Print media is slowly, but surely, becoming extinct. Every day more newspapers switch off their printing presses and go to online-only editions.
No one is immune. Just over a year ago, I received the news I'd feared for a long while: The papers I'd edited for nearly a decade were ceasing publication. It was bad enough to be laid off from a job I loved; but what was I going to use to start the barbecue?
There's great cultural value to printed newspapers; they're big enough to hide behind at the breakfast table (I'm not a morning person), and the pages make a satisfying rustling sound when you turn them. And there are numerous other time-honored uses for old newspapers your newfangled e-reader or tablet can't hope to fulfill. Try wrapping your fine crystal and china in Kindles or iPads the next time you move. Go ahead, I dare you.
The dystopian vision of a world without used newspapers is a grim one indeed. For instance, your best friend is over for coffee when suddenly she asks for a newspaper. With no papers at your disposal, you offer her the next best thing, your brand new Nook, which she takes and uses to smash a huge, hairy spider climbing up the wall behind you. I'm pretty sure that would void the warranty.
Without newspapers, pet care would be a lot more difficult, too. What would you use to line the parakeet's cage — a layer of iPad minis? And if you're planning on covering the bottom of the bunny cage with a layer of shredded Nooks, think again. That will certainly void the warranty, and it zaps Fluffy with an electrical shock whenever he relieves himself.
Speaking of pets, how will you teach your Labrador not to chew your slippers or to wait to go outside to "make" if you can't rap him on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper? Try that with an iPad and they'll detain you on suspicion of pet abuse.
You could train your puppy not to piddle on the floor by spreading out some Nooks; but then your floor's not only a mess, your e-reader is, too.
"That'll teach you to ruin my carpet!" you'll say sternly to the dog with a withering look, as the flooring estimator measures for new carpeting. Meanwhile, Fido raises a leg over carpet guy's tool kit.
Without newspapers, the butcher's shop won't use it to wrap fish for your dinner anymore, and what will you wrap the fish bones in for the garbage?
What will you cover the kitchen table with when your second-grader has to make a papier-mâché puppet for school? Or when you want to pick crabs?
Kindles, perhaps? I suppose you could cover the floor with Nooks or iPads before painting a room; but I wouldn't want to try balancing a ladder on an e-reader-strewn floor.
And you can't clip a recipe out of an iPad, or hold a Kindle over your head while running through the rain to keep from getting wet — at least, not without voiding that pesky warranty.
As soon as the print newspapers I write for decide to go Internet-only, I'll try to deal with it. But you might read — online, of course — a story with the headline: "Ancient journalist has complete meltdown; no old newspaper available to clean it up."
Email Cathy Drinkwater Better at firstname.lastname@example.org.