Read the Printed Word

By Susan McWilliams for FRONT PORCH REPUBLIC

Claremont, CA. Here’s a sign of the times: if you’re worried about what all these digital and internet technologies are going to do to books, you can join a movement to signal your support of books (and other pen-and-inked things).

Here’s what really makes that a sign of the times: the movement is online.

The Read the Printed Word manifesto runs as follows:

We support the printed word in all its forms: newspapers, magazines and, of course, books. We think reading on computers or phones or whatever is fine, but it cannot replace the experience of reading words printed on paper. We pledge to continue reading the printed word in the digital era and beyond.

The idea is that you put one of the group’s images onto your webpage, and that lets other people know that when you’re not updating your webpage, you occasionally read things that don’t need to be plugged in.

I suppose people use their cars all the time to advertise the fact that they don’t think cars are so great. The whole “I’d Rather Be…” series of bumper stickers comes to mind. You know: “I’d Rather Be Biking” (or “I’d Rather Be Riding My Harley,” or “I’d Rather Be Flying,” or “I’d Rather Be Mooneyating,” the last of which I include here in the hope that someone can explain to me what it means, even if it’s something really dirty.)

Maybe this is just the online equivalent, reminding people who are fiddling around on the Internet that fiddling around on the Internet isn’t always the most fun or interesting or engaging thing that one can be doing. I do support that message, and I do like the feeling of book-reader camaraderie that comes when I see one of these images on someone’s website.

And I really do like the fact that a lot of people who have “taken the pledge,” as they say, describe the printed word as if it breathes. They like to read on “the real live page,” they say. I really like the fact that some of these people get unabashedly pornographic when they talk about holding books. “I like to hold and touch them and feel them,” says one pledge-taker. “That’s right, I like to feel up literature.” I feel better knowing that such people live in the world, and live in the world without apology.

It’s not exactly a revolutionary swell, but why not do a little spitting into the digital wind?

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