(Continued from Rage, Rage Against the Dying of the Page)
As I pointed out at the end of the April 24 part-one of this post, it saddens me deeply that cutting-edge technology has inexorably changed the way our busy modern society gets its word fix. Or is it the other way around – have we as a people constantly demanded new technology that keeps up with our self-induced overly complicated lives? Maybe it’s just the diehard traditionalist in me, but I just can’t help but feel badly for anyone who feels the strange need to own a device like a Kindle, iPad, or Nook, on which they purchase, download, and read digital versions of books, newspapers, and magazines…especially if that is the only way an individual chooses to get his or her reading material.
Sure, I concede that many might argue it’s all in the name of portability and convenience:
“I like being able to store all my favorite books in one place and carry them around on my Kindle.” Do you really need that? How many books do you need to carry at once, unless you’re a student? Besides, I think it’s much more beautiful and fulfilling to look at books on my bookshelves at home and to pull one out at random on a quiet, relaxing night.
“I subscribe to the New York Times on my iPad and it’s great. Interactive too.” You know what’s interactive? Hands turning the pages of the newspaper and folding it over, and hearing that wonderful crinkling sound. But am I being hypocritical here? In part one and in this post, I include links to external websites. That’s interactive too.
It just seems so coldly alien to me to tap the lower corners of a screen and drag virtual pages of a book or magazine in order to turn to the next page. Some devices have a button you click to turn the pages. Pffft.
It’s that same juggernaut advanced technology that has been the death knell of so many venerable book publishing houses and print newspapers and magazines. The flailing economy has also been to blame, particularly when it comes to independent bookstores nationwide that have had to close their doors. Either way, many great publications, including the Creative Loafing family of papers, have decreased the size of the actual publication, announced pay cuts and layoffs, or ceased production altogether. Window Media, LLC – which had published the essential GLBT Southern Voice, Washington Blade, Houston Voice, and South Florida Blade family of newspapers and David (Atlanta) magazine – also sadly fell victim to changing times when it closed its offices and filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
While I do genuinely lament the demise of so many distinguished print newspapers and magazines, in all fairness I must also openly confess my appreciation for a contemporary generation of news outlets that was born specifically in and for the Internet. I give them the benefit of the doubt because they didn’t rise from the ashes of newspapers that were felled by the slash-and-burning of venerable former publications. I peruse these news sources almost daily for the latest national and local headlines; I count among them the Huffington Post and this site. The rise of citizen journalism and news bloggers has also indelibly changed the ways breaking news is disseminated to the public.
Whether that hunger for the hottest, up-to-the-minute, interactive news coverage says anything about our ever-dwindling attention spans, I don’t know. The wham-bam approach to getting the news out can leave a lot to be desired. It’s just that, if given the choice, I’m more likely to hold the news source in my hands, leisurely turn its pages, and let the world’s current events soak indelibly into my mind so that I can recall them later in real discussion with real people.
But maybe I’m wandering from my original point, which is that we must make a concerted effort to never lose touch with the sheer romance of holding a book, newspaper, or magazine in our hands. Even if we cheat on that romantic relationship by having an occasional dalliance with a digital partner, we must always come back home and beg forgiveness from the one who was first in our lives, the one who gave so much of its heart and soul to us, the one who will let us back into its reassuring embrace.
I’ll take that any day over a silly affair with the next hot young thing.
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In metro Atlanta and Decatur, please patronize these independent booksellers who continue to defy the odds and thank them for helping to keep the romance alive.