15 years ago…

As I was considering buying a kindle I knew it was eating something in the core of me, something I wrote about my first semester of college.  To buy one would be to have to eat my words.  Words stated with such hilarious certainty, I was giggling while reading them aloud today.


There is a lot of cringe-worthy irony in this essay from 1996, but I was a freshman and everyone knows how annoying and self righteous college kids are.  Apparently I was a Luddite 15 years ago and had no clue what the future would look like.



The Persistence of Books


Webster’s dictionary defines the word replacement as “substitution;  to supplant or supersede; filling a place once occupied by something lost, destroyed or no longer useable or adequate, something that has become obsolete, or otherwise inferior.”  To argue that computers will one day replace books is a ridiculous statement based on the above definition.  To imagine a future without books is lunacy.  We are not living in the science fiction world of Fahrenheit 451.  The mere suggestion is a frightful commentary on society.


True, the twentieth century has brought the technological revolution to a breakneck  pace, but have people grown THAT cold?  So cold that one could imagine a computerized voice reading a child a bed-time story, or worse—bringing a computerized book to the beach on a sunny day?  So cold that the general public is comfortable with this prospect?  It is not the concept of change that is most concerning, but the deviance from unadulterated goodness.


There is no substitution for the scent of a new book, the aroma of new ink and paper.  One can not manufacture a leather-bound, gold tooled—computer; not convincingly, anyway.  There is not nearly as much satisfaction in punching keys as flipping pages through your fingers.  There is no such thing as a dog-eared disk. 


Unfortunately one has to see the reality in this issue.  To many, computers are an exciting step forward.  People have already begun the blasphemous act of downloading books and, in fact, reading them off their screens.  And no, printing a volume does not justify the blatant disregard for the fact that there is a nice little square book that already exists.  CD-ROM technology in the way of reference material is becoming very popular, especially among the younger generation of computer users.  

Personally, I use a PC, and I have no problem with the occasional use of computer resources.  I stress the term occasional, because I find the thought of never returning to the library to proceed with the sometimes tedious research process appalling.  There is a certain charm to be found in the labor of researching, and a triumph in discovering what you are looking for.


With new technology emerging, computers are shrinking in size.  Hand held computers make it more imaginable to slip under the covers before bed with a computerized novel.  The concept of teleputers and interactive computers brings new media to the public eye.  The general public seems to be excited by the prospect of interfering in the natural course of a defined plot.  Interactive books would not only defeat the purpose of suspense but eliminate the demand for talent.


Television and radio probably aroused the same feelings within the literary community.  As the concept of computerized literature brings this forum to a new height, the novelty of bookstores such as W.B. Dalton and Wordsworth’s diminishes.  Will paperbacks be as laughable to our children as 8 tracks are to my generation?  Am I the only person cringing?  Will libraries be partitioned between hard copy and virtual information?


We are entering a strange new world where something as solid as a book is both literally and conceptually fading.  Though it can be substituted in concept, a book will never be replaced in actuality.  The computer age has already begun to overshadow tradition and is a continuous threat to the stability a book represents.  The essence of a book is undeniably unique and will not be overlooked or supplanted by a computer.




What the fuck is a teleputer anyway?