The other day at work I helped a woman bring some books in to sell. She had old Readers Digest editions of several classics, including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Anne of Green Gables, Sherlock Holmes, etc. They were all rather plain editions, but in excellent shape. She said, rather sadly as I rang her up, “I bought them for the nephews and nieces, but they all got Kindles for Christmas, and there’s no going back.”
Is she right? Well there has been a lot in the news these last few years about how we’re witnessing the “end of the book,” (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/charles-warner/bye-bye-books_b_182050.html0. That someday soon we will do all are reading on phones, computers, tablets, or devices not yet invented. There are even some schools that have gutted their libraries, in favor of computers and flat screen tv’s. (http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/gallery/090409_cushing_library/).
I will leave alone (for now) whether this actually going to happen, when, and wha the consequences might be. I am neither a technophobe, longing for the (probably misremembered) “good old days” when we all sat around telling stories and reading books, nor a technophile, rushing headlong into the future without question. Too often the question is phrased as “either/or:” we can either read on our tablet or a book, not both. Why is that? Why can’t we do both? I use my phone to communicate, I write a blog, I browse news sites; than I curl up with a good book. It’s true that printed books will lose ground to digital ones; a browse of Amazon reveals some authors works are only available on Kindle.
“There’s no going back.” Perhaps not. But we are not there yet. Despite all the hype of digital books, there are still relatively few titles available for children (http://www.upi.com/Business_News/2011/11/21/Only-5-of-childrens-books-are-digital/UPI-25201321901255/). No doubt this will probably change, but before it does I think it’s time to pause. To take a break. And to acknowledge that as we transition into something new, some things will be lost. Not just the experience of reading print, but titles and authors. How many books, for adults, teens, children, that were one popular are now completely forgotten? How many more so will be lost as we move into the digital era?
That is why the Looking Glass is here. To reflect light back on the past, to illuminate great books at least one last time, before they’re lost forever. And we will continue to say “Not Yet”and shed our light for as long as we can.