Books, Real and Otherwise

By Simonson, Michael | Distance Learning, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Books, Real and Otherwise


Simonson, Michael, Distance Learning


Crated, carted, cast aside,

printed works have liquefied

in shocking bouts of bookicide.

The printing press is done, perhaps,

and publishers have (boom!) collapsed

to dicky gadgets, gizmos, apps.

Digital books are all the rage,

touchless paper, turnless page.

Stores are only cyber spaces,

cold, electric, faceless places.

Bookshops closed, bookshelves cleared,

paperbacks have disappeared.

The age of print has culminated,

finished, finis, terminated.

-Susan M. Ebbers

Most agree that a book is a series of printed pages, bound together on one side, and with a cover-something real and physical. Almost everyone knows what a book is, and what books are not. But, maybe it is not that simple. What about virtual books, electronic books, online books? Are they real? Are they books? Or, are they something else-written content? Some textbook publishers would have us think that the electronic book, the virtual book, the online book, are superior to physical books. They are cheaper, more readily accessible, and more modern. But, are they books?

One interesting discussion about books deals with the role the book plays in society. The bestselling book, The Book Thief, subtly supports the importance of books. Liesel Meminger is a foster child living in World War II-era Germany. She steals books, including one salvaged from a book burning. Leisel saved and cherished the book. Her book did not burn, and it was a real book.

The reader of The Book Thief is left with many conflicting images as the story unfolds, but one stands out; somehow the books that Liesel steals and the books she reads save her and give her life meaning. That may not be the message the Markus Zusak, the author, wants the reader to remember, but books and their impact are certainly central to the story of the book thief. Liesel would just be a lost and lonely girl if she did not have books. …

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