As an old woman listening to the chatter around me from young mothers, discussing the pros and cons of eBooks and audio books, I have to chuckle and wonder. Has it always been this way? Have mothers, since the beginning of time, struggled over the harm that might befall their children with the newest innovative way of recording words?
Do we see two or more concerned mothers huddled around the fire ring in off shouldered skin dresses arguing the advantages and disadvantages of using berry juice and other known dyes to record words onto skin and papyrus? Were they concerned that their children might not learn as well, or might lose their copy? Just face it, did this new concept of recording events really compare to the age-old technique of just drawing into the walls of the cave, or the pyramid or tomb? Those wall communications will be there forever. Why is someone always trying to change things up and make it all more confusing? Right?
I can understand the need for the printing press after the manual recording of books onto skin and papyrus occurred. It had to be so costly and so time-consuming to have a scribe do all of the documenting. The number of folks qualified to do the work, compared to the number of inhabitants of the world had to be very unbalanced. This is the reason only the very wealthy could even afford to have any kind of written record. I can see the concern there: before, anyone who had a cave had the ability to have a written record. This new process did limit and separate the social classes. Maybe those stone age mothers had a legitimate concern for their children after all.
After the printing press came about, the imbalance between the folks qualified to write on scrolls and skins and the number of inhabitants were equaled out a bit. Not completely because of the cost, still, but more than the scribe days. The cost of paper and the cost of printing still limited the numbers of copies that were available compared to the number of inhabitants. For this reason, paper books were treated as very valuable collectables. Hard bound books were given very prominent places in the homes of the very wealthy and were to become status symbols of the times. Less costly to print paperback versions of those same books were sometimes owned by less wealthy folks but were treated with the same respect.
Today, I sit in my den and look around me to see my grandfathers school slate sitting on a shelf in a very prominent place. It is a wood framed, genuine slate that he carried to school to do his “sums” and practice his “letters”. He has his name written on the wooden frame so that he could distinguish his from all of the others in the class. On the shelf below this slate are hard bound books from my student years, and then row upon row of paperback novels from all of my favorite authors. Down from there is my shelf of audio books and my Kindle is sitting here on the desk.
Yes, advancement always has its consequences. For a time, only the wealthy could afford to have the privilege of recorded words, but things turned around again. They always do. Things have a tendency to balance out, somehow. Right now, only the very privileged of children get to carry an eBook, but we will see the time when they will be available to every child. Of course, by then something new will be coming around again.
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