"When I was your age, television was called books."
My students often ask me how come I know so many (often strange) things, and I always answer them with the above quote.
It's one of my favorite all-time quotes-- from a book, because I read William Goldman's The Princess Bride as a book before it became a movie, since I worked in a bookstore at the time (and I urge you to read the book-- it's even better than the movie). I am in love with reading. Now of course, I watched TV too, as a kid, but we only had one TV and 4 stations during my most-formative years, and whatever Dad wanted to watch, that was what we watched-- and that means lots of "Hee-Haw" and "Gunsmoke" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" and yes, football, and then when Dad was at work, we would watch Carol Burnett and "All in the Family" and even sometimes "Mork and Mindy." But I spent more of my time hiding on the roof of our house behind the chimney reading a book (it was quiet there, and no one ever knew that that was my hiding place).
But a story I read today gave me pause. When a used-bookstore owner can't find anyone who wants his books, what should he do?
Should he burn them? That's what Tom Wayne in Kansas City is doing.
Be ready to get depressed, if you're a hardened bibliophile like me. When he couldn't get any libraries to take some of the books in his warehouse, he started setting them aflame:
He said he has noticed a decline in customers in recent years and perceives more people getting information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, which found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, a steep decline from almost 57 percent in 1982.
Anecdotally, the number of used bookstores in Kansas City has declined in recent years, and there are few independent bookstores left in town, said Will Leathem, a co-owner of Prospero's Books.
"There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five TVs and three books," Leathem said.
Dozens of customers took advantage of the event, scouring the pile of books waiting to go into the fire, looking for last-minute bargains.
Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of children's literature, which he said he'd save for his 4-year-old son.
"I think given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it's the best way to do it," Bechtel said. Wayne has "made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it."
Read the whole thing.
I'll be honest with you: I have books stacked all over the place, and I read several books at once. I love them. Some of my favorites are from used book stores, especially the ones I had to use when doing research for my master's thesis. You never know what you can learn from a book-- ANY book.
But you know, now it's not just television competing for people's attention. The internet can really be a wasteland-- not THIS site, of course, or those of my friends, because we discuss weighty issues that you have to READ, naturally, (snicker) but most of my students and my own children want to spend time on social sites or game sites. Most of my students have transferred their abhorrence for reading any but the thinnest book to reading any but the most abbreviated webpage. I think that's why they like Wikipedia so much-- and hey, I love it too for certain purposes, because at least by using Wikipedia I can get around the school firewall against images and show my students a picture of what I'm talking about. But it certainly isn't the most reliable source of information. I also have had numerous students tell me that. until they had my class, they hadn't had to read their textbooks, ever, much less read all of pages within a textbook. I've even had a few kids tell me that the textbook was the first book they had read since leaving behind picture books. I find this pretty frightening. Then there's the fact that while many students disdain reading, they will believe almost anything they read-- but that's a topic for another day.
Are we, as Mr. Wayne states, in the age that will bring about the death of the printed word? I have begun to be moderately apprehensive.