Saturday, June 9, 2012

More losses: Bradbury and Books

My daughter Elissa and I were talking about things becoming obsolete, like newspapers and books and things we read on paper.  We were thinking about her grandson Philip, my great grandson, just turned five years old, who often prefers computer games and ipods and ipads to books.  Same with my other grandkids.  Elissa and I thought that by the time Philip grew up and went to college, he’d be 100%  tech and online.  It’s not that he doesn’t like books. He does.  And he has an amazing imagination and storytelling ability.

So how will it all pan out, we wondered.  By the time Philip’s in high school, will all teaching be online--his books, assignments, study halls, even most of his classes? Is it possible he will never have to buy a book or hold a book in his hands, never have to go to a bookstore or a library? 

This led me to  wonder if more bookstores would be going the way of Border's, if Andrew Carnegie could have foreseen the demise of libraries, palaces of learning. This led Elissa to conclude that “bookbags will become obsolete, too!”  

Against this backdrop, I learned that  Ray Bradbury, the prolific science fiction and fantasy writer, had died at age 91 at his California home.  My first reaction was that he had  led a good long life, and made lasting contributions to our culture, "and to space exploration," Loren just whispered in my ear. Then I thought Bradbury's death might signal, symbolically and literally, the end of the book-reading era.    

One of the reasons I liked Ray Bradbury was because he loved books.and libraries, from a very young age until his death.  This love inspired one of my favorite dystopian novels, Fahreheit 451 (1953), which imagined a future America where books were outlawed and burned.   Some of his other books and short stories expand on the same theme.  He wrote  27 novels and 600 short stories, many adapted to TV, movies and comis books.  Edgar Allan Poe, Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, telepathic Martians, and book-burning firefighters all rolled into one.

Will Philip ever read Ray Bradbury? Maybe online or on a kindle or nook.  Are the chances greater that he’ll see an adaptation on his ipad?  Does it matter?  For those of us who love books, who grew up reading, still read, and prefer the printed word to digital replicas, it remains a big question.


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