Today I saw a commercial for an electronic reader toy, kind of like a Kindle for kids. As the child moved his or her finger across the screen over each word, it read out the words, telling a story. At least, this is what I gathered from the commercial. The opening line of this ad was, “Once upon a time, there were books.”
I was only half-heartedly watching some reality show on Bravo, but when I heard these words, I was startled and looked up to the screen; I then expected some kind of … satirization I suppose? But no, this was for real. Is this the way kids are learning to read now? I remember when I first started reading chapter books all by myself and part of the fun was being able to hold the book in my hands and turn the pages, actually knowing what the words meant. I remember feeling empowered; I remember thinking, “I can read anything in the world that I want to.” And years later, I still have some of my very favorite stories from those years. I can hold the books in my hands and remember how it felt when I first picked it up. I see these childhood books, and the books that I enjoy now, as almost sentimental objects. The authenticity of a solid, hold-in-your-hands book cannot be replaced by electronic toys. I feel the same way about this tech-savy toy as I do about the Amazon Kindle. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s just not the same. It’s not.
“Once upon a time, there were books.” The mere suggestion of the disappearance of actual books in favor of technology just gave me the chills; the spokeswoman’s robotic, flight-attendant-like voice just transported me to a Big Brother society of hyper-censorship and complete mechanization. Bound novels are just one of the doorstops holding open the heavy, looming door of Orson Welles’ prediction.
This post is under Books, because I think the world would not be the same without books, and neither would the people in it.