Tuesday, August 14, 2012

eBooks & History Books

This past Christmas, we got our son a Nook. Best. Gift. Ever. At least that is what he would tell you. And we could not be happier about that.

I am a book lover. Don't get me wrong, I don't read as often as I like, but I do have an affinity for books. Physical books.

I love libraries and bookstores. In part because you can often get a good cup of coffee in them, but also just to wander around the stacks. I have discovered more interesting ideas by picking up random books from the shelves than I ever would on-line or through chit-chat.

Being able to walk around a bookstore or library is like being able to sample conversations with hundreds of people. People you know. People you don't know. People you would be afraid to approach and those you would welcome like old friends. And all of those conversations can start and stop whenever you like. No hard feelings.

I suppose that is the value to having actual books laying around your house. There's that feeling that the house can't be empty when it is so full of words and ideas. But then there is the eBook.

eBooks all live together. Not on a shelf or in stacks, but on a hard drive. All squashed together and hidden from sight. And there are as many copies as there are devices to read them upon.

Which got me to thinking. If books are not limited by physical copies, are we as concerned about their survival?

Back during World War II, in addition to waging war on the world Adolph Hilter committed two unthinkable atrocities. One, he murdered millions of innocent civilians in such a ruthless manner that it earned its own term: the Holocaust. But second to that was burning books.

Imagine in the not so distant past, one of the most awful things a person could do was burn books. That in fact, most people who were guilty of wanting to oppress, kill or conquer other people were also guilty of burning books.

Book burning represents the desire to exterminate the thoughts, dreams and language of another people. Their history, their stories, their record of existence.

But now in the 21st century, would we all be aghast to learn that someone simply piled up a stack of books and had themselves a little literary bonfire? Or would we be content to read about it on our Nooks?

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