2nd Place Stuckey Contest Winner
Hermann High School
At last the judge enters the court of Literary Justice. His glasses ride low on the bridge of his nose; his eyes are bright and clear; his hair looks like it came from a salt and pepper shaker. He's the sort that stays up all night reading Shakespeare, comparing his notes from college with his Kindle highlighter markings. From an interview I did with him last year, I remember that Dewey Biblio still lives in his childhood home on 872 Quarto Way. He has fond memories of the local library.
"All rise for the Honorable Judge Biblio," the bailiff intones.
Papers rustle, plastics clunk, and feet stomp. I watch Judge Biblio dodging a web of power adapter cables on the floor. "Sorry," a brand new e-reader next to me says, "my battery's getting low."
The judge continues walking, then sits, and we settle back into the hard benches. "The Court will now hear the case of Paperback Book versus Kindle Fire."
The plaintiff's lawyer rises to make his opening statement. Behind him the Kindle's green light glows.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the planet is failing. Every day millions of acres of trees are hacked down and made into two-by-fours, toothpicks, and worst of all, paper. It won't be long before trees are a distant memory, and dandelions are the tallest vegetation we have.
"The perpetrator of this crime is sitting behind me. The outdated Paperback Book, who has refused the natural solution to my client's troubles: to join the e-Community.
"Paperback is destructive. Underneath that innocent-looking purple soft cover lie four hundred and twenty-seven sheets of paper. The product of Tree Slaughter.
"The two, Kindle and Paperback, have been sharing a bookcase for the past three and a half months. There is not enough space for both of them, and Paperback, knowing this, has done nothing to remedy the situation. She is simply an archaic, tree-killing space hog.
"My client has a right to live comfortably. By not joining the e-Community, Paperback Book is interfering with Kindle's right to liberty, life, and the pursuit of happiness. She must be stopped.
"Today, I am sure you will find the circumstances described here a violation of the natural liberties by client should have access to. Ladies and gentlemen, in the name of modern literary justice, I leave it to you to do the right thing. Recycle that old book and make Paperback into a new E-edition."
The judge, Dewey Biblio, nods in acknowledgement, and gestures towards the defendant, while he chews on the earpiece of his reader glasses. He looks pensive.
Another shuffling of papers and crackling of paper spines ensues. Up rise the defendant, Paperback, and her counsel.
"Your honor. Members of the court. My opponents will say (and they have, haven't they?) that my client, Paperback Book, is old-fashioned. That she doesn't keep up with the times. Print is out-dated, they claim.
"But how can they say this when the most timeless creations of humanity were written by the pen, printed on the page, and not just typed up on the keyboard, or blown up on a screen?
"My client does not need an AC adapter to enjoy herself. She does not need precios metals or factories to be here.
"Tell me. Do you remember the first iPod? The first e-Reader? The first Kindle? What they looked like, or how they worked?
"I bet that ninety-nine percent of you don't. Tell me. How is that timeless? How is that modern and memorable?
"Fifty years from now, no one will remember what a Kindle is. Will they know what a book is?
"Absolutely. Ladies and gentlemen, if you take a look at history, you will see that the book has been a part of human society since intelligent men and women have walked the earth. We still have access to books that were written thousands of years ago, printed on papyrus. Will there be Kindles hat work one hundred years from now?
"No. They will be landfill hogs, their chemicals seeping into the underground water reservoirs.
"My opponents will say that my client plays a huge role in the destruction of the planet. How is that plausible? My client, a single book, responsible for the massive increase of carbon dioxide and methane in our atmosphere? Highly improbable.
"Today you will hear testimony from my client. She will tell you where she is from and how she came to be here. I ask that you consider the true "ecological impact" of Paperback Book, who only uses the space she needs and nothing more, who doesn't suck power from the grid, and who doesn't clog our landfills. I implore that you make the right decision." THE EXAMINATION OF THE WITNESSES
The plaintiff is finally ensconced in the stands, and the prosecution begins.
"How long have you been sharing a shelf with Paperback Book?" the lawyer asks Kindle.
"Three and a half months."
"How many books can you store?"
"I have eight gigabytes. But with WiFi the possibilities are infinite."
"How long does it take for you to charge?"
"Four to six hours."
The prosecution continues with these menial questions for hours. Several e-Readers in the audience excuse themselves, and scoot closer to wall plug-ins. Their battery lights glow yellow, orange, and red. No one wants to miss the trial, but these questions are a drain. Finally. The prosecution finishes The jury and the judge drowsily lean on their elbows, their eyelids barely open.
Then come the defendant's lawyers.
"Where were you manufactured?"
"Um…China. South Korea. Taiwan."
"Do you have any parts made in America?"
"I am an idea born of America."
"What do you require to operate?"
"A click of a button. A good battery charge. A USB charger or AC adapter."
"How long of a battery life do you have?"
"Can a person read a book in broad daylight?"
"Is there ever a glare on your virtual pages?"
"Have you ever had a corrupt file?"
"What does a corrupt file do?"
"It means a reader can't keep reading."
The judge begins to shift in his seat The lawyers realize it's time to move on. They question an environmental scientist, who discusses the use of harmful chemicals during paper production and the release of various contaminants during precious metal mining. A miner talks about the days he spends underground. A logger talks about falling trees in national forests. A little boy says he has always loved the smell of a book. He wants his girlfriend to smell like one. A techno-geek says she uses the Kindle on a daily basis, because it holds all the classics she needs for her English Literature classes. A young Chinese woman displays her deformed hands to the audience. She has spent five years at subpar wages and conditions in a factory overseas building American technology like the Kindle day in and day out until her fingers and eyesight are now permanently useless.
Then the defendant takes the stand. Her lawyers begin firing away.
"Where were you printed? What does a person require to read you? Do you have a battery life?"
Paperback Book stammers and says, "I plead the Dewey Decimal system. What I have to offer is…427 pages of American-made words printed on American-made pages that talk to the reader! I come from New York, people, land of Lady Liberty, Ellis Island, the Big Apple! Give me your tired, your poor…Write on my margins, dog-ear my pages! I am YOU, America! It is only through me that you can have a conversation with the author!"
Paperback Book slams her cover shut, steps down from the stands. A silent Kindle's light blinks orange. His battery is dying; his lawyer has not set him close enough to an outlet. He has a brilliant argument prepared, but unfortunately, black text on a white background has sucked out all his energy. Kindle Fire gurgles one word before he dies, "Wikipeeeeedia…"
You be the jury. The case has been made. E-book or Paperback, which do you choose?