Anyone over 40 will forever be amazed at the ease of Googling a question for an answer. They will always remember the pre-web days of library and book store trips.
Yet somewhere on the page of the easy Google answer the print icon can be found. The purpose of that icon is to make concrete what the eyes and brain have digitally taken in.
Digital data is ephemeral. Print information is permanent. Print contains messages about experiential novelties important enough for long-term storage and processing. Print promotes the process of learning about ourselves and the world in the same manner as a hearty meal satisfies after taste buds are tickled by the appetizer of a digital glimpse.
Learning is gratifying in and of itself. Any kid successfully riding a bike will bear out the truth of that notion, as will any teen with a car driver’s permit or a patient undergoing rehabilitation after an injury.
Learning, however, is often happenstance and not a matter of direct inquiry. As Fred Alan Wolf pointed out in his book The Body Quantum, we often learn more from our mistakes than from our successes.
Therein lies the trouble with the easy Google answer. We often don’t know what we need or want. We don’t know the question we need to Google.
That is precisely the time when a library surrounding the Googling computer station comes in handy. A swing around in the ergonomic chair will provide an infinity of ideas. They will be sparked by the thoughts of wise persons expressed throughout the ages by authors ranging from Chaucer to Freud, Thomas Jefferson and James Joyce.
The books themselves do not need to be read right then and there. They will remain there to be perused at will. But the titles and all they imply about the wisdom contained within the covers is sufficient to spark the next Google question about what we’re seeking to learn about ourselves and our world.
That sparking of ideas beyond the individual capacity to generate is the strongest argument for why faith in the print medium must be restored in a world presently enthralled with digital ease. Life isn’t always easy. Drugs boosting other drugs is not the answer, particularly in a blessed country such as the United States where opportunities for socioeconomic and personal advancement are unparalled.
America’s young people don’t need more McMuffins and they don’t need more video games. They need to be shown that the print media can help them solve problems.
That exercise of warming kids to print communication can be beneficial not only to them but to harried working parents with no time or interest in books. By building a home library together, they just may learn that print is a great adjunct to the web. They may also learn that a home library is more gratifying, cheaper and easier than investing in drugs to boost other drugs.