Daily Archives: September 5, 2009

Goodbye books, hello HAL

Megan E. Sullivan, author

Megan E. Sullivan, author

Can a School Library Be Replaced by E-Readers? Apparently, it Can

From Mashable.com

I don’t like this, I’m just gonna say it. I don’t think flesh-n-bone book should be replaced by e-readers or iphones or computer screens. Is the Internet a great way to share stories and information? Absolutely. Is the digital age redefining the way we read books? Definitely. Is it cheaper to publish digitally than on paper? Of course.

But more will be lost if we migrate away from the tangible book than the occasional papercut.

Books as a medium have been around for centuries. Since Guttenberg invented the printing press, humans the world over have been sharing their stories, committing them not just to memory, but to paper. The printing press enabled us to not only copy works faster, but to make multiple copies at once, allowing sharing across cultures as never before. And a few extra books meant a tragedy like the burning of Rome or the loss of Alexandria could be avoided.

My fear with a digital library isn’t that I’ll miss the smell of books (although, I would). It’s that despite the redundancies and back-ups and failsafes in place, there’s still a chance an errant keystroke could erase a large part of our history. Imagine losing a work like Romeo & Juliet … imagine the cultural impact of never knowing a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Now, this may be an overexaggeration, true. People are not going to all of a sudden purchase e-readers (Kindles and the like) and then have a bonfire to burn their books (at least, I hope not). We probably have a good hundred years before paper and paperboard books are completely phased out.

Even so, isn’t that a little sad? I don’t know about you, but there’s something comforting and tangible about picking up a book and cracking open the spine for the first time. I don’t want children to think getting a new story is as easy as a keystroke. As an author, I respect the work that goes into a novel, respect that when I read those 400+ pages it’s because someone sat and sweated it out over a keyboard. Something tells me that kind of appreciation just doesn’t resonate with a digital version.

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