While driving, I recently passed a Borders bookstore. The ugly plywood replacing the windows, and colorful, bold signs screaming "EVERYTHING MUST GO!" and "ENTIRE STORE 60-80% OFF!" said it all: Borders is going out of business. I immediately wondered why. After pondering over this matter, I realized that books are slowly becoming extinct. Borders is closing because people aren't buying books. How is such a thing possible, when the printed word has been among humanity's most prized possessions since Gutenberg invented his press in the early 16th century?
Since the technological revolution, or second industrial revolution, began in the early 1950s, we have become increasingly dependent on technology to the point that it is now an addiction. People have always sought to improve the conditions of life, but the amount of tools we have acquired in such a short period of time is as colossal as the Oxford dictionary. Compared to this progress, any other spike in human development is like a pocket glossary. Such a difference makes it seem as if we are progressing at the speed of light when compared to any other rapid increase in human development. Some circumstances that result from technology are extremely helpful, and allow our society to constantly become more complex. Others, however, show what a grotesquely selfish monster technology can be.
Handheld devices are becoming as prevalent as the walkman of the 1970s and 1980s, whether they are used to listen to music, play games, or even read books. eReaders are common because they can hold a ridiculously large amount of text in one gadget, reaching a capacity of 3,500 books. Companies that make eReaders advertise that you can hold thousands of books in one device. I find it a fallacy to compare eBooks to books, because a real book is "different." A real book has a crisp smell when it's brand new. Cracking the spine for the first time produces an exciting feeling that can make anyone's day. But what makes a book a book is the joyful pride you get from looking over at a book on a shelf and knowing, "This is mine. I read that." Nothing beats having your own collection of books, whether they are scattered in sloppy piles across a room, or neatly arranged on a shelf; whether you plan on vandalizing each book with billions of annotations, or making sure that there isn't a single dog-eared, folded, or wrinkled page. What makes a book special is that it is a personal item. Books hold sentimental value. You can't feel the sense of accomplishment felt after placing a book back on your shelf with an eReader. You can't feel the light, delicate pages sit between your fingers as you turn the page with an eReader. A book is special. An eBook is just some words on a screen. It's sad that a bookstore is going out of business because people don't want to buy books. What I gather from this is that technology is an ever-growing aspect of society, and this is a sign.
The tree of society is blossoming the synthetic leaves of technology. A thick, smelly technological fungus is growing on the poor trunk. A part of me is disappointed that people are letting this happen, but nobody can resist the beguiling charm of technology. One of my primary concerns is that future generations won't know the bliss of real books, the giddy happiness felt from merely flipping pages. It would be a shame if books ceased to exist. But I am most apprehensive of what humans will let technology do to them. If people are ready to give up books, then what will they give up next?
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