There's something about a book. Few are more devoted than this
writer to the electronic universe. The wonders of a spell check and
thesaurus on any word processing program, the incredible joys of
WordPerfect Rhymer for versifiers, the instant copying and
duplicating features on even the oldest pc's - these bring sudden
laughter and a delicious sense of total control to every aficionado.
And when you are in one of the data banks - Compuserve, Lexis,
Nexis, the Internet - the world of information or new friendships
is on your fingertips. Aaaah.
So why talk about books anymore? Especially since publishers
have now begun to put books on disk? And both computer and
environmental devotees are claiming that we will no longer need to
take up vast shelf space at home and library, that we will no
longer need to strip our forests to make such reams of paper.
Still, there's something about a book. Perhaps it's an
old-fashioned hangup. Or perhaps a book is another kind of durable
magic that affects all ages and stages of life.
Consider "Pat The Bunny" - a book that has enchanted toddlers
for more than 50 years. No computer will allow those small fingers
to "feel" the bunny "fur," to hold this small package with ease.
There are many, many new and old books for small children that give
them - without the "fur," that feeling of delight and control. The
tactile ability to handle pages may have something to do with this.
Classic books, "The Secret Garden" for example, will soon be
seen on computer - and hooray for that. But not to be able to turn
the pages, to decide on a secret place of one's own to read the
book, is to be bereft of one of the essential joys and values of
Sitting on a grassy hilltop across the street from a hospital
in Brookline, Mass., reading that book, gave an 11-year-old a
private place while waiting to see her dying mother - and a sense
of life's continuity, of the world beyond one's own personal
Move on to those periods of pre-teens and early teens when
serials absorb most children - "The Hardy Boys" and "Nancy Drew"
for older generations; "Choose Your Own Adventure" and the
"Baby-Sitters Club" books for today's children. (There is a very
seriously negative trend in the serials, the badly written horror
books, such as the dreadful "Fear Street" series and the extremely
popular "`Goosebumps" for 8- to 10-year-olds. The publishers
should be ashamed.)
Of course, these serials are pictorialized and will be
computerized. But again, the feel of a volume, the suspense of
page-turning even without horror, brings an experience
not-to-be-duplicated on a computer or in video of any kind. …