Thomas Edison’s Kindle-iPad Combo January 28, 2010 – Tags: books, IPad, Kindle Thomas Edison, Science, Technology
Thomas Edison, beyond his inventions, was the Steve Jobs of his time. He developed innovative consumer applications from contemporary technology and materials and was a master at marketing them. People marveled at his wonders that made day-to-day living easier and more convenient, and hung on every word he had to say about technology and great, game-changing gadgets newly arrived and to come from his factories.
In the February 1911 issue of The Cosmopolitan (yes, that Cosmopolitan – long before it was Helen Gurley-Brown’ed into Cosmo) the Wizard of Menlo Park shared with journalist and Socialist propagandist, Allan L. Benson, his vision of the future, the possibilities of steel and what it held in store (and storage) for books:
“Steel, he says, is soon destined to fall from its high pinnacle as the skeleton of skyscrapers… Book covers may also be made of steel. Even the pages of books may be made of steel, though Edison regards nickel as a better substitute for paper…The imagination is not much taxed by the suggestion of skyscrapers made without steel; but nickel books, bound in steel –
“‘Why not?’ asks Edison. ‘Nickel will absorb printer’s ink. A sheet of nickel one twenty-thousandth of an inch thick is cheaper, tougher, and more flexible than an ordinary sheet of book-paper. A nickel book, two inches thick, would contain 40,000 pages. Such a book would weigh only a pound. I can make a pound of nickel sheets for a dollar and a quarter.’
“‘Here, also, is a prospect of real culture for the masses. Forty thousand pages in a volume! A single volume the equivalent in printing space of two hundred paper-leaved books of two hundred pages each! What a library might be placed between two steel covers and sold for, perhaps, two dollars for the price of one book!!’
“Here, at last, is comfort for the librarians who are crying out against the commercialism that produces paper so poor that most of the volumes printed today seem likely to crumble to dust within a hundred years. Here, also, is the prospect of real culture for the masses. Forty thousand pafes in a volume! A single volume the equivalent in printing space of two hundred pages each! What a library might be placed between two steel covers and sold for, perhaps, two dollars! History, science, fiction, poetry – everything. Indestructible except through fire or abuse.. Beautiful, because the steel covers could be stained in perfect imitation of the finest leathers. Two hundred books for the price of one book! I had understood Edison to say that he was already making, of another purpose, the thin nickel sheets of which he spoke. That seemed to place the nickel book within the range of present possibilities.”
There is virtually no evidence that Thomas Edison ever followed up on this idea. He probably thought it through and realized that it would be impractical and cause injury: Imagine flipping through a steel-covered book with leaves of nickel to page 14,237. Next, visualize the bloody mess now passing for the tip of your thumb or index finger. Then consider, as with the compact edition of the O.E.D., that you’ll require a high-power magnifying glass to read the print.
Now, using your sense-memory, imagine the aroma of a real, genuine steel, faux-leather binding.
Later, get out the naval jelly to dress the book and prevent rust and corrosion; if the steel can be stained to look like leather, it’s not stainless steel.
It’s not, however, all bad. A one-pound, two-inch thick all-metal book is well-nigh indestructible. Drop it from the roof of a building and it may dent but remain functional. Try that with a Kindle or iPad.
Book reviewers are often compelled to read and write about rotten volumes. As Dorothy Parker once wrote, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
If an Edison all-metal, 40,000 page, one-pound book is hurled in your direction, ‘best be wearing a suit of armor.
Lead and image from the Technologizer via LISNews.