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The marvelous technological invention known as books
Dennis Wyatt

Books are more powerful than computers.

They can't be hacked. They can't be blocked. They still function after 100 years. They don't exist in a domain you have no physical control over. They don't need a battery or a power source to read. They don't need to boot up. And they can be dropped.

Nothing against computers or tablets, I use them daily. I do most of my reading on an iPad searching through endless PDFs of reports loaded on websites of government agencies, corporations, and organizations.

Once words are impressed on a printed page they can't be changed.
A government censor can't electronically change it nor can they remotely block you from reading it.

Those sensitive to political correctness can't - with the right coding - eradicate phrases, words, and ideas of another age that accurately reflected that era to satisfy revisionism inspired by myopic censorship.

Snuggling up with an iPad or laptop isn't the same as with a book. Forgetting the tactical feel of paper for a second, I'd much rather doze off with a book in my hand so my first thought in awakening is not fearing I may have damaged a $600 device.

You can't escape with a tablet or a computer. They are devices that shackle us to our daily work and routine.

Just glancing at a tablet sitting on your desk doesn't invoke strong memories, passion or a sense of belonging.

My iPad is nice but it doesn't get me to think about my grandmother and aunt Grace as does glancing at a 1936 edition of "The Best Loved Poems of the American People." My aunt signed it for my Grandmother Edna Towle. It became her favorite book. My grandmother gave it to me complete with an inscription.

Taping the surface of a Kindle doesn't stir up the passion of water politics as does just looking at books on my shelf entitled "A Life of Its Own: The Politics and Power of Water", "Cadillac Desert", "The River Stops Here: How One Man's Battle to Save His Valley Changed the Fate of California" and scores of other books that makes it clear how strong my belief is that California is nothing without manipulating water.

Looking at my PC at work doesn't trigger a flood of thoughts about the works, wisdom and wit of Samuel Clemens as does taking stock of the numerous books on my shelves about and by the man most know as Mark Twain. Nor does that PC bring back the memory of a sultry June day in 1988 in Hannibal, Missouri where I spent a king's ransom of $300 at Becky's Bookshop buying every book I could covering his writings and his life.

When I switch on a computer my imagination doesn't go wild.

If I pick up any of the countless books I have on Death Valley from its history to geology to hiking possibilities I'm instantly thinking about every nook and cranny I've explored and those that still await me.

I can download hiking information from various websites but nothing matches the sense or the feel for route basics as you get by a book penned by one author who has catalogued and showcased much of his knowledge. In some cases, you can get that from the Internet but unlike the Internet-based "Steve Hall's Death Valley Adventures", I can take a hiking book with me. There is no WiFi signal at Dante's View, atop Telescope Peak, on the Panamint Sand Dunes, in Fall Canyon, at Hell's Gate, or basically anyplace in Death Valley National Park that is the equivalent size of Connecticut.

You can download books on the Internet. It is indeed a marvelous technological advantage that brings down the price. But it is nothing special.

A story told on paper can fire up one's imagination in a way that bytes forming words on an electronic screen can never do.

Computers by their very nature are structured devices. And as such, they inspire structured responses by necessity. You have to follow specific protocols to make them work. For that reason, your mind is set in a structured pattern as you go from turning it on to "flipping" through software and the Internet. As a result your brain is on logic mode.

That's not the case with a book. The second you pick it up to the moment you set it down your imagination can run wild.

Both are vessels for reading but the computer is more like an old reliable work horse while a book is a wild mustang.

It is something that has survived the Middle Ages, the Industrial Revolution and grandiose predictions just 25 years ago that books and libraries would disappear from the face of the earth by the turn of the 21st century.

That "something" has fired up the imaginations for generations, laid the groundwork for great discoveries, prompted people to fall in love, and inspired political revolutions.

Electronic books can copy them but they can't duplicate the sense of connection.

Nor can they assure freedom from control.

The book burners of repressive regimes don't have to work as hard when all they have to do is electronically spy on people and deploy coders to cut off access to the written word.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.