I read books.
I mean the printed-on-paper kind, the original hand held technology. If you read them too, consider how you react when you see a person out in public with a book - do you try and see what it is? Do you assess who or what they might be based on the title, feel a kinship if it is a book you know and like? What if the person was reading from a wee plasticized screen?
Despite the worries and prophecies of some who claim print media is no more and that reading a book is akin to wheeling about town in a cabriolet or phaeton while perusing Sumerian cuneiform figures on a clay tablet, I read books.
(As a corollary, it seems worth noting that writing on a clay tablet preserves information for thousands of years while digitized discs and drives last perhaps 10 years.)
The often insightful Seth Godin wrote recently on the demise of the book, noting:
"The beloved shelf (or wall) of books is less well-thumbed and less respected than it was. We’re less likely to judge someone on their ownership and knowledge of books than at any time in the last five hundred years. And that shelf created juxtapositions and possibilities and prompted you when you needed prompting. Ten generations ago, only the rich and the learned owned books. Today, they're free at the local recycling table."
Countless times in years past I visited homes with rooms whose walls were lined with books, with chairs and lamps and the tsunami of comfort I felt was inescapable. The room was a way station in Time itself, where clocks did not matter, where histories were stored, where I could stay and learn as long as I wished. (Often such rooms were called a "study".)
A friend who teaches high school recently told of the frustration and confusion her students experienced as she required them to use a library's card catalog to seek information. (I should note too that another friend, a voracious reader of printed and digital books, who pointed me to Seth's comments, received a hard bound book from me of a novel which he is free to keep or share with others.)
I know that if, at the age of 12, I was given a marvel of technology like a hand held mobile Internet device, I would have glommed onto it with a fervor beyond description. Yet I also know that I experienced, concurrent with my infinite curiosity for information, a very physical searching was required to discover books and essays and information, a time-consuming task which contained lessons unwritten, valuable lessons.
I am certain that the ease of discovery and access to information is likely greater today than ever, which I find most encouraging. Still, as with most every experience, the more arduous the task, the more I glean from the experience.
That is a truth which cannot be imitated.