I’ve noticed an unnerving disdain for print in today’s digital culture.
In the New Media world of Twitter and social networks like Facebook and MySpace, print holds little allure, or romance or even usefulness.
“This is where it’s all happening,” a college student informed me recently while helping me post my literary magazine, The Rogue Voice, online. “It’s all about interactivity.”
“Yeah,” I responded, “but so many of my readers tell me they like having something they can hold in their hands and read, not a computer, but a magazine.”
He responded: “How old are these people?”
“About my age.” I’m 50.
“Exactly,” he said. “I’d say most young people don’t have the romance with paper that you and your readers have.”
I don’t understand this; first, because I’ve had few romances I’ve enjoyed more, and second, because print helped revolutionize the Western world, which suggests it deserves more respect.
I’m not against advances in communications and access to information; I’d simply like to see print given its rightful place in the history and progress of civilization.
In the last 500-plus years, the printing press played a key role in spreading the balance of power that comes from knowledge; it put literacy and language into more people’s hands.
In many respects, its ability to put vast amounts of information at people’s fingertips has had the same democratizing effect that the Internet is having on people around the world today. It opened the floodgates for the advancement of science, the arts, history and literature, galvanizing cultures and informing the masses.
Of course, abuses have occurred through the printing of propaganda and lies, but overall I’d say the world is a much better place than it might have been if print had never come to be.
Now, I’m being told that I need to get with the times, be web savvy, and forget print. I’m working on it, but don’t ask me to give up print. For some reason, which is hard to explain, I prefer print as the medium for losing myself in stories, as a means of escape from the daily grind.
There’s a quality of stillness and imagination I feel when reading printed material (especially books) that doesn’t seem possible with a laptop, or a desktop or even the latest iPhone.
I like print: books, magazines and newspapers, anything I can read without the buzz and whir and beeping of a computer or cell phone.
I like to sit in the shade of a tree, or lounge on a hammock, and lose myself in a novel or short story or poem and read until I enter another world or doze off—without worrying about whether my book falls to the ground.
I like the sensation of a powerful story staying with me long after I’ve put it down because it engaged my imagination rather than my ego.
My greatest concern with the demise of print: That our ability to imagine will suffer, that it will succumb to the narcissism that is so much a part of social networking and Internet discourse.
Print keeps me grounded and connected to the world in a way that doesn’t seem possible with the New Media. It allows me time to pause and reflect, to be absorbed in a world that exists only between me and the author, without twitters and instant messages and constant updates.
My recent experience working with young authors and aspiring journalists—and the sad fact that newspapers and numerous other publications are dying all over the country—suggests that print has become passé.
It’s so Old School.
Advocates for the New Media—in their enthusiasm for “interactivity,” online networking, and uploading every trivial (does any of it ever reach the sublime?) opinion or detail of their life—give the impression that print no longer serves any useful purpose.
Slowing down, settling in with a good book, letting the mind wander, getting away from the computer, and using the imagination have lost their appeal.
I refuse to give in. While I support advances in information technology, I’ll never let go of the romance of the printed word. §