The Death Foretold of Our Books

By Hernan Velasco

The few people who disagree with the prediction that books, as we know them now (printed, bound and tangible), will disappear from our reach, have been called anachronistic. However, the response they have to this accusation is accompanied by a sentimental logic: Our computers are set to replace every function in life, but not all of them. The fact is, free from any inclination, the progress of our computers is relegating printed books to a secondary level. Will this really be a problem for future students? Most college students seem not to have a problem, and the average student here confesses to never thinking about this issue.

In 2001 Bill Gates, during a conference in Madrid, affirmed that he will not let himself die without accomplishing his main goal: get rid of paper. In fact, this statement produced dismay among intellectuals, and made him a target of their harshest criticisms. Most writers, among them many Nobel Prize winners, argued that Gates has no clue how the imagination of our future English students will be affected without paper. Nevertheless, the debate never developed any changes since writers never found the support of students. “The day computers manage to replace books – Mario Vargas Llosa said then– will be the end of good literature.”

After presenting the common academic argument to students to scrutinize their reaction: «The electronic screen will never be able to supply the utilities of paper for students because only paper manages to confer the feeling of privacy, the spiritual isolation, concentration, loneliness and the fruition of words necessary to write a good poem, redact a goof essay or enjoy the best literature works. », they expressed, besides their poor lexical capacity, the low interest they have to talk about books.

“I don’t have time to read, so I wouldn’t know”, said Dennis Henrique, a student majoring in criminal justice. “I have never read a book in my life, so I don’t think those changes will affect me”, said proudly a veteran of our school who denied to give his name. After surveying 50 students the results showed that the 60 percent of them never read a book; 30 percent did not see a problem with the changes; and the other 10 percent seconded the unpopular theory.

“It is inconvenient, deplorable and an aberration, but our reality. If they don’t read, it doesn’t surprise me they don’t take a side”, said Professor Baer who teaches Western Civilization. She not only sees as a problem the low interest in defending our books or the limited vocabulary  of the average student, but the real problem to her is that students have developed the wrong notion that unfamiliar words shouldn’t be looked up in the dictionary, like it was taught before, but erased from a text after the proper insult to the distracted writer who did not take into account their poor vocabulary.

In the other hand, the student Diego Rivera defended with overwhelming rhetoric the idea that students don’t have interest in books: “Life itself is complicated; there is no need to complicate it more with the problems in literature. It is true literature helps to think deeper, confuses you more and creates dissatisfaction in you; but the real problems in life required pragmatic people. In other words, knowing the theory of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Kant, Sartre or knowing how to use the exact adjective on an essay will not help me to get a job during this severe depression.” To Rivera these are not times to debate about literature,paper, and computers.

Our books are condemned to death and illiteracy among our generation increases; most people give no importance to this issue partly because it is natural human condition to take action once it is late; and partly because the structure of society have turned literature into a dispensable activity, an entertainment for those with no responsibilities, and an activity that does not deserve priority.

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