Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Who Needs Books?

For a long time I have been saying that actually reading books is overrated. Now I have an unlikely ally: librarians. The librarians of Fairfax County, Virginia, have reinvented the idea of the library for the 21st century. "A book is not forever," says Sam Clay, the director of the system. "If you have 40 feet of shelf space taken up by books on tulips and you find that only one is checked out, that's a cost." So Clay has set out to purge from Fairfax County libraries all 40 feet of tulip books, which were apparently purchased during the great Tulip Mania of the 17th century. But it's not just books on tulips he's tossing into the dustbin of history. Aided by a computer program that earmarks books that haven't been checked out in two years, he has ruthlessly weeded out outdated works by such long-dead, irrelevant authors as Virgil, Aristotle, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, and many others, all to make room for ten more copies of the latest bestseller by John Grisham.. Who wants to carry around all the bulky books in Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past when you can just read them online. Even better, you can just read an online summary. Ann Althouse prefers to just read "snippets" of books she can find online, which gives her more time to blog, which benefits all of us. In fact, if Proust were alive today, he would probably be blogging ("For a long time I went to bed early. Now I can't sleep at all, which is why I'm up so late blogging. The town where I live, Combray, is so booooorrrring. Click on my Proust FAQ if you want to learn more about me: my idea of earthly happiness, my favorite virtues, what I value in my friends, etc. Send me your screenname and maybe we can chat. Does anyone know if Amazon sells cork?").If book huggers think reading is so important, they should watch the movie Fahrenheit 451. In that film (which I'm sure is better than the book, which I have not actually read) people live in a future Utopian society where the government keeps the people safe from terrorism and everyone can afford big-screen televisions. The hero of the film is a librarian who has his hands full freeing up shelf space. By the end of the film they arrive at a solution that makes everyone happy. Bookworms memorize the books they like and recite them to someone who cares. I think if people did that today, it would free up even more shelf space for things like video games, which actually promote the skills kids will need to fight the wars of the 21st century.(from Jon Swift blog- on book burning see the old post)

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