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The power of the printed word
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The fact I'm typing this on an i-Pad may lead one to believe that I would be right at home with a Kindle. I'm not.
Reading via a hand-held device with a touch screen is a novelty I can do without. Sitting down with a Kindle doesn't have the same feel as reading a book. Perhaps it's the tactile sensation of feeling pages as you turn them. Maybe it's not worrying about dropping a $200 device should you doze off.
It's nice that you can make digital notes on your screen but there is a certain joy I find in using old envelopes I've scribbled notes on to mark pages or the sight of a dozen or so books stacked on my desk.
There's a joy in browsing through book stores looking for treasures that makes surfing the Web checking out books seem cold and clinical. I refuse to buy anything online except for iPad apps for which I have no alternative.
I've kept perhaps a somewhat modest 300 or so books over the years while cycling others in and then giving them away. I'll take streaks where I hit the library.
It is that core collection of favorite books on subjects running the gamut from Death Valley to California water politics and anything penned by Samuel Clemens to political science titles on the left and the right that I find myself going back to again and again.
Re-reading an electronic book isn't the same as revisiting an old book. It's not the fact electronic books are cold and clinical in their presentation. It is more that they remind me of work. I deal with a computer screen a good 50 hours or so a week. Reading on a Kindle feels like an extension of work.
Perhaps in 100 years or so folks will look upon printed books the way we look at words chiseled on stone.
There's a real concern, though, that the more perishable we make the written word the less likely we can possess it. While words may theoretically live forever in cyberspace it should be clear to each and every one of us that we really don't hold the key to the Internet gate. That's controlled by outside forces whether it is large corporations or the government.
It wouldn't take much to take down Facebook with its one billion users. It would be a Herculean task to say the least to seize one billion personal journals scattered across the globe.
That said, I'm not against Kindles or other electronic books per se. Reading is reading.
It wasn't until the written word - or "the keyed word" as e-age types might call it - was no longer the exclusive province of the elite that the lot of the masses started to change.
The printing press was what started to spread knowledge. Once people have access to written words about ideas, places, and people they never knew it changes their lives.
The American Revolution would not have been possible without mass produced words. The Internet in its most basic form is simply a different take on the printing press.
That's the magic of words.
And that's the power of reading.

- This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.