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E-books – we’re all heading down the pan.

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An unexpected consequence of the rise of e-books and online newspaper reading: a lack of toilet roll.

According to this story in the Torygraph, “After coming to depend on readers to dutifully recycle their old periodicals, paper manufacturers are now finding that supplies of high-quality paper for recycling are becoming scarce.” And that means less toilet roll. Think about it. Less toilet roll. There’s no e-substitute for that.

So with less paper to recycle, maybe we’re going to have to go back to the old Roman custom of a sponge on a stick.

Here’s a row of toilets from Ephesus.

The idea was that you sat on the toilet, then cleaned yourself using a piece of sponge on a stick, which you applied via the u shaped groove beneath the seat. Often you had a slave do the cleaning work for you. That sponge would be washed in water and then… er… reused by the next person.

Recycling, in other words.

See, this is the kind of thing is what the fans of e-reading don’t tell you. It all starts with ‘Ooh, look how many books you can carry around with you on the iPad,’ and ‘Have you seen my Kindle’ and everyone’s excited and then it ends with the bookstores are closing and you going into the toilet to find a bit of sponge and a long stick.

You have been warned.