Monday, November 02, 2009

Instant Access: Missing the Tangible

NaBloPoMo, Day Two - Monday thoughts...

The one and only reason why I would buy something like Amazon's Kindle would be instant access to books. I love books, and a big part of that is the feel of them turning down the pages I want to go back to until the whole book is a beautiful dog-eared mess, the look of them arranging the higgledy-piggledy multi-coloured rows when I walk past and wondering how they get so messy again so fast, the amazing sense of them they're spread out all over my desk and spilling onto the floor and I am clearly working on something awesome underneat all this literary mess. None of that complete experience of books is possible if they're all neatly organized in little tabs on an electronic screen, and I'd never exchange my life is books for my books are in this little reader and my house is tidy and empty and dull.

At the same time, sometimes I want books NOW. I wouldn't object to a bookshelf into which I could type in 'The Shining' (I want to see how it compares with the film, having been to see that on Saturday and remembered how odd it is) and have it appear, transported directly from Oxfam Books, pre-dog-eared and fully, deliciously tangible, at the end of the Fiction shelf.

I don't want to give up CDs for similar reasons. Unlike a lot of people, I still buy them - I have about 200 and counting, all on display in our new CD case. They're not as fast, as easy or as world-accessible as being able to bring up Spotify, select a song I've heard, listen once more to be sure I like it, go over to iTunes and buy it. But how can I sit in the dark for the first time with Tori Amos or Missy Higgins or Kristin Hersh if there's no effort involved in stumbling upon them and considering whether to buy them and that incredible moment when I first experience their latest musical triumphs? I'm fairly sure they wouldn't say that their life's work is to create background music for shopping malls, dinner parties or internet browsing.

And yet, it's so easy to bring Athlete's latest, conclude that 'Black Swan Song', while a work of genius, is the only good song they've written in years, and move on to the next thing.

I'm a devoted minion of the internet and everything it has to offer, but I still wonder. In our society of instant access, where we no longer remember how to postpone gratification for a better reward, are we sleepwalking into an entirely virtual, self-referential-with-nothing-to-refer-to, eerily empty postmodern world?

Still, I'm off to iTunes to buy 'Black Swan Song'. It may be an emo-inspired, easy-listening ditty for the instant gratification generation, but it's still really good.

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