Thursday, January 19, 2012

Soaking Up Books, Soap And Internet

The internet is busy at the moment with talk of SOPA and PIPA.

At first I thought this referred to a sordid sex tape featuring a much loved BBC natural history presenter and the future Queen of England’s baby sister.

But, no.

In case you are unaware of the issues, legislation is afoot to protect copyrighted material from piracy.  On the face of it this sounds like a good thing and I, for one, have no wish to aid ruthless individuals prepared to kidnap innocent civilians in exchange for cash (even if their presence on the briny might have helped out a little with the Costa Concordia while that twat of a ship’s captain watched it sink).  What’s at issue is the problems any such legislation will bring in its wake, and there are genuine fears that the present openness of the internet will be severely compromised.

That’s why large numbers of websites were blacked out yesterday — to protest at the catastrophic error of judgment the US would make if it committed itself to SOPANAM.

I support the protest initiative but worry how history will view it.  After all, if your web site is blacked out for a day, who will know any different the following day?  Your protest will be as the non-existent subjective thoughts of a functionalist’s zombie clone of yourself.

So that’s why I’ve chosen to blog with reference to the topic rather than throw a shroud over my concern.  And, yes, it should have happened yesterday, but I was rubbing shoulders with the clergy and despite their insistence that we’re all going to live forever they’re absolute fuckers for being fobbed off and told to wait until tomorrow.

So here is the post you should have had — a post you might in the future be denied for reasons spurious and convoluted.

It’s about reading in the bath — specifically what kind of technology should follow in the wake of the waterproof handheld device and whether this kind of wizardry belongs in the bathroom anyway.

The problem with handhelds (and I omit from my list here the dictating genius cat — we’re talking tablets and the like) is that while they’re a great substitute for books in most respects other than odour and that zippy thing you can do with the pages, I’d never use one for reading in the bath.  This is not to say I’m impossibly clumsy and possessed of a bathtime book reading history full to bursting with dropped Wars And Peaces, but if I’m going to start being clumsy in the future, I’d rather it be with a modest paperback than some product of Steve Jobs’ cerebellum twice the price of a swanky washing machine.

I’m guessing many of you are in a similar position — lying in the bath with a book, wondering  how to mix and match your libraries so you have a collection of books for ease of storage and being on the go and another collection of books for soaking up the Radox with, all allied to a schedule which allows you to flit from bath to world back to bath again, and from chapter to chapter to chapter, without the need for two versions of whatever it is you’re reading.

Surely the answer lies in the bathroom equivalent of the wall-mounted HD TV — an overhead  cinematic screen you can access from a rubber-bound console by the duck and loofer rack?  With such technology it would be possible to luxuriate with any and all of your books without the need for duplicates and with no fear of submerging your Jane Eyres by accident.

Does this sound like a good thing?

Personally, I think not.

The one great advantage of an actual book is that it only does one thing, and when you slither between the bubbles, reading is the only deal in town (unless you’re a serial masturbator).  A screen capable of displaying ebooks in the bathroom, though fine as an idea, will probably never be invented (and if it has been, won’t last long).  Likely, any such device will come bundled with internet access so we can check our email between paragraphs and scrub our bottoms to the jaunty rhythms of endless Bathtime Fitness Regime Gurus.  While reading may be an option here, it won’t be the only show in town — especially if you lack a blind or frosted glass and your bath is directly in front of a window.  Soaking in the tub is where you go to get away from all that nonsense, surely?  Those stimuli that prompt you to do things, find things out and buy stuff?

Call me a precog, but I reckon the bathroom will be the saviour of the printed book.

As for the internet — even with or without SOPA, it definitely has its place, and in the domain of soap, may that place forever remain NOWHERE.

News of Sock Monkey and Vacuum Cleaner Fiction to follow shortly...


fairyhedgehog said...

But what about those of us who never have a bath? Reading in the shower doesn't work with either sort of book.

I remember the old slogan "Save water. Bath with a friend." Do we now need to say "Save books. Have a bath"?

Whirlochre said...

There was a time when confessing to never having a bath would have summoned a clutch of mean looking nuns. How times have changed.

As for "Save water, bath with a friend", it's possible to bathe with no water at all if there's enough of you in the tub.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Many folk have found a practical solution to the ereader in the bath or on the sandy beach: Slip the reader into a clear, waterproof/sandproof plastic baggy. Add bubbles and let the fun begin!

stacy said...

That's my solution, Phoenix. : )

I actually do think the blackout had an effect on SOPA, as it's pretty much dead in the water now. PIPA may still be on board, but I think there will be enough protest to kill that, too. My biggest concern about the protest is that many people were saying ANY law trying to prevent piracy is bad. I don't agree with that. I think it's great when people like Cory Doctorow make their novels available for free and allow people to adapt them for noncommercial purposes, but that's a choice that should always be left up to the creator.

Evil Editor said...

I have decided to create a book of Whirlochre's best blog posts. It's not piracy so much as it's my gift to literary posterity; unless it doesn't count as a gift if I'm charging $14.95 for it.

Whirlochre said...

Does that really solve the problem of condensation? Especially when reading a bonkbuster?

Seems like there were pros and cons flying around in a huge mush of opinion and I suspect some (more reasoned)version of the legislation will surface and resurface.

I never had you down for a pirate, especially with the price of eye patches (and your beard being in totally the wrong place).