At my last book club meeting there was a lengthy discussion about how technology is changing the experience of reading. The idea of the ‘Last Book on Earth’ was discussed as we considered the number of people reading on a computer, an IPAD, or a Kindle. The idea of reading paper books is beginning to look antiquated. Much like carbon paper and mimeographs were made obsolete by the photocopier, soon books could be replaced and instead of being ‘reused’ could land in the recycling pile. Think about how the IPOD, which enabled the instant downloading of music via the internet, revolutionized how we experience music. Why should the replacement of books be any different?
For some reason during this discussion of the potential obsolescence of books, I had a flashback to historic films about the burning of books during WWII and wondered if the elimination of paper books was really a good idea. There is something about the idea of holding a book in your hand that seems more solid, more real. How would people feel if a Minister or Rabbi read from an IPAD instead of from an actual Bible or Torah? I am not even religious, but the picture just strikes me as odd.
As I thought more about the idea of burned books, I decided to look up the list of ‘banned books’. You might be surprised by the books that have been banned by governments at one time or another. Previously banned books include 1984, Animal Farm, The Grapes of Wrath, Brave New World, and even, Dick and Jane? Strange how the previously banned books made it to the top of my classics reading list in high school.
For some reason, I have a fear about letting a single entity (like the government) control books that ‘they’ decide should be available for people to read. I mean the government does control all of the libraries, don’t they? With the number of large corporations competing for our books buying business, this isn’t likely to happen, but it is possible.
Then again, if people want to read books, they can find them, but what if there were not actual books? Will there be ‘bootleg’ copies on thumb drives? What if the government could erase all versions of a book like “The Diary of Anne Frank” (another previously banned book) removing all recorded history of it. I could envision a technological burning of books that could occur. It could be done quietly with no puff of smoke, just a quiet whirring of a hard-drive. Scary isn’t it?
So as some of us grasp tightly to our paper books, others clear out their bookshelves (I wonder if bookshelves are next to go obsolete since we won’t need to store books on them any more?). The world as we know it continues to change from the elimination of books and even bookshelves. However, if you could save one book to be your ‘Last Book on Earth’, what would it be?