Monday, December 26, 2011

Guest Post by Sheldon Townsend.

I love Books
Guest Post
by: Sheldon Townsend

I love books.  Not just reading them and owning them, but I love books like I love liberty and justice.  The invention of the book was one of the mankind's greatest achievements and I think there can be a direct connection between the Gutenberg press and the freedoms we all enjoy.  Books did two things: they made memory permanent and information democratic.  You could find a book and learn.  You didn't have to find an old person whose memory might be faulty.  And it made knowledge democratic, not the sole domain of the cabal of the lucky few (call them the knowledge 1%) who could afford manuscripts.  Books became cheap and plentiful thanks to Gutenberg.  And people became knowledgeable.  It broke the back of feudalism and the Catholic Church's monopoly on God, both of which ended the dark ages and led to the Renaissance.  This led to the Enlightenment and finally to the liberties those of us in the West enjoy.  It is telling that one of the first thing tyrants want to control is books.  So I love books.  You could say I'm intoxicated by them.

(An aside: I also love books as in holding, reading, smelling, and devouring their contents.  And I love seeing my name on them.  This is partially why I've resisted going to eBooks.  That and most of the books I read aren't available as eBooks, so far.)

Now we have the Internet, which has taken the democratization of information a step further.  Open your laptop or your smart phone and you can find information on just about anything.   The wonderful thing about the internet is that almost anyone can put almost anything on it without the government's, the editors' of the New York Times and the Washington Post, or Roger Ailes' approval.  The horrible thing about the internet is that almost anyone can put almost anything on it regardless of taste, common sense, or anyone's community standards.   And accuracy.

Now books are going electronic.  This is great.  I only have one problem with this: permanence.  Bits on a hard drive or flash memory are remarkably vulnerable to data loss and require all sorts of infrastructure to power them (to charge your iPhone battery there is a multi-billion dollar power plant and transmission system that we all take for granted).  If a civilization-killing comet hits our planet, the survivors will be looking for paper books, not electronics they can't power.  The other problem with digital media (which is being solved, it seems, by so-called "cloud" storage), is I have lots of 5 ¼ inch "mini" floppy discs that have who-knows-what on them because I have nothing to read them.  Will current technology be readable in the future when your computer interface is a contact lens you wear?

So, we still need paper books to keep memory permanent.  And we can use the Internet and electronic devices to spread the data around as quickly and efficiently as possible.
And that's why I love books (and the Internet)!

Where to find Sheldon Townsend and his work:

Sheldon's Website
Sheldon's Publisher
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