One morning, several weeks ago, my father proposed that the family subscribe to the Internet-based version of the New York Times. This was, needless to say, a preposterous suggestion, voted out immediately by the rest of the family. I, for one, knew that I could never give up that feeling of leaning back at the breakfast table, with the paper spread out before me, blocking out my surroundings as I journey through the world inside. To do this all on a computer, peering at the screen through its glare, simply doesn’t have the same appeal. That is not to say that computers do not have their place.
There are innumerable web sites dedicated to information on every subject imaginable. I recently did some research to determine the car engines that would best meet my needs and keep within a viable price range. Did I go to the library and sift through their assortment of books on the topic? Would anybody? No! The Internet is the indisputable leader in the field of research. I typed “edmunds. com” into Netscape, and all the information I needed was within easy reach. Paper really does seem rather limited in its ability to relay information. A person is confined to the books and magazines present.
We all read magazines, but you can only buy a limited amount, and they don’t necessarily write about the specific topics that you are looking to read. Novels are the only area that books still rival computers, as far as information goes. It would be awkward trying to read a novel from a computer, and perhaps as a result of that, novels are generally not published in a digital version. Actually, Stephen King recently published a short novel online, but it’s too early to judge his success. Whether or not his venture works out, there will always be a power in the softcover novel.
Reading from my collection of books in bed at night is a part of what makes me who I am. That is what I do, and nothing can replace it. I curl up in bed with a book, the lights dimmed, and a warm blanket surrounding me. I become one with the story. My eyes slide gently over the words, words forgotten the instant they are read, but the tale behind them entering me without resistance. It is well known among artists that the medium of a painting or sculpture is crucial to delivering its message. Perhaps this is the reason that paper novels have their undeniable ability to connect with us.
We are able to feel the pages, the coarse fibers, and the ink printed on it. These attributes allow the paper to become a part of us; therefore, the message can make the connection to us. Computers, on the other hand, can make us feel a bit alienated. We do not truly understand how they operate, and what all those funny looking things inside them are. I have fiddled around the inside of my computer, but I still feel like we are on two separate worlds. I must look to see what is happening on the other side of a hard sheet of glass to find what I want.
And we are told not to sit too close to the computer screen, due to possible radiation damage to our retinas. This is not very conducive to a comfortable relationship with the computer. Computers have very strong advantages over paper, and have already proved themselves to be indispensable. Despite this, they have not made even a slight dent in the field of novels. Does this mean that they never will? My great-grandfather swore that he would never drive in an automobile, because it didn’t have a live animal pulling it. Now, he and the entire United States (that is, except the Amish) wouldn’t even dream of traveling by horse and buggy!