AS I PREPARED to leave for Argentina, a friend offered to lend me her Kindle. It seemed the perfect thing to take to a place where English-language books are in short supply. I graciously – enthusiastically, in fact – accepted her offer and soon powered up the slim little beast. I checked into the Kindle store to purchase the two novels I hoped to read while away. First, I looked for Room by Emma Donoghue only to find it was not available. Next I tried Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Once again, no deal. So I turned the Kindle off, slipped it into my luggage and was off. Ten days later, it remains untouched as I read The Imperfectionists, a fabulous novel that I picked up in the airport about an English-language luddite of a newspaper in Rome. By the late 1990s, it still had no website. Admittedly, its circulation was on the downslide, but what newspaper’s wasn’t?

In this, our fourth annual issue on eco books, we don’t just provide you with reviews of the latest harvest of green words, we also delve into the effect of internet downloads and electronic gadgets, such as the Kindle. Nic Boshart, digital services manager at the Association of Canadian Publishers, sees opportunity in the cyber future.

But the main focus of this issue is David Suzuki, who turned 75 in March. The author of 43 books, including The Legacy: An Elder’s Vision for Our Sustainable Future, Canada’s best known environmentalist seems to be trying to slow down. But as Alternatives’ Brian St. Denis writes in his review of Sturla Gunnarsson’s documentary about “the Doc,” “Suzuki’s life, in summary, feels unfinished – and perhaps that is the point.” Though it’s difficult to imagine that something new can be said about Canada’s greenest man, David Richard Boyd, a long-time admirer and professor- at Simon Fraser University, finds the person behind the personality in his feature story.

Andrew Nikiforuk, Alberta’s environmental conscience, destroys Ezra Levant’s portrayal of the tar sands as “ethical oil.” With Nikiforuk’s well-researched piece, we made an exception to our policy to not publish rants; it is just too good, especially now that this parlance – ethical oil – has been picked up by our federal government.

Though less melodramatic, Robert Page, the long-time vice president of sustainable development for TransAlta Corporation in Calgary, is scathing in his review of last year’s massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. And Chris Lowry will entertain you with his interview of Tom Rand, “a cycling venture capitalist and philosophizing engineer,” who recently penned Kick The Fossil Fuel Habit: 10 Clean Technologies to Save Our World.

Once again, Alternatives has polled independent book stores to learn about green-book-buying trends. Tenille Bonoguore, our new managing editor, discovered that our love affair with environmental books may be changing, but it has not let up. We quizzed four of Canada’s top environmental journalists about their favoured ecobooks, and Chris Wood, an editorial board member from BC who helped us put this issue together, has the last word with his discussion about media ecology.

All in all, it’s a book-lover’s dream of an issue that will doubtlessly be as entertaining and informative whether you pick it up on your Kindle or, as I’m most likely to do, hold the hardcopy in hand.

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