Did you ever go into a library, especially an old library, and breathe in the smells? When I was growing up we lived near such a library. Close enough that I became a a frequent visitor, and without parental supervision. They issued me my first library card at five. I couldn’t read, but I knew that words meant something. I checked out books and took them home for my mother or father to read them to me. I couldn’t wait until I began school and learned to read for myself.
I heard somewhere that the sense of smell is the one most strongly connected to memory. If you can remember the smell you can transport yourself back in time and recapture the sights, sounds, and feelings. Old libraries have that effect on me. There is a sense of wonder roaming the shelves. Rows and rows of books often stacked to the ceiling filled with knowledge, information, and entertainment. It’s real. It’s tangible.
Maybe I’m just an old fogy but how can bits and bytes under computer glass replace it? Computers have their place, I’m using one right now as a matter of fact, but you can’t cozy up with one before a warm fire in your slippers and red plaid robe, your faithful furry companion by your feet, now can you? Computers have the ability to take you anywhere, but no matter how much information the computer provides along with beautiful photographs, and 3-D maps, to experience the majesty of the Grand Canyon you just have to go there. You have to stand near the edge and look all way down to the green sliver of the Colorado River far, far below. The only thing remotely resembling the experience itself is your imagination.
I hear from my fellow printing professionals that printing is a declining industry. I don’t think that it is really declining as fast as some would lead you to believe, but printing, once the darling of mass communication is giving way to more efficient means. Again, what I’m doing right now in writing this blog is making my own attempt at mass communication and skipping the printed word. If someone downloads, and prints this out for office distribution then it will be printed, but not under my direction. Maybe this blog will really strike a chord, go viral, and be picked up by news magazines. That is a pipe dream of course. I know it, but I still keep clacking my keys in a vain hope that it could happen.
The bottom line? Changes are coming. Changes are here. But I believe it will be a long time, if ever, before we are willing to give up the feel, and smell of a book, or for that matter magazines. There is something about them that can’t be experienced through a monitor. Oh you can find electronic books and magazines on the net. And maybe the information found there is more in-depth because of magical things that the computer can do like animations, sounds, videos, and various other whiz-bangs, but can it really compete with the quiet imaginings that form in the mind from plain black type on white paper?