Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Living in the not too distant future

As a book lover, and despite my best efforts, the digital format has become a larger item of thought than I would prefer. One should always strive for content in reading, but recently I find myself pondering the medium rather than the message so to speak. In my defense it is the statements of others that prompted this thinking rather than any ruminations of my own.

It all really circles around the mantra/comment of many readers that "they like the feel of a book". It has been repeated so often to me I find myself wondering if this isn't a knee jerk reaction and doesn't express their true thoughts on the matter. As a result, I'm trying to move beyond my own knee jerk reaction.

Yes, I enjoy the pleasure of getting through a thick tome, but otherwise my satisfaction is mostly from the content (as my enjoyment of online essays attest to). The main pleasure of paper books  appears to be not in their reading, but rather their place on my bookshelves. There is something about being surrounded by stacks of books that is comforting to the soul. The book as an item of decor doesn't sit well with me, I don't like the idea of being the book fool of the Ship of Fools.

The one distinct pleasure that digital has offered me--as the portability and storage has not been a selling factor for me (I live near a library and have a backlog of books. I am never wont for reading materials)--is that it feels like something out of Star Trek. Most e-readers look very close to the Pads used by the Federation as they mill about their Spartan quarters. All the data of humankind stored at their fingertips. It is a reassuring thought that the physical world will be less cluttered in the future.

The Star Trek metaphor is a short step from the SF metaphor of Star Trek vs. Star Wars, which I will conclude this simple thought. Star Wars is about what has been lost (the old republic, the Jedi, freedom) whereas Star Trek is about what will gained in a brighter future. If one must choose how the book universe will unfold, I think I will go with Star Trek. A future where one can still find and read the great books of history, although in a different format, is better than losing it.

Now I just need a device to give me more time to read.

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