How independent bookstores save us from our reliance on technologyby Katy Littlejohn
Whilst being shuffled and pushed through the crowd while changing trains at Yonge/Bloor station on my way home to the Danforth, my eye caught a smear of pink. Turning my head just in time to see a beautiful hardcover book perched atop a pay phone, my first reaction was to bully my way over to it and snatch it up. My second reaction was a little voice inside my head telling me to not touch anything in the subway. The latter won. The beautiful book would have to wait there without me.
All of this got me to thinking about how fast life can get—so much so that there never seems to be time for a book anymore. Even in bookstores, especially Indigo/Chapters, the books come secondary to the Kobo displays and home décor section. Technology, though not a bad thing per se, plays such a huge part in our day to day lives to the point where it replaces the things that have been just fine the way they were. The immediacy of today’s communication technology is the pinnacle of efficiency, but how much of it exceeds filling a need by tempting consumers with extra flare that we just don’t need? Instead of offering a solution to our problems it has become the status symbol that everyone craves.
What happens to all of the words we don’t use when we use text messaging or BBM to communicate? Not only do we lose the opportunity to write thoughtfully in our high-speed lives, but also we seem to have lost the ability to read it. Our attention spans have downsized tremendously: who has time or energy for a book?
Back in the day, it could take months for someone in North America to contact someone in Europe, whereas now the connection is instant. But what do we lose with that immediacy? How did we pay for it?
We don’t write letters anymore. There used to be pages and pages dedicated to one letter all designed to be read as carefully as they were written. This might have a lot to do with why writers were such stars in the centuries preceding the digital revolution. The value of the written word was as big back then (for those who could afford education) as the value of a smartphone now (for those who can afford smartphones). Ironically, where we once paid to learn how to read and write, we now pay to avoid it.
Is technology trying to make amends for its destruction of the written word? Kindles and Kobos could be the saving grace of books, drawing tech-hungry consumers to snatch up the latest gadgets they can show off to their friends, or these e-readers could just be the literary antichrist, causing us to be so screen-dependent that real life doesn’t exist in something as simple as two covers sandwiching a collection of pages. Are books dying?
Here’s the glimmer of hope. Go to Book City or Re:Reading, both beautiful book stores on the Danforth, and both believers in the written word, and seek you the e-reader? Not there yet? Phew. What you will find, for those of you who are puzzled as to what could possibly fill their shelves—if not boxed technology, photo albums, and designer teas and travel mugs—are books. Good old, self-sufficient books.