Saturday, January 09, 2010

Envirnonmental? Simplifying?

We're all connected, and it's unBuddhist to bury your head in the sand. Our environment is struggling to adapt to the expansion of human population. Joanna Macy has instructed us in her lovely book Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural System that our connection to each other means that we do have influence. At times I've thought humanity is too stupid to stop our course of destruction. But there are things you can do.

Henry David Threau has pointed out that so-called time savers must take into account the amount of time you spent working to buy the "time saver." So I'm keeping this in mind as I "buy" the 3 following things.

Aside from biking to work, or using public transportation, and that kind of stuff, I've worked to reduce my amount of possessions. Reducing the clutter in my house is a way of simplifying my life. To that end, I have found 3 things to help reduce.

1. I don't like the idea of buying something to reduce objects, but the Kindle at Amazon can hold up to 1,500 books according to their own estimates. I don't want to advertise the kind, but I have read a book on it, and used it, and I feel it's a way to reduce the amount of paperbacks and books in my house. Plus you can just get books right away, which actually makes it easy to spend a lot of money. But you can send PDFs to yourself and read them on the Kindle. So I can send all the excellent PDFs available by Sangharakshita and from I uploaded the Diamond Sutra, the Puja, Bante's recent letters, and some seminars. I didn't realize before I bought it, I didn't know that to store documents on the Amazon website, they charge 15-30 cents according to the size. But you do have the option of putting it on the Kindle straight from your computer, so you can do it for free. You can upload the Pali Cannon, though I haven't found it all in one PDF so I just upload my favorites. It's a bit of a hassle, but the Pali Cannon has much of it available free on line. Also things like Yeats poems, Jane Austen and others are free because their copywrite has expired, so there's a lot of free content. I think free content is a big seller, plus the reduction of use of paper I might use in printing out a seminar or other items. They thought computers would cut down on the use of paper, but it's actually increased the use of paper. I think Kindle will definitely cut down on the use of paper. And you can use with your laptop and iPhone. There is also a very slow internet connection, so in a jam you can use it to look things up on Wikipedia. I haven't tried to upload MP3 yet, but it say you can do that too. I could become a fairly complete Dharma library with talks and texts. The books are cheaper than hard copies, though not every book in in the format. Unfortunately Windhorse hasn't used the format yet, though Sangharakshita's books on his website on PDF can be read for free.

So I would say the that most books aren't printed in an electronic version, and the fact that Kindle hasn't totally won the reader wars, yet, leaves it possible that something could come along and win the format wars, the way VHS beat Betamax. I've used Amazon for a long time, loving how easy it is to get a book, and they have won the early race. Apparently they rushed the Nook to market, and the Sony reader isn't as attractive, with even less available than the Kindle. But it's not a definitive victory so far, so there is risk involved. It takes a lot of books to make up the cost of the device, but I think ultimately it does pay for itself in book savings by itself.

2. is another way of changing your used books into unread books you haven't read. There was a point in my life when I was trying to create a library. But the reality of NYC living is that there's just not the space. In my last move (and I've moved a lot in my life) my friend was annoyed at the "trophies" that filled box after box. When I was in social work school, I started filling my backpack with books to sell at The Strand, to pay for my lunch. And now I'm trying to reduce my library by exchanging books I'm likely not to read again. I save Dharma, Psychotherapy books and poetry, but I'm letting go of other books.

The way it works is that you list 10 books, and they give you 2 books credits. After that you get a credit every time someone gets a book. You can also buy a credit. So when someone wants your book, you send it to them. It costs about $2.50 or less to send a book by mail in the USA. I think it's confined to the USA and I'm not sure if there are version in other countries. I've improved my son's library, my wife orders books when I don't need a book. Again, selection is limited. You can't get the complete works of Freud here, there's only one Sangharakshita book. So the 4 million books are mostly best sellers, but that's as usual the fun, to find the gems amongst all the drek.

3. Netflicks: If you're like most people after a certain age, storage of books and DVDs has become a problem. Joining Netflicks solves that problem, you no longer need to buy a DVD, and it's slick and quick. I've seen so many movies on DVDs. But I think the thing that puts Netflicks over the top, is that you can watch movies on line. I have a laptop and have watched so many cool movies on line, it's awesome.

Conclusion: I think these 3 things reduce and simplify, and that helps the environment. I'm not sure if the energy of computers to support these 3 services makes it not helpful. Maybe it's just more simplifying technology, though without the environmental factor it's not that simplifying. Please express your opinion in the comments!

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