Mister Bradbury’s wild ride

BJ Grieve

Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We’re dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go do something.” And then he promptly stood up and danced a jig.

The other day while making my final purchases at my local Barnes and Noble, I noticed that they have begun selling an eBook reader called “nook.” This seemed fairly counter-productive to me.

Wouldn’t the accommodations that eBooks provide ultimately end the seemingly lucrative business of book selling? Wouldn’t the eBook make the printed word obsolete just as the MP3 has made CDs dated? Have you walked through a CD section at any store lately? Not only is it like walking the streets of Bodie (look it up), it’s downright depressing.

It is obnoxiously obvious that the retailers have simply given up. Where CDs once thrived, they are now relegated to the back of the picture, like minorities in college brochures.

And the bookstore is going to go the same way. While eBooks are more convenient, are they really something you want to curl up with in front of the fire? Will an electronic version of your favorite author’s new novel replace the feeling of anticipation one gets from waiting for its release and then going to the store to get it? Or finding an old work in a used book store and getting that unique smell of history that only a used book can have?

The immense technological advancements in recent years have caused us Americans to become hermits who are scared of their own shadow. Look at “Chatroulette,” an online service that provides “one-on-one text-, webcam and microphone based chat with people around the world.” LEAVE YOUR HOUSE AND MEET SOMEBODY NEW.

iTunes was only the beginning. No longer do music fans eagerly anticipate the release date of an album, or know that one store that sells the album in advance. No longer are we cruising used music stores to find something new to us on the cheap, we are surfing iTunes for endless hours, stewing in our own funk.

And while this may not seem like a big deal, think about the little nuances that are being lost with the advent of electronic versions of everything. There is no more waiting in lines discussing the new album with other fans. There is no more debating the finer points of a lyrics’ meaning. There is no more eagerly anticipating the release of a new movie and then going to the midnight showing on a Thursday.

These little things may seem inconsequential, but entertainment is a huge part of life, and without the human interaction aspect, what’s the point?

And what does this mean for our children? Our childhoods were chock-full of scraped knees and forts and dirty fingernails. What will our kids do? Most likely they will never see the light of day, rotting away in their bedrooms whiling away hours to endless Youtube videos of cats playing keyboards and “Snuggie” parodies. They will become pathetic little losers who sign up for “eHarmony,”but if they happen to get a date, will they leave the comfort of their own bubble?

And what of sex? Will we one day no longer need a real live person for that either? Are we eventually going to be regulated to touch free cyber sex in the style of “Demoliton Man?”

Something begat man and man begat technology and technology made man forget other men. And it was not good. Find a used bookstore. Buy a book by an author you’re unfamiliar with. I recommend the previously mentioned Vonnegut. And then talk to somebody about what you read. Preferably in person.