Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for the Electronic Era

I can't believe how much the world has changed in the last 20 years.  We went from vinyl to viral and from paper to pads (iPads, kindles, nooks...).  Gone are the days when I pick up my walkman to go running--what's a walkman? you say. You know, those cool little rectangles that held other rectangles of music you had to buy from the store on the corner. In a time that if you wanted anything that didn't come over the radio you had to go out and get it yourself.


Then things began to change.  Almost overnight came the internet. Then CD players. Then streaming music. Then publishing sites. Then downloadable books.... Okay, I probably skipped a few steps in there.  I wasn't watching every single move that was made.  But I remember the day I looked back and realized how fast everything was changing around me.

My 7 yr old daughter asked for an iPod for Christmas. And I said yes.  Well, actually I bought her a simple mp3 player for the little I knew she'd use it. After all, she's only 7 and likes to change her mind...often. (I was right, btw) I thought about all the boom boxes upstairs that have stopped working, the non-functioning CD units, all the eaten tapes in the cassette portions, and the mass of crystal boxes scattered around my house that were made to house the media that went into these huge paperweights. And an mp3 player sounded about right.

And then I thought about the kid shows of my youth that now have furry monsters e-mailing one another and typing letters on the screen. Instead of writing them. And I felt sad. Of course e-mail is fast and I love how it moves, but there was something about my mother's handwriting and watching her forehead furrow in concentration as she scrawled out her notes. She's gone now, too.

I recently acquired an iPad. I love my iPad. Almost as much as my husband who gave it to me.  And I've found myself reading quite a few books off of it.  And I can adjust the word size, so that my aging eyes don't have to work quite so hard. Those words will do what I want, when I want. On demand. No waiting. No store hours to keep track of if I run out of words and want to find more.

And yet...I know that regardless of my new e-reading habits, I'll still buy the hardback when it comes out. So I can hold it in my lap and smell the fresh clean pages. Pages filled with sweat, tears, hard work and nostalgia; for how fast the world is changing and the difficult questions it sometimes poses in the process. In that moment, all the dystopian novels that I love to read come rushing towards me and strike a sensitive nerve about a future day with no physical books. Especially as I found myself typing out notes on my iPad, instead of with my pen and paper. In fact, I was in the doctor's office the other day with my daughter and needed to write something down.

I struggled to find a pen.  My daughter responded, "But you're a writer, Mom. You always have a pen." But not that morning.  I had to pull out my electronic slate and handy stylus, open up a note app and quickly write down the needed information.  Instead of feeling hip and cool, I felt sort of sad.  I missed the feel of the pen and the look of my own handwriting on the page. I had worked SO HARD on that handwriting over the years. Not that it did much good. I didn't learn how to type so fast for nothing. But still...

It was kind of surreal; all the changes in my life. Some I like, some I'm still trying to weigh out.  I don't want books to disappear off the literal shelves. I don't.  I love being able to hand my child a book to read, and watch it be passed around to all their friends when they're done. All the little wrappers, tissues and notes I find tucked inside its pages as bookmarks when they're done. Just beautiful. It's a symbol of their life, their interests, and their love of reading.

Needless to say, we're big fans of technology and the advances it has made.  But when it comes to e-books I'm not sure I'm convinced.  You see, we still own vinyl records. And pull them out once in a while.  Why?  They remind me of times that moved a little slower. Quieter. Times that I could sit by the fire and  In the new digital age I feel a push to move ever faster.  And smarter. And keep up with the outside world so that I don't get left behind.

And I love books. The physical kind. I love the smell of cracking it open that first time, and the weight of the words in my hands. To hold knowledge at my literal fingertips is such a high (the only one I know btw). It's what I live for. Why I'm in school. And why I love researching topics for my creative writing.  And yes, the internet makes THAT part of my writing oh so much fun and move faster.  But when it comes time to read, nothing beats holding a book in my hand.

I love electronics. I do! I just hope the heat doesn't melt my unit if I fall asleep too close to the fireplace. :)

What about you? e-books and readers? Paper or plastic? Old or new?


  1. I feel exactly the same way. Exactly!

  2. A mixture of them all. Some memories I'm not ready to part with.


  3. It's all changing so fast, isn't it? And yet, as a writer, I can't help but see it as such an exciting time. So much more opportunity than ever before. And I do love my Kindle. But I still plan on having a full wall of book shelves in my dream home. :)

  4. Hi, as a librarian, I still have a wealth of access to the old fashioned kind of books and have no interest in e-books. However, I am very "wired." In fact, I have a bag in my purse where I keep all of my electronic gadgets in one place: cell phone, voice recorder, 250 gig portable hard drive, 3-G wireless internet connection, Netbook, and so on. Because I'm away from home more often than I'm at home, the portable electronics save the day for me.

  5. You're right the changes over the years are amazing! My Dad died 33 years ago. If he came back for a day, he'd think he landed on another planet. Some are great, some not so great. But it's still nice to write with a pen and see a smile on someones face when they recognize and read words in your own handwriting.

    I found you with the ‘surprise me’ button. I’m a new follower of yours. I'd love to have you check out my take on the A to Z Challenge, comment and follow, if you'd like.
    Kathy at Oak Lawn Images


Tell me how you really feel. Come on, I Dair YA.