Barbarians? Administrators of the Life Sciences Secondary School in New York City, ordered a ban on text-books. Books, they say, are antiquated. In an article published by the American Policy Centre the headline appropriately declared ‘Barbarians at the School House Door.’ (July 10, 2017)
They go further! “The incident at the middle school in New York is not isolated. It’s a growing trend. Cushing Academy, a private prep school in Massachusetts, just dumped its 20,000 library books. Instead, the library has been revamped into pseudo Internet café. Here the students can watch the three television flat screens or just sit and talk.” – (Barbarians at the School House Door, American Policy Centre, July 10, 2017)
This article was concerned, an ulterior motive drives the change. They argue, the printed page remains, while content delivered to iPads can be manipulated. It sounds like Big Brother but it is possible.
Regardless of the motivation, books are targeted to go into the dustbin of history. Books will join the horse and cart, Hills Hoist, record-players, 78’s, 45’s and pianolas! It is traumatic!
At the Edinburgh International Book Festival the question was asked, “Are Books Dead, and can Authors Survive?” One of the festival experts Ewan Robinson said: “Yes, absolutely, within 25 years the digital revolution will bring about the end of paper books. But more importantly, ebooks and e-publishing will mean the end of "the writer" as a profession.”
I find myself shaking with grief, fear and shock! My search for comfort took me to astronomer Carl Sagan who summed up my feelings: “A book is made from a tree. It is an assemblage of flat, flexible parts (still called "leaves") imprinted with dark pigmented squiggles. One glance at it and you hear the voice of another person, perhaps someone dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, the author is speaking, clearly and silently, inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people, citizens of distant epochs, who never knew one another. Books break the shackles of time ― proof that humans can work magic.”
Can we embrace an era when books will not be made from a tree? When we click ‘next’ rather than turn the page? Surely there are many dear readers, who relate with me to hours of pleasure, fellowship, education and enjoyment found with books? C. S.Lewis was a kindred spirit. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” he said. I could not agree more.
The writing on the wall should have sounded alarms when the Encyclopedia Brittanica lost millions (some say about 20 million) when they did not adjust for the future. In the 1990s they failed to prepare for the new electronic environment and that was costly.
Rachel Nuwer writes for BBC Future. She said, “What we do know, according to a survey conducted last year by Pew Research, is that half of American adults now own a tablet or e-reader, and that three in 10 read an e-book in 2013. Although printed books remain the most popular means of reading, over the past decade e-books have made a valiant effort at catching up.” (Are Paper Back Books Really Disappearing?, Rachel Nuwer, Future, 25 January, 2016)
I grew up with Biggles, Treasure Island, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Boys Annual and the Cricket Year Book! Later I enjoyed Dr Francis Schaeffer, A. W. Tozer, C. S. Lewis among many, as well as commentaries, testimonies and of course the Bible. Today my garage is decked out as a library, where I enjoy meeting with old friends.
There is great joy when my grandchildren read to me. We buy them books and encourage them to read to us. Through their connection with books they learn new words, they focus and connect to the details, their imagination scales new heights. We see those attributes reflected at school.
In June this year an encouraging event took place in Wales. “Book lovers in the thousands descend each year into this Welsh idyll of rolling green to scoop up the year’s hottest titles and listen to the authors who have penned them, in an event Bill Clinton once called the “Woodstock of the mind.” Filing into author talks and filling up their tote bags, the estimated 250,000 attendees of the Hay Festival are nothing if not a testament that printed prose is still very much in demand....” wrote Sarah Miller Llana, staff writer for the Christian Science Monitor.
Books maybe heading for the bonfire one day, but reading is an important and valued part of our lives. My adjustment to the new era started when I downloaded Kindle. My book purchases are now cheaper and I can adjust to a larger print size. How good is that? I have also found an online site for audiobooks. The website bible.com offers a free bible for your phone, tablet and computer.
Groucho Marx once said, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
Who knows? Maybe one day my Garage may contain collectors’ items?
Ultimately it matters not whether we read the Word of God from an ornate leather-bound Bible or whether we read it from an iPad. The promise remains ‘the word will not return to you empty.’ (Isaiah chapter 55, verse 11) His word is living and active. I have enjoyed it for decades from my treasured bible. It is the Word that matters and we can rejoice that it is not ever replaceable, no matter who invents what?
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html