If the flood efforts were any reflection of cultural priorities, the locals here proclaimed a tie between byte-based and paper-based knowledge: thousands simultaneously bulwarked the university's electronic brain in the Lindquest Center and fire-brigaded books from the UI Main Library's basement. (Good show, IC!)
It seems like forever that I've been hearing the bound, printed book is sure to die and be surpassed by e-books and blogs and other electronic media. The reasons offered are legion: Ease of delivery, business margins, print-on-demand savings, democracy of publishing, environmental concerns. . . . . So, why hasn't it happened yet? I used to think that the world of book buyers and bibliophiles - despite loving the feel of a book in the hands - were just waiting for the right delivery device. Now, some say the wait is over with the Kindle. So, again, the drum of doom begins to beat.
Does this changing of the guard have to happen? There was a fascinating article on Slate recently about the mechanics and efficiencies of online reading. It cited two types of reading: a kind of salience-only, short-attention-span reading that skims and selectively reads a website, a news story, or white paper for the usable information; and then "pleasure reading," which scientists call "ludic reading," isolationist, self-detaching, and spellcast (i.e., relatively effortless). At the end of the article, when the author is being his most ludic, he adds:
We'll do more and more reading on screens, but they won't replace paper—never mind what your friend with a Kindle tells you. Rather, paper seems to be the new Prozac. A balm for the distracted mind. It's contained, offline, tactile. William Powers writes about this elegantly in his essay "Hamlet's BlackBerry: Why Paper Is Eternal." He describes the white stuff as "a still point, an anchor for the consciousness."I recommend the Powers' essay. It's long, but quick, and heartening, and balanced in key ways that, say, McLuhan never was. Wouldn't it be nice to think that books may actually stick around?