Sunday, February 16, 2014

"A room without books

is like a body without a soul." ~ Cicero

On this date in 2011, Borders filed for bankruptcy.  Barnes and Noble hangs on, but their digital market did crash this past Christmas, and I would imagine that was due to the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle.  Barnes and Noble did hold its own against Amazon when the latter was going to go into publishing since they refused to carry any of the books that Amazon would publish (back to those drones, Jeff!).

But, will e-books like email take over?  Or, are we going to be reduced to “hash-tags”?  And, like the ancient philosopher wrote-souless?  As a trained librarian and an instructor of composition, I hope not.  I love the printed word even though the internet has all the information one could possibly need.  I guess I should be happy that some people still do read.  New books have that fresh paper smell and speak to you when you open them even though you are “cracking” their spines!  And, old books have their history.

I love books that have handwritten names or notes.  I know purists will tsk!tsk!, but it shows real people handled these books not the buy and never touch people.

Just to compare the book to the e-world…here is an old copy of The Rubaiyat.

 Here is what is looks like online…
The Rubaiyat
By Omar Khayyam
Written 1120 A.C.E.

Wake! For the Sun, who scatter'd into flight
The Stars before him from the Field of Night,
Drives Night along with them from Heav'n, and strikes
The Sultan's Turret with a Shaft of Light.

But, in many ways, like what circulates on the web, the authors of ancient works had no rights concerning their published works; there were neither authors' nor publishing rights. Anyone could have a text recopied, and even alter its contents. See the similarities to the internet and ancient days?
Scribes earned money and authors earned mostly glory unless a patron provided cash; a book made its author famous. This followed the traditional conception of the culture: an author stuck to several models, which he imitated and attempted to improve. The status of the author was not regarded as absolutely personal.

Books were created in Rome in the 1st century BC, and there were bookstores in the Roman Empire.  Julius Caesar wanted a library to show political prestige.  We do have a Library of Congress today, but I am not sure Congress and prestige are synonymous!

Guess who “invented” papermaking, writing paper, tea bags, and toilet paper?  If China came to mind, you win!  In the first century AD,  paper became something useful.   The Chinese were the first to have paper currency also.

Medieval paper makers built water-powered paper mills, and the Chinese and Muslim handcrafted paper was replaced with cheaper papers.  Of course, the printing press brought the book into the modern world in the 15th century. 

An old book with a handcrafted card makes a unique gift no matter what any "tweet" says...
But, in the 21st century, will the modern world make that printing press obsolete?  Will books be relegated to the attic to crumble...

Although I like this quote about that very idea…

“In an age of infinite digital documentation, paper was the last safe place for secrets.”
     ~Evan Angler in Swipe

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