Read the Printed Word

by Susan McWilliams on February 1, 2010 · 5 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

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?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Evan H. February 1, 2010 at 6:23 pm

There are many things a eReader can’t do that a regular book can. Among them, be lent to a friend or resold or. be using the first 30 and last 30 minutes of a flight. Regular books don’t use any power either.

Also, my guess on Mooneyating is a combination of the aircraft company Mooney, who produces higher end light aircraft, and the word aviating.

avatar rufus February 1, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I support the message. I think their next activity should be “read-ins”. Go read books in public places. My wife saw a young person reading at a bus stop the other day and slammed on the brakes to make sure her eyes weren’t deceiving her.

avatar Tom G. February 3, 2010 at 8:50 am

I recently checked out a book from the local library that was over 50 years old. The smell, the touch, the feel of the book was wonderful. When I opened the pages, and the faint, dusty old library smell emanated from it, I was transported back to summer afternoons as a kid, sitting in our creaky old Richmond Library, browsing the shelves. The book was “Fighting the Flying Circus”, a autobiographical account of Eddie Rickenbacker’s experiences in WW1. Originally printed in 1919, and I had found digital copies of it online as it is in the public domain, but never considered trying to read the digital version. The tactile experience of reading not only a printed version, but a very old and yellowed printed version, only help to transport me back to 1919. I think in some ways I enjoyed the “experience” of reading it, better than I enjoyed reading it. Does that make me some sort of creepy fetishist?

avatar Chuck D April 3, 2010 at 3:48 pm

Ah, the feel of a book, the heft, the paper…matchless experience! Sometimes reading outside the black ink will sparkle iridescent in the sunlight, spilling little rainbows over the text, triggering disparate associations. May the age of the Kindle dwindle! Or, ‘Orcs don’t read books!’

Just finished (sort of) Ellul’s ‘The Humiliation of the Word.’ Much food for thought, about the triumph of images over words, and over The Word. I bought an old library volume online: reading such a book in digital form would be like trying to smoke a Magritte pipe.

avatar crusader October 11, 2011 at 11:48 pm

That banner is now proudly displayed on my blog.

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