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The “Digital Dark Age” and Why Print is Not Yet Dead

by on April 16, 2015

I have always loved books. I have a bookshelf filled with them, and they have now spilled over to my nightstand and bureau. There was a time that on principal, I refused to buy a Kindle because of my love of books. That time has passed; I read e-books on my Kindle and I also have an iPad. But these new devices have not altered my love of physical books. A recent article on the BBC website discussed a “digital Dark Age.” Vint Cerf expressed concern that our personal memories, photos, documents etc., often left on “hard drives or in ‘the cloud,’” will be lost as technology improves.[1] I am far from a technological expert, but his concern makes sense. I use cloud technology, but have never understood exactly how it works. Following the celebrity iCloud breach last year, we now know the technology isn’t perfect, despite its convenience. Also, we all have experienced losing some personal data as we upgrade or replace computers with different operating systems. As Mr. Cerf says, “Old formats of documents that we’ve created or presentations may not be readable by the latest version of the software because backwards compatibility is not always guaranteed.”[2]

What does all this have to do with books? It means they still have a purpose. It means that all of our wonderful, modern technology is imperfect, and is as infallible as the humans that created it. To me, this is the perfect example of why print books will not completely die. There are many people out there who do not have access to the internet, e-books, computers, or iPads. These means they have to use a good old-fashioned book. Others simply prefer print. It is true today’s libraries must keep up with modern technology and offer e-books and video games. But books remain important to a lot of people. I also don’t doubt that sales of print books may be declining. However, the figures are conflicting; one article says sales actually went up last year. There’s no easy way to predict this. But what do you do to pass the time if your computer or Amazon Fire TV quits working? You may listen to music, take a walk, or – you just might read a paperback.

[1] Pallab Ghosh, “Google’s Vint Cerf warns of  ‘digital Dark Age,’” February 13, 2015, BBC News, http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31450389 .

[2] Ibid.

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