I’ve never really considered myself a Luddite but, over the years, my immediate family has resisted the trend toward technology. Our cellphone, for example, is a dinosaur. It takes no pictures, doesn’t browse the web, or play games involving feathered creatures with bad dispositions. It makes and receives calls, that’s all.
Lydia’s friend, Kris, refused to believe our phone had no special features and tried in vain to prove us wrong. Her reaction, upon realizing the awful truth, was that of a modern explorer stumbling across a primitive society that still sent smoke signals. It’s a good thing we didn’t tell her about the time we took the portable phone for a ride in the car thinking that we would still be able to receive calls in downtown Halifax. Our role as techno-feebs would have been cemented although, in our defense, the portable phone did have call display.
I thought about this on Christmas morning as I unwrapped one of many books. Sylvia had given me the latest Darwin Award book which had drawings of people in the bottom corner of each page. By flipping the pages quickly the people appeared to be in motion. I’m sure a Kindle could do something similar, but it would probably be a video cartoon.
Granted, an electronic book thingamajig probably has the capacity to download any book ever written, but I can’t imagine it would have the same feel as a real book. I certainly wouldn’t want to read one in the bath - my record of having to dry out books would not bode well for the life of an electronic tablet.
Nor would I ever read everything that was downloaded. I’m the same way with my CDs - yes, another dying media format to which I stubbornly cling. I suffer from Audio Attention Deficit Disorder, skipping from song to song, picking out their highlights.
“I bet there’ll be an expensive university study someday that discovers only a small percentage of the books on Kindles get read,” I prophesied. “In the world of instant gratification, people will have hundreds if not thousands of books on their little tablets. They’ll read a page or two of a book and, if not hooked immediately, they’ll skip it and select another book.”
With the recent closures of a couple of local used bookstores, Bing’s Books and Books Galore and More, I wonder if the convenience is worth it. Aside from the tremendous loss to small business, I’ll miss the pleasure of looking through crowded shelves for an elusive title, stumbling across something brand new, or having Karen Bingham suggest an author my family might like.
Fortunately, for now, there is still Buy the Book for our used book needs and Barb at the Coles in Bedford Place Mall, among other local stores, to suggest current titles. But, with the demise of Blockbuster and Rogers Video outlets, I wonder how long these will hold out against the onslaught of technology.
If this is progress then I think I’d rather be left behind.
Kevin Toal is a freelance writer who is happy with a good book for company.