Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The value of books.

Nice article in the Independent by Johann Hari about the value of books. He writes...

In the 20th century, all the nightmare-novels of the future imagined that books would be burnt...

The book – the physical paper book – is being circled by a shoal of sharks, with sales down 9 per cent this year alone. It's being chewed by the e-book...

If you read a book with your laptop thrumming on the other side of the room, it can be like trying to read in the middle of a party, where everyone is shouting to each other. To read, you need to slow down. You need mental silence except for the words. That's getting harder to find...

No, don't misunderstand me. I adore the web, and they will have to wrench my Twitter feed from my cold dead hands...

And here's the function that the book – the paper book that doesn't beep or flash or link or let you watch a thousand videos all at once – does for you that nothing else will. It gives you the capacity for deep, linear concentration. As Ulin puts it: "Reading is an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction.... It requires us to pace ourselves. It returns us to a reckoning with time. In the midst of a book, we have no choice but to be patient, to take each thing in its moment, to let the narrative prevail. We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little, by stepping back from the noise."...

A book has a different relationship to time than a TV show or a Facebook update. It says that something was worth taking from the endless torrent of data and laying down on an object that will still look the same a hundred years from now.

That's why we need books, and why I believe they will survive. Because most humans have a desire to engage in deep thought and deep concentration...

...Okay, so I have snipped Johanni's article just to illustrate a point. The point is that books are relevant - relevant to everyone as a valuable media resource. Books are great because they sit there forever, unchanged by time and fashion. We are not talking an historical perspective but a human perspective of relating to other peoples' lives. Books reflect that snapshot in time that film can't capture. Books have a magic of taking you into another world. A world that is real because all fiction is real - but a world that is apart from yours. You can then view your life from outside and see the beauty of life from a greater perspective.

The internet is good and is a real buzz. But the constant chatter can't compete with the quality of books. Okay, some books fail my quality threshold, but even the worse are far better than the drivel on Facebook and Twitter.

To illustrate this point, why not turn your digital television receiver to The TV Book Club on Channel 4 television. A new series of this excellent programme has begun and even if you don't like the genre of book on offer this week, you will enjoy the lively banter between the presenters. The TV Book Club shows what is great about books, a world apart from the reader that can become their chosen drug of choice. Books are a welcome escape from the constant distractions of our modern age. Long live books, whether published in hardback, paperback or Kindle e-Book format. These books are the same whether they are read as hardbacks, paperbacks or as e-ink images. There is a place for the internet but for deep thought and interaction, you can't beat the traditional book.
So which book did Hari plagiarise that article from :-)
Laughing out loud! Johann did not plagiarise that article but he has been pulled up over the reporting of an interview he did with Shirin Ebadi. I have not always agreed with Johann's view, especially the illegal invasion of Iraq.

But Johann does hold his hands up and say's sorry . It appears very honest and mature for him to declare " I've been wrong in the past – as I shamefully was over the Iraq War – I have admitted it publicly, tried to think through how I got it wrong, and corrected myself. So I've thought carefully about whether I have been wrong here. It's clearly not plagiarism or churnalism – but was it an error in another way? Yes. I now see it was wrong, and I wouldn't do it again."

Now it takes a lot to do a public apology like that. Johann is standing up to be counted and I accept his apology. He could have let it go but decided to put things right and own up. That is worth merit in my opinion.
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