In case you haven't heard the news, Borders, the mega bookstore, is closing its doors. If I'm not mistaken, they were the first nationwide bookstore chain to offer their customers comfy seats (and coffee for a fee) in which to contemplate buying books.
Commiserating with Gina Dalfonzo at lunch the other day, we agreed that Borders' closing felt like an end to an era. We wondered how much the invention of hand-held book readers had to do with the store's closing. Gina and I both live near other bookstores that are still in business -- at least for now.
Gina's only hand-held device is an iPad with a bookstore app, which she doesn't use much. Besides an older flip-cell phone, I don't own any such devices at all. (I'm not anti-technology, but at work, I get my fill of it.)
One thing we both agree on is that books, those things printed on papers which are bound together, are necessary to our well-being.
Reading books is a tactile experience which can't be wholely achived using a computer. In "And Then There Were Books," Heather King writes about using your senses while reading printed books. In her words, it's an "incarnational" experience. Further, she writes, when reading a printed book, one has the ability to contemplate a section the the story or an important idea --that thing which is vital to comprehending and knowing.
I know plenty of people who own hand-held reading devices, and I'm glad for them. In the future, I, too, will probably own one, especially as I contemplate some of the wonderful aspects of owning one. As the advertisers point out, it would, indeed, be easier to cart a hand-held device around rather than a bunch of books.
However, there is one troubling aspect about the marketing, which is troubling -- even, dare I say, at odds with Christian worldview. King says that advertisers are claiming that if people purchase this device, they will help lessen their "burden" on the environment.
The hand-held device advertising is part of a larger trend of belief that no one should be a burden to the planet or anyone else. The idea is antithetical to the Christian worldview. As King writes, "We should burden each other. That is what we're here for. We should be willing to sweat and bleed a little for what we love, and for the writers who have laid down their lives in order to leave us their work."
So whether you buy a hand-held device or continue to frequent bookstores and libraries, one thing to remember: Listen to what the advertisers are actually marketing. Refute the ideas that are subtly or blatantly anti-human.
As for Borders, I'm sorry that a number of people will be out of work. But even more, I hope the store's closing isn't a portent of things to come.