2084

Imagine with me, if you will, a classroom roughly eight decades from now: children sitting at their desks, their laptops in front of them, fingers typing quickly away at the keys taking notes. Instead of turning to a selected page in their textbooks, they point and click, summoning an online text. There are no writing implements around; the idea of writing thoughts down on paper is obsolete. Why write something when you could type about it instead? There is no need to teach penmanship in elementary school, only typing etiquette. Literacy implies knowledge of basic functions on a computer. Reading is done only online, and books as we know them today are obsolete.

Before tossing this idea aside, consider this immutable fact: our society is becoming more and more centralized on the digital world. The more actions that can be controlled by a single electronic device, the better. Already we can use the same hand-held gadget to check email, send messages, take pictures, get directions and access any internet site. Naturally, the literary world has begun to follow suit; allowing the world to view a wide variety of book excerpts and other texts on the internet. The book reviewer has been released from his former newspaper/magazine niche and set loose on the world wide web, with opportunities to express his feelings to the literary community online through blogging (such as this).

Another factor to consider is the far off cry of environmentalists, which in recent years has become louder and more poignant. Rather than ignoring those who promote recycling and “save the fill-in-the-blank” advocates, society as a whole is realizing the sense that these people have been trying to instill in us the whole time. People are beginning to utilize recycling centers more frequently, and are starting to cut back on excessive paper usage. Logically, cutting back on paper usage means more trees have the opportunity to grow; taking part in photosynthesis, providing the world with oxygen. There really does not seem to be a down side to this. Combining this idea with the aforementioned digital fixation however, and soon the world is asking itself why it needs to use paper in the first place.

There would be no need to write letters with electronic communication, and no need to handwrite an essay for a class when it can be typed and submitted by email. Furthermore, when you can access books online and read from your computer screen, why would you need a physical book in your hands?

The demise of the book has already begun, and with it, arguably, the downfall of literacy. Our current generation is being shortchanged by a lack of literary focus and of predecessors who would rather read the quick notes on a book than actually sit down and read it. All throughout high school, I can remember my fellow classmates looking for any possible way to get out of reading for literature class. The text was always too long or too boring to keep their interest, so they would research the book online to absorb a basic plot summary for an exam.

These students are incredibly computer literate. These same classmates that could not suffer through The Great Gatsby could find at least seven online sites that gave you plot summaries, and even a YouTube video reenacting a scene from the book. Furthermore, they cannot put their thoughts on paper, but can journal about their classes on MySpace, using shorthanded and purposely butchered spellings of words that would have made F. Scott Fitzgerald cringe. I fear that since my high school years, these practices have only become worse.

I do not dislike the electronic literary world by any means; I simply mean to call attention to the idea of books becoming extinct. My personal nightmare begins in a setting much like the opening scenario, where people no longer read books. Period. It is hard- and dare I say it painful- to imagine a world where children must grow up with no concept of what it is to open a book for the first time. A generation that will never experience the aroma of a new book, bending back the spine to see the text in a clearer light.

By all means, keep pushing the envelope in broadening the literary world to reach as many people as possible. I only ask that printing continue. There is something about taking the time to read a brand new book that is so liberating, a feeling that too few people experience. Furthermore, the act of writing a story itself, the way the words look on paper, is another element that could never be replaced. Allowing the flow of ideas to come directly from your head to your pen that feels so organic rather than digitized. This is a feeling that should never be compromised, let alone become obsolete.

Those of you reading this blog—return to the book. Go back to the stories you once loved to read, sit in a comfy chair away from your computer and read them once more. Rather than checking the news headlines online, pick up that newspaper. Better yet, find a brand new text to absorb yourself in. In doing so, I hope  you remember what it was once like to read a book as a child, traveling to the world within the novel, allowing the imagination to run free without the aid of a computer screen. Long live the book, and let the print go on.

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4 comments

  1. 2084 great! I wholeheartedly agree. Especially old books that smell like granmas attic, pages so old and yellowed you must caress them gently so they don’t rip or break. Viva la hardback!

  2. Could I never agree more!? I’m all for the saving of trees but even the lack of printing would put me out of a job! While the writers put their hearts into books, magazines, etc, graphic designers put their heart into making it pretty. Nothing can compare to a beautiful peace of type. Not a thing can compare to the smell of fresh ink in a brand new book. The scent of freshly published magazine in your mailbox.

    Ugh…how I ever feel your woes.

  3. Your essay breathes feeling and truth! I truly left the page to see 2084. It appears the electronic world has grabbed us by the monitor. How cruel and cold, and yet this new world courts us so cleverly, devouring and destroying a little more completely with each generation. What is a typewriter? An antiquated object, that was the tool of great newspaper reporters and editorialist. This object, taught them to see and organize all thoughts. Our minds have no exercise. The only exercise anymore is a search (engine); will we become nothing more than vultures?

    Your passion for the beauty and importance of books is a cause worth teaching about and saving.

    One other point you mentioned. Everyone, tries to mention the saving of paper, by going to computers. Banks & large firms in particular push this idea. The only reason they are pushing this, is because, they save money when they don’t print statements and send them through the mail. They have pushed the cost and loss onto unexpecting consumers, thinking they are helping the environment. There is actually more paper waste, since computers. If you don’t have a hard copy, there is no proof; and what you think you said or what you own, disappears with the touch of a button.

    Make a difference! Save the world! Save Books!
    Give your passion flame to the youth! Put books in the hands of our youth.

  4. Your writing is exceptional! You have explained what the future will hold,for those that are not yet born. I am reminded of cuddeling and reading aloud children’s books over and over. and what a feeling of joy, comfort, and dreams to come true. The future picture you portray, will be a future with less love,caring,comfort, and imagination. The mechanical world is approaching fast. Even now, parents choose to check out the internet and not read to their children. There is no human connection between people. It is only a shock game of looking at others on a monitor. When we read together; or even listen to a book together, we go on an adventure together. We discuss what we think will happen, what choices are available, what are creative solutions, and share so many feelings of excitement, and joy. I am afraid that our children will be robotic in nature and easy to control, as they lose all powers of decision making as they only rely on a computer monitor as their parent, waiting for the next instruction without thought or question from themselves. It is a bleek world, our most precious resource, looking at a monitor on a phone, every few seconds for confirmation,and existence. Imagination gone- never really feeling or making a difference by growing. Can the electronic world and a paper book live in coexistence? and How can that be accomplished?

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