Thursday, September 16, 2010

Print Books Make Good Company with Guest Blogger Chris Stookey

The Book Boost welcomes medical thriller author Christopher Stookey to the blog.

He's here to discuss why he prefers print books to the e-volution.

Here's what he had to say...

The Case For Remaining a Literary Luddite

When it comes to reading books, I am a Luddite. I have no interest in the Kindle, the Nook, or in any of the other electronic book readers. My reasons for eschewing electronic books, however, are a little different from the reasons I hear other advocates of paper books give.

Most people who choose paper books over e-books say they do so for mainly sensory reasons. They enjoy the pleasant glow of light reflecting off the page rather than emanating from the page; they like the textured, wood-grain feel of paper; they like the smell of paper and ink; they take pleasure in the subtly agreeable act of using thumb and index finger to turn a page and make progress through a book.

While I agree with the sensory argument, I have two further reasons for preferring paper over electrons. First, there’s the simple fact I happen to like keeping my books around after I’ve read them. A book, once read, has become a friend—at least the books I’ve enjoyed do—and the thought of tossing out a friend into the ether with the press of a button is both sad and distasteful.

I like surrounding myself by my book-friends. Consequently, there are books everywhere in our house: on the bookshelves in the study, on the nightstands and dressers in the bedroom, on the coffee table in the living room, lined up on the counter in the kitchen, in baskets on the floors of the bathrooms, stacked on the console and on the wine rack in the hall.

Some people would look at all the books and think, “Clutter.” I look at the books and think, “It’ s nice to be surrounded by such good company.” I like to take a book down from time-to-time and leaf through the pages, perhaps read a favorite passage, or just hold the book in my hand and look over the familiar book jacket.

The other reason I’m won’t be reading my books on a Kindle any time soon has to do with my local, independent bookstore. I feel lucky my hometown has a local bookstore. Many towns these days do not have this privilege. Everyday it seems Amazon and Barnes & Noble come a little closer to owning the book selling universe. Yet, somehow, the little bookstore downtown continues to hang on against the onslaught of the giants.

For me, our little downtown bookstore is an oasis in this fast-paced, electronic word. The owner and the people who work in the store know me, and they greet me by my first name when I walk in. They are, like me, enthusiastic about the paper books sold in their store. They like the smell of paper, and they, too, like being surrounded by books spread out on tables and arranged with care on floor-to-ceiling bookshelves.

The people who work in the local bookstore are all readers, and they attach 3 x 5 cards with mini-reviews of their favorite books. In addition, they know my own literary tastes. They will ask if I’ve read the latest book by an author they know I like. I purchase nearly all my books at the local bookstore. It would perhaps be more convenient to buy the books electronically. It would certainly be faster. It would most definitely be cheaper.

But I want to keep my local bookstore in business. The owner of the store and the people who work in the store are people from my community. These are people I might sit down with in the local coffee shop and people I might run into at the market. I care about them. I want them to remain employed. I want their families to thrive. I want to continue to read the books reviews on 3 x 5 cards.

There’s just one hesitation I have about my paper preference. Am I being un-green in this choice? Some of my e-reader-enthusiast friends tell me e-readers are more ecological. You don’t have to cut down a tree to make an e-book, and you don’t need an oil rig to produce the ink.

Without a doubt, it would be great to see more book makers use recycled paper. And can’t they make ink from soy plants these days?

Then again, are e-readers really all as green as their advocates say they are? These devices contain plastic and metals mined from the earth. Those lithium batteries need to be repeatedly charged, and that requires electricity which, in turn, requires power plants (unless your house is equipped with solar panels or a wind mill). Moreover, in this day and age of rapid electronic obsolescence, how long will the average electronic reader be around? How long before that Kindle succumbs to the next-generation electronic reader and is tossed into the land fill?

Perhaps I’m just rationalizing here, trying to assuage the guilt I feel over my paper indulgence. But, if that’s the case, the rationalization is working. The “green argument” has not won me over. Not yet. For the time being, I’ll continue to buy locally, and I’ll continue to revel in my paper friends.

A Note From the Book Boost: Great argument for keeping paper books alive! I'm totally with you there although I do own a Kindle and enjoy both mediums for reading books from time to time. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I will say that I'm sad to report that our one little local bookstore went out of business last year--despite my best efforts to support it on a regular basis. I don't think the e-volution of publishing was to blame. I think it was just this terrible economy, but that's a topic for another day. Thanks for joining us and please do tell us more about your exciting book!


Phil Pescoe, the 37-year-old emergency physician at Deaconess Hospital in San Francisco, becomes alarmed by a dramatic increase in the number of deaths on the East Annex (the Alzheimer's Ward). The deaths coincide with the initiation of a new drug study on the annex where a team of neurologists have been administering "NAF"—an experimental and highly promising treatment for Alzheimer's disease—to half of the patients on the ward.

Mysteriously, the hospital pushes forward with the study even though six patients have died since the start of the trial. Pescoe teams up with Clara Wong—a brilliant internist with a troubled past—to investigate the situation. Their inquiries lead them unwittingly into the cutthroat world of big-business pharmaceuticals, where they are threatened to be swept up and lost before they have the opportunity to discover the truth behind the elaborate cover-up.

