Books don't break down. You can't turn a book off. You don't need to charge its battery or plug it in. I've got loads of books. I've had quite a lot of them for years - some, all my life. Quite a few of my books are way older than me. I've never bought a digital device that's lasted more than a few years: we take their built-in obsolescence for granted. Not so books. To replace books with files on a digital machine that needs replacing every few years is frought with problems which I think are insoluble.
If all the mod cons we take for granted ceased to exist (and we take them for granted at our peril) we'd still be able to read any books we came across so long as we kept them dry. Digital media, with no electricity and no internet, will simply turn into enigmatic curiosities. If such a calamity came to pass, we'd need a repository of civilised values to see us through. That repository is the book.
There's something potentially democratic about the printed word. Printed words live in books like people live in cities. People leave books they've read on the tube and on park benches. I can't see them leaving Kindles lying around. A future in which only people who can afford to buy (and replace) gadgets can read books worries me.
If the pigs in Animal Farm had written The Seven Principles of Animalism on their website instead of the barn wall, it would have been easier for them to change them. Instead of creeping out at night with a paint tin -or whatever they did*- they could have done it with a few clicks of a mouse. OK, so our civilisation is pretty secure, but if we think we've reached the end of history I think we're kidding ourselves. I'm not trying to be alarmist here: I suppose what I'm trying to say is that if we take our way of life for granted we make it more vulnerable, not less.
The Rosetta Memory Stick? Eh?
We're not being sold the next great step for civilisation. We're being sold stuff.
* Apologies - but this is a mere blogpost. I don't have time to re-read Animal Farm. :)
5 years ago