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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.
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