Bury me in a Book

Jean Burnett wonders if she can survive the onslaught of technology.

“But how can I live here without my books?” Wrote Balthazar Bonifacius Rhodiginus in 1656. ” I really seem to myself crippled and only half myself.”

Any book lover will empathize with poor Balthazar. I vividly recall my feelings of woe when my home was in storage for over a year and I roamed around leaving a trail of borrowed or hastily purchased paperbacks.  

There is a wonderful man in Colombia, a former librarian, who travels around the mountainous (and dangerous) areas of his country with two donkeys (Alfa and Beto) carrying sacks of books to give to children in remote villages who might otherwise never own one. The Biblioburro – the donkey library – is a splendid idea that might eventually be copied by the intrepid volunteers in Oxfordshire who are keeping open the branch libraries which the local authority wanted to close en masse.

I read that during the Second World war some women were employed to take books around more remote parts of the UK by various means. I wonder if they used donkeys – and was this the start of the mobile library idea?

We know that books do furnish a room but more importantly they furnish the mind, particularly of the young. Worryingly, levels of literacy are dropping in this country as electronic gadgets take over the world. Perhaps the government should provide every child with a kindle primed with 48,000 books and see what happens.

Some library-deprived rural areas have adapted obsolete red telephone boxes (which can be bought for a song from Royal Mail), and are using them as book exchanges. These charmingly low tech ideas will probably not suit future generations whose reading habits will be very different from our own. The idea of burying yourself in a book will have been taken literally.

At MIT in the USA scientists have developed a ‘wearable’ book- over there kindles are so passe’ You wear a vest connected to the book and sensors enable you to experience every emotion described on the page, every vibration and physical effect from despair to being struck by lightning.

I once commented playfully that soon we will be able to have books sprayed on our eyeballs so that we won’t need to turn a page. My ten year old grandson – a SF enthusiast tells me that such software is indeed available in California, “but it costs a lot.” I am not sure that I could stand the excitement of a wearable book. What will happen to imagination? Will it disappear from our cerebral cortex in the next decade, or in two centuries? Cutting down trees to make paper and, eventually books, is already regarded as reprehensible by many young people.

I feel a headache coming on. I think I’ll lie down with a book rather than wearing one.

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