The Shape of Books to Come

A friend of mine has this wanderlust. She leaves for places local or abroad almost every fortnight. Partly this has been propelled by technology and economics of traveling. A creative traveller with enough resources can probably go to any spot on Earth and possibly the Moon within a few decades. As for myself, although i have been fortunate enough to travel to different places, I have not been bitten by the travel bug. Do not get me wrong I still long to go places, but I realized I have a different form of wanderlust – I am afflicted with traveling to different places, times and different worlds. It is an interesting form of meandering: through one’s mindseye -via image and the written word: books and other things one can read.

This all started when a boy discovered the adventures of Sherlock Holmes in his parents’ library. And this progressed with four books from Time. Around the same time Mad Magazine and comic books became an interest. One afternoon the boy was reading about the adventures of Temujin and the next day would be the adventures of a prince and a fox who became friends. Tintin and Bilbo became familiar names. Through reading the boy went to different places an back. In a sense the boy lived or at least different lives from that of Octavian who became Augustus to an old Conquistador of Intramuros or even part of family who survived the liberation of Manila during World War II.

Why read? What are the advantages of reading? Why does one read?

One reads to discover.
One reads to escape.
One reads to be entertained.
One reads to be informed.
One reads to be taught.
One reads to be learned.
One reads to be well.
Also a book is faithful and consistent companion: a friend.

All this through reading. This seems a long way since reading was only the practice of the privileged class and books were chained to desks and walls. Gutenberg and his press made it possible to mass produce books and publications so that in time it became something almost anyone could enjoy – by buying or going to a nearby library.

With the advent of the Internet and digital technology, the distribution of the word -whether it be books or ephemerals became faster, if not more common. A device that can fit in one’s pocket can now store several books. You can download books from the Web – Frank Stockton’s The Bee-Man of Orn could be downloaded from the Net.

Is digital then the form of books to come? Will the book fall into disuse as the scrolls and parchment of old? Will a library, even a personal one be extinct?

Much as I admire the new technology and the ease that it brings, I still feel that there will still be books in the future. At least in my future at least in my future.

I will probably purchase only books that I think are worth buying and keeping. And for longevity purpose, because I cherish these books, I suppose the books that I will purchase will be those designed to last – hardbound and printed in acid free paper. Or at least when I download them print them in acid-free paper and have them hard bound.

And I do this because, I want these books and comic books to last. Perhaps as long as i live. Reading through glasses or being read to when darkness surrounds me. Because despite all the advantages of digital and electronic technology, the book in the printed form is impervious to an electro magnetic pulse: power outages; a corrupted storage medium; and to accidental deleting. The book will survive a 100 foot drop; and to some extent rain and even fire.

You may agree or not.

One thing I am personally certain of there will be books in the future. And the shape of books to come are those books that I cherish.

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