This summer Brian and I have planned a small vacation to wander around California; to see what we haven’t seen before in all twenty plus years of living here. Three spots we’re excited to see is the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Pt. Lobos, Jack London Ranch & Park, and Robert Louis Stevenson Park. While discussing these places, we’ve realized that we have some reading to do. For one, Brian has never read Cannery Row (Monterey Aquarium and Pt. Lobos). And I have never read Treasure Island or Call of the Wild (yes, a gaping hole in my education). So before we go we are to read the books. Not your typical travel guide or adventure prep, but it felt necessary to us.
Brian has already finished Cannery Row (finished it in one afternoon right after we decided); and I have finished Treasure Island only to find that I have indeed read it before. I think that as I have watched almost every movie adaptation that I have forgotten the moment of reading this work. It’s actually kind of sad. I’ve been dragging my feet to Call of the Wild, being distracted with Kundera. Hopefully by the end of the week, I’ll have it done and will write about my first experience with Buck.
Right now I am taking a class on the history of books and libraries. Since my mid-term is tomorrow, I’m in the midst of re-reading notes and re-listening to record lectures. I am behind. Currently I am in the 15th and 16th centuries with the invention of printing. But as I am listening to these lectures, I am struck by the thought of how this time period compares to our current literary times. Several people hesitated to adopt printing. Many thought it was evil and would destroy God’s holy work (the diligence of the scribes faithfully copying books). And those who did print, at first made books that looked exactly like manuscripts. Ever seen the Gutenberg Bible? Hard to remember that it was printed and not copied out. Even those who loved the new technology of printing could not see beyond what they already had — the manuscripts.
I feel that our society is in the same grips. There are those who can’t wait for the Apple IPad to come out, and those who are frightened that it is the end of reading. Or reading as we know. We will scan, and leave behind deep reading. Some are even worried about the future of literacy. And soon books will disappear entirely (look at the current state of newspapers and magazines).
In some ways, Steve Jobs IPad is perhaps the dawning of a new age. Kindle is good, but it still holds fast to how we have traditionally read books. It wants to keep the essence of books so that its users will not be concerned that they are reading an electronic book and not a physical book. But in order for this new technology to work, for magazines, books, newspapers, etc., there has to be an entirely new platform and format. Printing really became popular and picked up when it began to change and transform into the book as we know it today. And in the same way, I think that it is the same for our literary reading today. Once e-literature becomes it own (and maybe its the IPad that helps this or some other future device), then society will accept it more. Our reading will change, and the “printed word”. It is inevitable. But it is not something to fear. We will still read.
I wish I could continue on what this will mean for librarians, but I do have a mid-term tomorrow and more history to review. One other article that spurred these thoughts even further: Josh Quittner’s article, “How tablets will change magazines, books, and newspapers.”