Love has earth to which she clings
With hills and circling arms about—
Wall within wall to shut fear out.
But Thought has need of no such things,
For Thought has a pair of dauntless wings.
On snow and sand and turf, I see
Where Love has left a printed trace
With straining in the world’s embrace.
And such is Love and glad to be.
But Thought has shaken his ankles free.
Thought cleaves the interstellar gloom
And sits in Sirius’ disc all night,
Till day makes him retrace his flight,
With smell of burning on every plume,
Back past the sun to an earthly room.
His gains in heaven are what they are.
Yet some say Love by being thrall
And simply staying possesses all
In several beauty that Thought fares far
To find fused in another star.
~ Robert Frost ~
A friend of mine made it known that he considers opposition to e-readers “antiquated buffoonery”. An e-reader is a device that displays electronic files for our reading pleasure. Thousands of books have been converted to electronic file, and can be downloaded by the hundreds (or the thousands) into an e-reader. The device itself is usually small in size, and can be easily slipped into a pocket, purse, or carry-on bag. “Thousands of books in one’s back pocket” – and someone objects? How could he not be an antiquated buffoon?
Well, on behalf of buffoons everywhere (not just the antiquated ones – because some buffoonery never goes out of style), I’d like to publicly oppose the e-reader and thus, throw my lot in with the technological-ingrates.
Unfortunately, this is no easy task, and it may well end badly for me; I may have to admit, when all is said and done, that I’m opposed simply because of the e-reader’s novelty, or for some other equally irrational reason. I might not be able to put my disagreement into words or frame my case with logic.
Nevertheless, disagree I will. And my plight isn’t as hopeless as some would think, though I’m under no illusion that I’ll find some esoteric wisdom in Holy Scriptures providing a universal denunciation of these things. And further still, I seriously doubt that whatever tenuous reason I devise will be enough to convict the majority of moderns to give up a practice they’ve become accustomed to. But, all these things aside, I think we buffoons might have a case. At least, there are a few avenues of investigation left untried; a few stones left unturned. It will be my task in this blog (and my duty as an avowed traditionalist) to consider them.
I think we’ll be fairly safe in dismissing the pragmatic arguments out of hand. For example, some of us may have extensive libraries already, with thousands of books. It would be a shame to start building all over again, only this time, with a library of electronic files instead of paper. But this is mere growing pains and the sooner it’s gotten over with, the better (so the e-reader advocate will say). There’s certainly no reason to halt progress because of a few lazy librarians.
Well, what of the fact that this shift in format will cause many hard working publishers (and others who make their living in the book industry) to lose their jobs? But industries come and go. We don’t hear anyone complaining about cars today (though they’ve done serious damage to the ferrier and blacksmith). Let these unfortunates reimmerse themselves into the work force and learn new trades.
But how about the way books feel in my hands? No e-reader can accomplish that familiar comfort. Further, when reading books, I am accustomed to finding the pages with information on them, based on the shape of the book, the spacing of the margins, and how far into it my desired subject lies. To collapse this objection into one statement, it might be asked if the e-readers are capable of providing the same services as paper books. To this, the e-reader advocate would reply, “yes! We can do all that and more!” With search features and “dog-ear” features, and e-highlighters, these objections can be met. And if the antiquarian still objects, it might be pointed out that, over time, should he have the patience for it, he would find these additional benefits of the e-reader prove superior to traditional books.
So, it’s best to avoid these pragmatic arguments, as they’re not very strong, even if it pains us to admit it.
But, where do we turn from here?
There is one objection that borders on the pragmatic, though I think it bears more consideration than the others. A traditional book requires nothing but a small amount of light, and the ability to read. There is no more human society than that, required. There is no need for electricity, internet, or power sources. E-books, on the other hand, are fashioned such that, to utilize them, one must live in a modernist society, with a ready network of, not just power, but the internet also, and a myriad of other elements I haven’t thought of.
In a post apocalyptic world, should you be fortunate enough to have survived, you could climb to the roof of a deserted skyscraper, and enjoy a good book, while looking down on the zombie-ravaged cityscape. Not so with an e-reader. When its batteries have died (or if you drop it while running from a pack of cannibals), you’re out of luck.
“But this is all absurd posturing” the e-book advocate will reply. “Modernism will never collapse, and the only time we might find ourselves without a ready power source is on a camping trip, and even then, we can have portable solar panels, car-chargers, or if we really have to rough it, an extra battery (the charge lasts forever anyway, so we can go quite a while without power).”
But it’s my point that the e-reader advocate is, at base, relying on the self-sustainability of modernism, and the industrial society. The e-reader can only exist within this socialized infrastructure. It can never stand independent in the same way a good paper novel can.
And, this leads to my most earnest objection, though the e-reading advocate (who, as we’ve already noted, is besotted with modernism) will likely dismiss it as the most silly:
To put it simply, I’ve become sentimentally attached to many of my books (if not all of them). You cannot hand off an electronic file to someone with the same sentimental attachment possible with books. Furthermore, I have an entire shelf in my library, dedicated solely to the books that have been autographed for me by the authors. I make it a point to try to meet authors and get them to sign my books. No author can sign an electronic file.
But even beyond this, I’d like to argue that there is a sentiment involved in the book itself, that is missing from the electronic text. The author (presumably) has some say over the binding, publication style, and illustrations. There is something to the written work, a “soul” if you will, that is missing in the electronic files. There’s also a smell to old novels that adds to the nostalgia.
The e-readers are one more step down man’s path to complete abolition, and the only good reason I can think of to oppose them, is my feeling of sentiment and nostalgia.
These may not be very good reasons, in the end. The best I can do (maybe) is form a society for antiquated buffoons like myself, and we can lament the passing of the old ways, and maybe write about it in old books; and for my part, I’ll use a quill for a pen, just to spite the modernists!