The Power of Print

Originally published in Lake & Sumter Style, April 2010 •

“Lord, there were a lot of lovely books once, before we let them go.”

—Professor Faber to Guy Montag, Fahrenheit 451

Technology is great, but it’s also becoming quite scary. Has anyone stopped to think how dependent we are on items that have to be charged on a regular basis? When I wrote this original column in the winter of 2010, more than 150,000 people near the nation’s capital were without electricity for a week because of a blizzard. Since then, we’ve had tropical storms and overloaded power grids in other parts of the country. Recharging cell phones, notebook computers, iPods, iPads, and electronic readers becomes a major source of frustration when the power goes out for any length of time.

We are bombarded daily with Twitter, Facebook, Bing, LinkedIn, and enough social networking sites that we can have a few thousand close friends without leaving home. Many publications are ditching their paper versions to tweet, blog, and update web pages on a daily basis, including the esteemed New Orleans Times-Picayune that I grew up reading. And just ask any new writer how hard it is to get a book published these days. With only a handful of major publishing houses left, you are almost more likely to get struck by lightning than to get paid for your first novel and then see it on a bookstore’s shelf.

Before I sound old-fashioned and anti-technology, I want to state up front that my closest friends call me the Digital Diva because I love the latest electronic gadgets. Some neighbors even call me a Digital Goddess because I can usually fix a simple computer problem when they call.

I guess I’m old-fashioned, however, when it comes to books, newspapers, and magazines. There’s something about flipping through those pages that I love. Being able to set a book down without having to turn it off goes beyond being a tactile learner.

“Remember, the firemen are rarely necessary. The public stopped reading of its own accord… I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths. No one wanted them back. No one missed them.”

—Professor Faber to Guy Montag, Fahrenheit 451

My fondest memories of growing up include books. My mom read Winnie the Pooh to me while I was still in a high-chair. My dad took his turn by reading Black Beauty or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to my sister and me. Hardly a night passed when one or the other parent didn’t read to us before we could read to ourselves. Those precious moments of bedtime stories certainly played a role in our becoming avid readers throughout our lives.

In school, literature classes were my favorite part of the day. Many of life’s lessons could be found in the classics, not to mention imaginary escapes into whole new worlds. As a grown-up, my favorite way to relax is by the pool with a great paperback that can dry out if it gets wet. Let me see you do that with a Kindle!

Studies show that literature plays a role in critical thinking—something that many of today’s students don’t know how to do. In spite of all the good that literature does for our minds, the National Council of Teachers of English currently is looking for volunteers to gather evidence to show why literature should still be taught in the 21st century. That simply brings tears to my eyes, as it should for any of you whose lives were influenced by great books.

We don’t have to worry about firemen burning books like they did in Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrenheit 451, published in 1953. At the rate we’re going, we won’t have any books left to burn. They will have been replaced by Kindles, Nooks, iPads, and other e-readers. Of course, we will have to worry if the power goes out for any length of time.

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