Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Escape into Print

I readily admit that I prefer printed books to reading online. Hey, I also build wooden boats from hand, and cook pizza from scratch. I like doing things that way. But because I also pretend to be living in the 21st century, I've been known to spend time online. Such as, um, typing this right now.

This means I try to be objective --agnostic, really, is a better word -- about whether people prefer to read online or in print. I know what I like, which is all I can control anyway. But even so, today's story in the NY Times caught my eye.

Children, a study has found, are more comfortable reading online than anyone had expected. Evidently the scientists didn't consult babysitters, teachers, or anyone who's spent more than a few days with a child.

However, book lovers take heart: most of them would not give up printed books. Hooray!

Because I can't help but feel that when a society prints its last book, it ends its own story. Printed books, like libraries, are vital to democracy. As I noted before: sure, you can burn a stack of printed books; confident moral despots can cry for their banning; and bookstores can fail to carry them.

But they can and always will be snuck under covers; read instead of Algebra; slid into lockers, smuggled across border; printed on basement presses. A printed book holds the fire of revolution. Because -- and this will come as no surprise to anyone who loves to read as much as I do -- stories have power. And printed books ... well, they have magic.

Plus, I have to admit what triggered this entry in the first place: the sudden awareness, as I clicked "close" on one more pop-up ad that appeared as I was trying to read the news online, that maybe web advertising will become so intrusive that people are ANNOYED BACK TO PRINT. Can you imagine reading a news story without animated ads dancing around your peripheral vision, or the screen suddenly going dark so you can see a video for a luxury watch?

I can. It's called the printed paper.


Anonymous said...

It's pretty hard to beat a paperback book for cost, weight, battery life, readability, recyclability, portability, and fungibility.

babs said...

Here Here! Just read the story about the guy lost in Joshua Tree National Forest for a week. He didn't have an iPhone, iPad, Kindle, or anything else (at least NOT mentioned in the story) but he did have a pen with him and wrote on his hat every single day he was lost. That hat is now treasured by all his family. I admit to having a few books covered in mold/mildew but it adds character to those words!