companionship at all times, but especially when the power is out and your e-reader is powerless. There’s nothing quite like finding your warmest cozy blanket and curling up in a chair to read. Regardless of the electronic device, in a SHTF scenario, your mind may need to go through electronic detox for a while. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we are too tied to our electronic devices. I wonder if we aren’t sometimes dumber rather than smarter with all of the technology in our lives. Before a SHTF scenario comes and you are forced to be without electronic devices, try it out over a weekend sometime. Turn off the TV. Stay off the computer. Grab a stack of books to read on your own and with your family. You may just find that you have tapped into a refreshing source of nourishment you had missed somewhere along the way. You may find that some of the things you think are important aren’t quite as important as you thought. And your mind may just thank you later for feeding it the knowledge it craves.