Here’s what’s wrong with books

Here’s what’s wrong with books – meaning words printed on paper. (Just about everything I say here applies to magazines as well.)

The problem is: the words are locked onto the page. You cannot get them out. You can highlight them with a pen – but you cannot lift them out, and then save some of them for later, or search the web with them, or send them to someone in an email – and you cannot – horror of horrors – copy and paste them into your own document – not even for research, or future reference, or posterity.

Now, some publishers of electronic material do everything they can to make these things impossible – or, at least, limited in some way. The New Yorker magazine makes it impossible to highlight and copy text at all. The NY Times allows you to highlight only a single paragraph at a time. I can live with that.

I am reading The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. At the beginning of one chapter, he quotes Robert Morison about how events outside science often effect the setting of science policy. And I thought “he is talking about cancer – but the same thing applies to climate change – or needs to.” Sure would be nice to be able to copy that quote and save it – or show it to you here.


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