Imagine if you will that the Internet has broken down, that your browser’s no longer working, your modem lights up but doesn’t connect, that, in fact, the whole world-spanning web has simply vanished, ceased to be, been switched off, that your computer has been reduced in a moment to nothing more than a winking typewriter with the bonus of Photoshop and Solitaire. That great, vast and glowing source of information, misinformation, mail-order shopping and friendly gossip has shut up shop and left you sitting at your desk twiddling your thumbs. Crikey. Well, as inhuman as such an event may appear, it is actually very similar to how the world was before, say, the turn of the century.
It’s sobering to realize, for me at least and I’m sure for many readers, how quickly I have adapted and subsumed this other realm into normal life. How when I’m sitting at my desk here, working on a poem or a novel, and a query comes to mind, my first impulse is to slip a search into Google or Wikipedia and have an answer delivered to me without moving from my seat, and in mere moments, as quick as that (and to those who argue the Internet is full of lies, well, the answer is to be selective about what you believe and where you read it). Not only does this seem normal, it seems almost indispensable.
But when I lift my eyes from my desk I see that my flat is filled with beautiful untidily stacked bookshelves, and my lintels, sills and tables wobble with papery piles, because although the Internet can beat a reference book for speed and efficacy, still nothing beats a book for pleasure.
Several sorts of pleasure immediately come to mind: first of course, the aesthetic: the look, the weight, the feel, the smell of the thing; and then the browsing joy of letting a book flop open where it will, of flipping a page forward or back, of riffling through and stopping as and when and wherever. Although the web lets you follow tangents and links hither and thither, just like
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