For every technology that has been developed and that has stayed around long enough, it has been considered an improvement in Man’s history, and, ironically, has been kept alive and remembered by the book. It is ironic that a book should be so important in recording the evolution of the various inventions through time not because of the simple construction of the book in contrast to the machines it documents, but because the technology that it is remembering today, the internet, is that which will bring upon its tragic conclusion, thus the conclusion of our connection with those who touched them. With the development of e-books, the physical book is being threatened into extinction, leaving the future generations ripped off, the replacement an empty, invisible, sterile alternative.
The Internet has revolutionized the way we live our lives. Everything is but a click away, and we can read anything we want, so long as we have a screen to project the words on. While we may see this new phenomenon as miraculous in its ability to ease our reading processes, making the process of finding, reading, writing and saving works faster, the quality of experience, emotion, and personal connection has been extinguished. The book itself is an extension of the many people who have encountered it. It is the memory, as well as the preserver of past authors, owners and readers alike. A ripped page, a stained cover, markings inside, scuffs on the edges… all of these markings contain the life of those who have handled them. A math textbook is not but a stack of pages to teach you arithmetic, but is a channel through which we can connect to Darian in 1987, and find out that Rachel loved Tristan forever. Online literature and editing do not contain the tear marks that stained the paper in my diary, nor do they boast (or pity) the evolution of one’s penmanship.
Not only is there a loss of history and intimacy on an aesthetic scale, but I worry, too, that our increasing tendency to publish and save the multiplicity of works digitally will literally erase any archaeological records of the generations that are soon to come. While we preoccupy our minds with the need to make literature creation and consumption more “efficient”, the best technologies of yore are continually becoming nullified by brand new systems, incompatibility with the veteran tech making the content it contains as impossible to rediscover as Atlantis itself. Whilst the anthropologists up to today have had the already challenging tasks of deciphering ancient tomes, the challenge resembles that of breathing compared to those who will have to understand what the flash-drive in the rubble contains.
As we continue develop and use the Internet and its technologies for its increase in convenience and efficiency, our values of quantity are surpassing the quality and importance of the oldest technology known to man. As we distance ourselves from the book, so are we forgetting and isolating ourselves from our forefathers, our friends and mentors, and eventually ourselves. Our need for progress is that which will leave us behind, for our longevity resides in the book, and as we near the day where it is no longer, so do we the end of our lifetime of history.