Sunday, February 18, 2007

Low Tech Books Still Offer More Than High-Tech Replacements

Whitney Gould of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel mentioned yesterday that a friend of hers has dubbed her "Gutenberg in the Digital Age" because she doesn't own things like an iPod, cable television, a digital camera or a Blackberry. She disavows any interest in new technology and explains why she much prefers a good book over any electronic version of the same thing. While I am Gould's complete opposite when it comes to new technology gizmos, I completely agree with her that a good book beats a new tech version of the same thing hands down.


Recently, when I was convalescing from back surgery and a fractured foot, my techno-aversion took on new dimensions. After a brief fantasy about gizmos that might make my confinement more palatable (now is the time to finally call the cable guy; I really should get into text messaging, etc.), I reverted to my primitive ways. What I craved more than any high-tech gadget, I realized, was time to read.

And read I did - 18 books in four months. Novels and biographies. Memoirs. Histories. Short stories. Poetry.
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Reading a good book is itself an out-of-body experience. Your physical self is in a chair, your mind in another universe. And each foray into that unknown land leaves you enriched, better attuned to nuance and hungry to know more about the inner lives of others.
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There is another joy to reading that is purely physical: the solidity of a well-thumbed hardcover nestled into your lap; the swish of pages between your fingers; the tingle you get from a good story unfolding, line by line. No buttons to push, no software to download, no batteries to recharge.

Whenever I hear someone say, "I just don't have time to read," I have to smile. You have the time if you make the time. Turn off the electronic buzz around you for a while and step onto the slow track.

Then pass that wonderful book you just read along to a friend and think of the great conversation you'll have.

And there it is. With a good book you control the flow of words and information at your own pace. If your mind drifts for a few lines, it's easy to backtrack and re-read a paragraph or two. Your imagination paints pictures that even the latest technology can't match and you get inside the minds of characters and real people in a way that no movie or play will ever allow you to do. And there is simply nothing that has the friendly and comforting feel of a book. Those who continue to predict the imminent death of books and of reading are simply wrong. It will never happen.

4 comments:

  1. Hi Sam, I'm not into predictions, because 99% of the time, mine seem to be wrong, but I'm definitely grateful for your Chekhov link, since I've decided to read as many of his stories as I can. I love books, but I love written words more - and personally don't care in which form I read them. Nor do I see this whole debate as an either/or issue.

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  2. Hello Lee...Isn't that Chekhov link great? I've read more of his work off that link than I have in real books myself. I would prefer to have a book with all those stories in it but since I don't have one, I'm grateful for the new technology that makes them available to me this way.

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  3. I am sure works by Chekhov et al must lose an awful lot in the translation process, or maybe it's just me, because I feel the same about Tolstoy and Dostoyevski(sp)
    Having said that I greatly admire Solcheneskin(spelling not even remotely correct) A day in the life of Ivan Denisovitch really brought home to me the misey of the Stalags. The Russians who had languished there for decades helped bear out a personal theory of mine viz the communists killed more of their own people than the Germans did in WW2.

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  4. I haven't read many of the famous Russian authors, Nick. I find the short stories to be more digestable than the long novels and much of my problem has been that I haven't found the translations that make them read right to "my ear."

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