With the death count mounting, Pescoe and Wong race against time to save the patients on the ward and to stop the drug manufacturer from unleashing a dangerous new drug on the general populace.


The death itself wasn’t the unusual thing. The unusual thing was we tried to stop it. That first dying heart came on a Thursday night, a little after midnight on May 5th. I remember the date because it was Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday. There’d been celebrations all day long in San Francisco, including in the Presidio where I was working that night.

I was one of two physicians on duty in the ER at Deaconess Hospital, doing the overnight shift, 6 PM to 6 AM. The early part of the shift had been busy. When I arrived at six o’clock, the waiting room was bursting with patients: drunken revelers with lacerations and sprained ankles, tourists with sunburns, picnickers vomiting from food poisoning, six members of a mariachi band with heat stroke and dehydration. We worked fast, moving from one stretcher to the next, seeing the most critical patients first and moving on.

Then, around ten o’clock, the flow of new patients stopped—abruptly, like water from a faucet turned from on to off. By 11:00 PM, there were only four patients in the waiting room. By 11:45, I finished sewing up my last laceration: a three-inch gash on the forehead of an intoxicated coed from San Francisco State.

Then, there was no one. The emergency department had gone from chaos to serenity.

With nothing to do, Hansen, the other physician on duty, went to catch a nap in the staff lounge. I washed up and went over to join Bill—the night nurse—at the nursing station. We sat with our feet up, drinking black coffee from Styrofoam cups, looking across the empty row of stretcher beds. Bill launched nostalgically into a pornographic tale about a buxom nurse he’d known while serving as a medic during the Gulf War. He’d just reached the climax—so to speak—of his story when, suddenly, the calm of the night was interrupted by an announcement over the intercom:

“Code Blue, East Annex, back station! Code Blue, East Annex, back station! ”

“Christ,” Bill said stopping short in his story. “East Annex? That’s the Alzheimer’s unit.”

“Yeah,” I said. Bill and I exchanged puzzled looks.

“Since when do they call Code Blues on the Alzheimer’s unit?” Bill asked.

The announcement came again, sounding now more urgent. “Code Blue, East Annex! Code Blue!” It was an urgent call for help, hospital jargon for, “Come quick, someone’s trying to die.”

And, at that hour of the night, it was the duty of the ER doctor to come and stop the dying. Or at least to try.

I jumped up and grabbed the “Code bag,” the big black duffel bag filled with the equipment we’d need to run the Code: defibrillator unit, intubation tubes, cardiac meds.

“Let’s go,” I said.

“But I was just getting to the good part of my story,” Bill said.

“Save it for later.”

We ran out of the emergency department down the long connector tunnel leading to the East Annex. Why were they calling a Code Blue on the East Annex? I wondered as we ran. In my three years of working at Deaconess, this was the first time I’d been called to a Code on the annex. Normally, they didn’t run Code Blues on the Alzheimer’s ward. The patients there were “DNR”—“Do Not Resuscitate.” In other words, when a patient on the annex stopped breathing or went into cardiac arrest, nothing was to be done. No medical heroics. No breathing machines, no cardiac stimulants, no shocking the heart. This was considered the humane thing to do. All the patients on the annex had at least moderately advanced Alzheimer’s disease; all were near the end of life. To prolong the lives of these poor souls at all costs was not the aim of medical care on the East Annex. The aim of medical care on the East Annex was comfort, a safe environment, and, when the time came, death with dignity.

I heard Bill huffing and puffing, falling behind as we ran down the hall. I turned back and saw him slow to a walk.

“I’ll have” he said breathlessly.

“Maybe if you give up those damn cigarettes,” I called back as I went around the bend in the tunnel.

“Maybe if...I was...a damn jogger like you,” Bill called out.

At the end of the connector, I came to the door leading to the second floor of the annex. Normally, the door was shut and locked. The East Annex was a locked ward because the patients there—at least the ones who were ambulatory—had a habit of wandering off the ward and getting lost when the doors weren’t locked. Now, as I reached the end of the connector, a rotund, uniformed security guard stood at the door holding it open for me.

“Straight ahead, past the back station, on the left,” the guard said.

I went through the door and immediately someone shouted out. “Over here!”

I ran to where six or seven people were gathered outside one of the rooms. There’s always a crowd at any Code Blue. Death, either actual or imminent, is always something that fascinates people. Several of the people in the crowd had no business being there: for example, the ward secretary standing on her tiptoes peering in at the door and the two members of the janitorial staff looking over her shoulder.

Elbowing my way into the room, I got my first look at the patient: an elderly, gray-skinned woman wearing pink pajamas.

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1 comment:

Miriam Newman said...

I hear ya about the joys of the local book store. We have one, which is faltering in the poor economy, and I hold my breath every time before stopping in--hoping they're still going to be there, that I'm not going to see any going out of business sales. That being said, I write for epub and love it, too. I hope both versions of print will always be around.