Image via Shutterstock / wavebreakmedia
I’ve spent 9 years trying to convince my boyfriend that he’s a geek. It’s only recently that he’s begun to embrace this compliment – I think it’s great to be a geek. Not only does he provide me 24/7 helpdesk support for my IT issues, he now inspires me with fantasies of our future wireless home entertainment system. I’ve never seen anyone’s eyes light up with such childlike enthusiasm when the Harvey Norman catalogue arrives. I’ve realised that this must be one of the reasons why we’ve fallen head over heels in love with each other. You see… I’m a certified geek too.
To be honest though, the technology world is not really where the heart of my geekiness was born. My claim to nerd supremacy is best seen when I’m surrounded by… books. The reason why my AMEX card is getting so hard to pay off is because every time I’m in a bookstore, I feel as though every title is a necessary addition to my expanding book collection. I cannot live without 3 books next to my bedside table (doesn’t matter if they’re all half-read), and another 2 (or 10) next to my laptop. I have fantasies about the scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast when Belle is presented her very own library. As Beast extravagantly opens the doors, Belle gasps and marvels at the stunning view of those floor-to-ceiling shelves. I have a similar heart-stopping feeling when I walk into second-hand bookstores or Kinokuniya – the only thing is, those books aren’t mine.
Admittedly, I’m getting a little scared that my fetish for all things inked is getting somewhat outdated. To my shock, even my parents think everything will go down the digitised path. “You don’t even need these,” Mum said to Dad, indicating the stack of newspapers on their coffee table, “I just go to smh.com.au.” I was aghast. Alas, despite my pursuit of a career in publishing, my parents simply stated that books and magazines – the objects of my affection – will soon be no more. It seems that within the next decade, paper will be as unfashionable as fluoro hotpants and the grand tales of fantasy and fiction will be ingested via the flickering screens of iPhones, Amazon Kindles or Sony E-Readers.
And of course my boyfriend, the diehard advocate for all things technological, raves non-stop about the benefits of an inkless society. “People type faster than they write anyway,” he says. Or, having run a query on a particular phrase, he’ll boast, “You can’t run a search like that on paper.”
The printed word though, has its own unique tangibility. When bound and presented as an artefact it can be held and thumbed through. You can pen a personal message in the cover and there’s no risk of it being changed or being unable to read it due to a hard-drive crashing or the battery dying. Ragged edges and dog-eared pages are signs of it being carried and appreciated, and when you find a coffee stain or breadcrumbs you’re reminded of the day you stayed in bed all day just so you could get to the ending. And you can share and borrow books without infringing copyright.
So… if the Beast had presented Belle a palm-sized electronic library instead of her very own physical library, would it have elicited the same breathtaking response? A look of perplexed anxiety perhaps, or a query on where to find the instruction manual, maybe, but awe and delight? I doubt it.
Yes, the world may be going digital, but does it mean the world will forget the value of the printed word? Will a magazine’s website signal the end of its printed ancestor? Not if I have anything to do with it. But then again, I’m biased. After all, I’m a geek.