Sunday, January 25, 2009

Don't go gently into that good night

I think I've mentioned before that I'm quite a fan of Brotherhood 2.0. They're pretty much the only YouTube channel I watch. Anyways, half of the brotherhood is John Green, fabulous young adult writer. I've been waiting for him to address the current upheavals in the publishing industry which he did on Sunday.

I don't have any solutions for saving the book industry (although this might help fun), I just know that the idea of a world without books as we know it breaks my heart. One of the most infuriating disagreements I've ever had with anyone (and this was someone I had many infuriating disagreements with), was when he said that he saw nothing wrong with books becoming a solely online medium. What!?! How could he?! How could anyone not understand the value of holding beautiful, magical text in your hands?! How can the world live without the musty smell of well-loved pages?

Books take on meaning, not only in their intangible stories but in their physical presence, and carry memories with them just like a childhood blanket or favorite shirt. I love my tear-stained pages where Dumbledore died, or how my first copy of Pride and Prejudice automatically falls open to Darcy's first proposal, or how there are bread crumbs in Elizabeth Bishop's letters because I read them during lunch, or knowing my Under the Tuscan Sun was actually read under the Tuscan sun. A lot of that connection is lost if I just scroll through Shakespeare on my iPod. I'm sure there are a lot of people who do not need to have a physical relationship with their books, but I do. And I know I'm not alone.

John's conclusion is that stories will survive, but how? In what form? I pray it's the form they're in now. The idea that my future daughter, Elizabeth, would read P&P from some website and not my beloved copy that I read when I was her age, where I drew all the hearts in the margin when Mr. Darcy says things like "ardently," brings tears to my eyes.

And yes, I do feel hypocritical because as I campaign for my beloved books, I do read all my news online and am much less concerned about newspapers becoming online-only. (However, I would pay for an online subscription because I do believe that journalists should eat and be able to produce fabulous work.)

1 comment:

Virginia said...

I also have a sentimental relationship with actual, physical books. And fortunately, I think that's true of enough people who buy books that we won't see them disappear in our lifetime.

But I'm certain that our children won't find it at all unusual to read everything on a Kindle or an e-Reader - books, newspapers, reference materials, etc.

And honestly, I kind of want one too - it would make packing for long vacations much easier! An e-reader would never replace "real" books in my heart, and I don't think I'll ever stop buying more paperbacks than I have space for, but technology definitely has advantages.