Reading when TSHTF

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. 


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14 thoughts on “Reading when TSHTF”

  1. BH, great post! I do have an e reader, and apps on my computer and smart phone. That said, I also have hard copy books of those that I feel will be most important to me in a SHTF situation. I also have a wide variety of fiction in hard copy…of course, my fave author, but I also try to mix it up. I used to have a box of Dr Suess books but lost in my many moves. But my grandson who lives with us has gobs of books I’ve collected from the local thrift store…And you are right, reading on an e reader does not compare to holding the actual book in your hand!

  2. I’m with you, BH! I love my books. Heaven knows I have enough of them! 😉 I do collect books for all ages, fully expecting to need them in the not-too-distant future. Do ereaders come with pictures? I don’t think so. But books do!

    Now if only we can keep them from being burned in the future.

  3. I agree the need to have hard copies of books and do find it easier to find what I am looking for in the hard copy. That said an e-book is much more convienent when traveling. I will share a message I read on another of my favorite blogs and that is we should also make our own books. Ones that contain information that fit our particular needs or what we think we might need to know. Also it will require you to read your e-book and gleen important info, print and construct your book. You’ll be able to condense the book to only wanted material and cut out all the “fluff” you don’t want or need. Just a suggestion to fellow preppers.

  4. Looking over my “electronic” information, I see that I’ve accumulated over 17 GB (that’s 17 BILLION characters) of preparedness information; everything from food storage/preparation to caching to gardening to medical to weapons info to animal husbandry to self defense to retreat locating to military manuals to emergency lists, etc., etc., etc. Having said that, I look at the information and glean out the “fluff”. After that I print out a hard copy of what I see as vital information and keep it in my “Preparedness” library. An EMP can possibly damage your e-reader/electronics so that a later power supply won’t help you use it. However, hard copies of books, manuals, information you’ve acquired on the internet (while we still have it) are good to have and share with others. This Christmas I plan on burning this information onto DVDs and giving them as presents to my married children.

  5. My medical, aquaponics, solar, gardening, weapons library is all hard copy. Also about 500 fiction titles and operating manuals and other critical data.
    In addition I have a number of jump drives with about 200 vol. of prepper material and a laptop and notebook in a EMP vault with all other small devices backed up.

    SDR, curious, how is that hand gen gonna work on your devices after an EMP has blown all of the semi-conductors out of them? I guess you think your Iphone is gonna work also?
    Regards, D.

  6. great post. I believe both have their merits to have. Last year there were several well known blogs who encouraged their readers to dump the hard books for e-copies so they can modernize and unclutter their preps,many gushed how great of an idea it was. I was banned from a site for saying how stupid of an idea it was to dump hard copies. A friend of mine did this so I gave him $50 for the 4 boxes of his “clutter”.

  7. I like Myke’s idea of transferring media to DVDs a lot. I don’t have a printer, ink costs so much, and printing at the local library starts to add up too (I had to do it a lot when I went back to school last fall). And altho D. was sarcastic, the idea of protecting your devices in the event of the dreaded EMP is a good idea as well. Ive heard an idea as simple as creating a cover for your laptop with aluminum screening can help. I need to look further into it, but sounded pretty simple to me!

  8. Sorry, sometimes my tongue just gets away from me before I can bite it.
    Many do think their cell phones are gonna work. Look at the producers of American Blackout….all sorts of stuff working! The more sensitive and hi-tech the device, the more prone to the magic white smoke escaping! D.

  9. I have a cousin who got an e-reader and insisted that I had to get one too. She said I would love it as much as she does and thought I was being difficult when I said I’d pass. She assured me that I could mark/highlight pages and ‘add notes in the margins’. I have yet to get one nor do I plan on getting one. If you have the right set up you can have e-books downloaded to your computer.

    I too have a prepper hard copy library started and have included the Constitution and other political/government sources such as the Federal Papers by Thomas Paine. Having your resources on a computer or e-reader is useful but as the prepper saying goes ‘2 is 1 and 1 is none’. Having multiple copies of your reference materials in more than one medium/place is a sound plan.

    I suspect everyone, including avid readers like myself, will not be doing to much leisure reading to being with after a SHTF incident. What we all need to remember when selecting reading material to keep is 1) Is it useful for the survival of your body, mind and spirit? 2) Will this material help to rebuild society/civilization and warn of past mistakes so they won’t be repeated? 3) Will it help not only teach future children but help them learn to think for themselves?

    Having stating my opinions, let me add that in addition to the above having ‘comfort’ reading material is as important as having ‘comfort’ foods to see you through the dark times, although we may not have much time to read it in the beginning. For those who plan to bug out, it would be wise to already have your library at your destination. It would be one less thing to worry about remembering and lessen the likelihood of forgetting something.

    Reading is knowledge and knowledge is the basis of civilization. The enemies of civilization are complacency, apathy and no goals to strive for. Let’s all do our part to make sure past mistakes are not repeated.


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