Saturday, October 22, 2011

What Scares Me

Today I was at my old school's fall fair, and the 7th graders were selling used books. As I wandered by the table, I overheard a conversation between a parent and a teacher helping with the sale. One asked "Do you ever think that maybe, one day, we won't be able to do this? Will books become obsolete, something you only see in pawn shops or thrift stores?" The other contemplated for a moment, then replied "Well, maybe people will show up to things like this so they can buy books and show their kids. Or kids will come by and ask 'What are these? You used to read like this?'"

Thoughts like this one scare me. Will books in their printed form really become obsolete? I'm somehow inclined to think they will not. Maybe it's wishful thinking, or obstinate optimism in the face of the oncoming annihilation, but I truly believe that printed books will live on. There's nothing like holding a book in your hand, turning its pages, seeing the typeface and the little nuances in the text. Maybe the binding is a little different on your copy than on someone else's, or the paper is a different texture. You can't mark up an e-book, write notes on it, place flowers or memorabilia between its pages for later contemplation. The smell of a book can bring back memories, as can that little smiley face you drew next to a quote that resonated upon the time of reading. You can't spill coffee or water on an e-book and expect it to survive. That small stain on page 73 of your beloved copy of an old classic won't appear in an e-book. Those blades of grass you used as bookmarks won't exist. All that is good and comforting about being able to hold and feel and experience a book in a physical sense just isn't the same with an e-book.

But then I stop and think. Here's me, writing my thoughts on a computer. Cold, clinical type, not hand written, no small pieces of me embedded in a page. Only words in their most basic, impersonal sense. No sense of personality, other than in the reading and the execution of the writing. This poses an interesting question: am I hypocritical? Or merely judgmental? The fact that I may be undermining my own ideas really scares me. That, or I'm just over-thinking as usual.

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