Saturday, May 03, 2008

The New Amazon Kindle is a wireless reading device, and if you want to buy one and put $39.90 in my pocket, follow the link and buy one now. I am an associate and they will pay me for selling it to you! New consumer products are being made infinitely personalizable but temporal. You can load the Kindle with whatever books you can afford to download, up to its capacity. When you are done, click delete and make room for another.

I am reminded of a Ray Bradbury book, Fahrenheit 451. The name is from the temperature required to make books burn and Bradbury's book is about a repressive society that burns its books in an effort to limit freedom of thought and expression. With digital books, no heat is required. Push delete and it's gone forever.

In the novel, people who have escaped from the repressive society walk around, each with a book, committing it to memory as a means of preserving its contents. Maybe in a future society, we will be walking around with white tablets, reading banned material until the batteries wear out. How about this for "science fiction?" The new generation would have devices like the Kindle which they could read, with content constantly modified by the state to tweak history and our understanding of current events. Hard copy would be outlawed as a threat to the totalitarian state.

Oh, never mind, I guess Bradbury covered that.

This month's National Geographic is about China, and an article by novelist Amy Tan describes a city that sings. One old woman can sing the entire recorded history of her community in a song that lasts 120 verses... if she can find anyone to listen. She may be the last to commit the song to memory. In a town undergoing rapid cultural change, the children say, "That old song is boring, we're too busy to learn something we don't like."

Tomorrow in Eureka Springs, we will celebrate books and authors. Real ones. Books in Bloom is the literary festival produced by the Carroll and Madison Library Foundation in support of our local libraries. While there may come a time in which the digital world will take even greater precedence, tomorrow we celebrate the real thing. My wife is co-director, so I'll have volunteer duties throughout the next two days. Much as in Fahrenheit 451, people (authors) will be reading out loud to each other from things they hold in their hands. Memories and ideas will be shared. People will buy books that they hold in their hands and read in dim light even when their mothers says they'll go blind reading in such light.

If any of our guest authors have the courage to sing 120 verses we may get bored but some of us will listen.

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