Rekindling an old flame

These iPads and Kindles gladden my heart as I see it as one more step toward re-establishing the written word as the king of communication.

(You all know that I’m an editor, right?)

I had worried when I saw the rise of television replace books, and the teleph

one replace hand-written notes. I’m not that old, these have been in my life since I was born, but I watched the convenience of them overwhelm these older-world forms of communication.

And I knew only too well the allure of modern technology. Indeed, I was 17 years old and at college, when I caught myself typing a letter to my girlfriend. “A typewriter?” I asked myself. “This just seems wrong somehow … oh well, I’ll sign it in pen at the end.”

Along came fax machines and I was too far gone into the clutch of modern communication to understand the irony when I asked, “Who would write a letter and fax it when they could just pick up the phone and talk?”

Then, as there is no more rabid of an anti-smoker than a reformed smoker, I re-discovered the written word and the comfort that pages and pages of it can lose you within new worlds that don’t suck near as much as yours … or sucks more, offering a different kind of comfort.

I tolerated those years when schools stopped repressing poor little Johnny’s imagination and the right to express himself by enforcing rules of grammar and spelling.

And, when I say “tolerated”, the quality of the word can only be weighed by the fact that I am still alive.

I taught journalism to night school students and found that even those with university degrees in English were sadly deficient in the ways of their mothers’ tongue.

“I studied literature, not English,” said one, understanding immediately how silly this sounded even as she was saying it.

I was in my early 30s at the time, I had babies at home, and yet I felt like John Houseman’s character, Professor Kingsfield, the law professor in The Paper Chase.

One student offered, “I went through French Immersion.”

Alas, along came e-mail or, as we called it in the day, “electronic mail” (yeah, yeah, I know). I saw this as a great boon to letter writing.

Young people would send e-mails to each other instead of calling each other on the phone. They would be using that part of their brain that formulated sentence structure and, of course they wouldn’t want to appear uneducated, they will learn to write English better and better. Repetition is a great teacher.

OMG, wuz i wrng!!! 🙁

The Law of Unintended Consequences reared its ugly head and, once again, my childlike faith in the English language was shaken.

Now, along comes the iPad and Kindle. Besides proving the genius of Gene Roddenberry, they have made books more accessible (as if libraries and book stores weren’t accessible enough) and, in some circles, make reading cool.

These are good things and I don’t really feel compelled to rant against them, except for the fact that this technology is not as social as old-fashioned books.

Yes, you can share a book you have on your Kindle and you can make annotations and bookmark favourite passages … but this lacks the charm of handing a beloved book to a friend, of writing in the margins, and dog-earing pages.

And an iPad and Kindle just are not … warm. An LCD screen and a paper page are as different as plastic and wood (yeah, yeah).

Besides, I would rather roam the aisles of Mac’s Fireweed Books than scroll through a list of titles.

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