Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Coming Age Of The Undignified E-Book

Lord knows there have been plenty of distasteful books throughout the ages about any number of disgusting subjects—books that never should have been written, published, or read. And there have been any number of different formats books have come in from scrolls to lambskin in gold plated wooden covers. But they all had one thing in common, something very nearly sacred, something that's a gift from God deserving of ultimate respect. They allowed both mortals and the gods to exchange their thoughts and feelings via the gift of words in a written code that could be passed down throughout the ages and across the seas. And though the code came in many varieties, some of them even arcane, that vehicle of scribbled lines on a flat sheet never changed.

Now we've entered a new era of words, still largely in ink, though on an electric screen, but still flat as a piece of paper and mostly acceptable, at least for light reading. But yonder beast with the serpent's head which is called Amazon is making possible that which should have never been. That horrid creature known as the interactive e-book. One can hear the monster clear it's hissy throat even now.

I keep asking myself why they are doing this. What's the point? This is something that clearly computers are better at where people can use a keyboard and a mouse, or even a joystick. Interactive Flash based websites and DVDs have been available for at least 15 or 20 years now. They're great tools for teaching, and the market is huge and already in place. E-readers are simply not built for interaction, nor should they be. They're built for reading. They're made to be used as a simple book but with an entire library of thousands of titles contained within. That's what they're good at. That's what they were meant for.

Could it be that these Amazon infidels simply were not brought up to respect good books? Would they really be foolish enough to try to turn a book into a computer?

Anyone who had read the right books and gotten the right things out of them would have too much respect for the media itself to show such contempt for it by bastardizing it in such a way as they intend. Had they been taught to respect books they might have perceived that elusive golden thread which binds the inner workings of the best of them from Homer to Plato to Virgil to Pseudo-Dionysius to Dante, onward to Donne and Milton, to the uneducated brilliance of Bunyan, the illuminations of Novalis and the hard truths of the Ettrick Shepherd, to the "feeling intellect" of Wordsworth and "far Ancestral voices" of Coleridge, to the all-encompassing reality of Sunday in Chesterton's Thursday, to the primordial reality behind the world in "The City" of Charles Williams, and finally to Lewis' cave in Perelandra where Aeneas, Kubla Khan, and Ransom join metaphors in a splendiferous ode to The Well At The End Of The World.

It almost sounds like a religious experience, doesn't it. That's the difference between those who merely read a lot and those who are well read. The latter have a respect for books that borders on veneration yet never crosses that hallowed line.

Please Amazon, do not profane the greatest of all media by polluting it with undignified paraphernalia. If you don't understand the crime in that, you could not possibly have anything of worth to sell anybody.