Why Would Anyone Print Out an Entire Website?

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CC BY 2.0. Low-Tech Magazine

That's what Kris de Decker did with Low-Tech magazine and it makes a lot of sense.

Prior to TreeHugger becoming part of MNN in 2012, many of us also wrote for another website, Planet Green. I must have written a thousand posts about frugal green living (this was just after the Great Recession), all of which were lost when they simply pulled the plug – five years of my work just gone. My wife Kelly Rossiter, who wrote about food, is still angry about losing everything she wrote all these years later.

The lesson learned is that nothing is permanent on the internet; the Wayback Machine doesn't capture everything. It is all just ephemeral bits and bytes that can be gone in a millisecond.

That is why this book is so interesting. It is essentially a printout of the content of a wonderful website, Low-Tech Magazine, written from Barcelona mostly by Kris de Decker. He is not terribly prolific, publishing about 12 stories per year, but they are important (and controversial) and for me, have been incredibly influential.

screen shot of powered website

The powered website (there is also a solar powered one)/Screen capture

Low-tech Magazine questions the blind belief in technological progress, and talks about the potential of past and often forgotten knowledge and technologies when it comes to designing a sustainable society. Interesting possibilities arise when you combine old technology with new knowledge and new materials, or when you apply old concepts and traditional knowledge to modern technology.

The future we want: high density living and clotheslines./Public Domain

A great example is Bedazzled by Energy Efficiency, which starts off complaining that energy efficiency initiatives will never be enough (with a diversion into the very controversial issue of rebound effects) but raises the principle of sufficiency.

Sufficiency can involve a reduction of services (less light, less travelling, less speed, lower indoor temperatures, smaller houses), or a substitution of services (a bicycle instead of a car, a clothesline instead of a tumble drier, thermal underclothing instead of central heating).
Public Domain. The future we want: bikes and trams

The future we want: bikes and trams/Public Domain

I have picked up on Sufficiency as one of the most important arguments that we can use – what is enough? What does the job? It's a hard sell, as I have noted: "Sufficiency vs efficiency is what we have been talking about on TreeHugger for years; live in smaller spaces, in walkable neighborhoods where you can bike instead of drive. Our posts on Teslas are more popular." But it is critical if we are actually going to effect change.

Surprisingly, he has not used old tech in producing this book, but is using the latest, most modern tech, printing it on demand through Lulu. It seemed odd at first, but makes sense. Kris explains:

Just like the solar powered website, the book is designed for maximum sustainability. To fit as many articles in one volume as possible, the book has tight margins, justified text, and a gutter that adjusts for the effects of "perfect" book binding. Printing happens on demand, meaning that there are no unsold copies. Lulu.com works with printers all over the world, so that most copies are produced locally and travel relatively short distances.
open book

Open to one of my favorite subjects, DC Power/CC BY 2.0

It is a very simple book, with no illustrations. "To fit as many articles in one volume as possible, the book has tight margins, justified text, and a gutter that adjusts for the effects of "perfect" book binding." However I find that the gutter is not quite large enough, and it seems odd to get pages like this, full of blank space, when trying to fit in as much as possible. But these are minor quibbles.

And why do a book at all? Kris explains:

First of all, many people prefer to read longer texts on paper: it is easier on the eyes than a computer screen, it offers distraction-free reading, and it is always immediately ready for use. Second, reading on paper is the most resilient practice: the content is accessible without the need for a computer, the internet, or a power supply.
prepper books

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Indeed, that is the reason I will treasure this book, along with my Whole Earth Catalog and Fortunes in Formulas – when the power goes out and the internet no longer connects, it teaches you how to do important things using low tech, from heating your body instead of your house, from using hydropower and wind, from using ropes and knots, hand powered tools, and running tools on stationary bikes. If you can get to this content on the internet, then you probably don't need it.

If you don't know Kris de Decker and Low Tech Magazine, look here at the last few years of posts. It quickly becomes very clear why you need the hard copy backup. If you don't buy the book, consider supporting Kris on Patreon. I do.