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Are We In Danger Of Descending Into A New Dark Age In Literature?

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posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 06:43 AM
During the years that Amazon has been operating I have watched the prices of second hand books drop in value, but recently I have noticed that their prices are increasing steadily. Less commercial works, as they become rarer are steadily rising in price.

Just recently I hade to pay $25 for a small book by TS Eliot that was second hand. In fact, I have gone on quite a book buying spree to make sure I have everything by this poet as traditional hard copies. I would suggest that if you have interests in the less commercial literature or any first print enthusiasm then now is the time to be buying as it looks likely that prices will continue to rise and certain volumes become very scarce as hard printed copies.

Obviously, the digital age is having a revolutionary affect on the way we read; the market, popularity, access, survival are the beginning of a list of influence on literature by digital technology. I have noticed of late many news articles asking the question whether or not we might be entering a new Dark Age. These articles suggest digital technology, the gradual control of free speech (once there are restrictions it can no longer be called free speech), and changing technological advancement might be culprits. May I suggest that there is a growing tendency to Inquisition like purges via media character assassinations, such as that we have seen with the former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss Kahn and so many others. A further example might be that of the Child Abuse scandals which I am only to conscious of being used politically as weaponry. Some interesting parallels I think can be drawn from a comparison to Dark Age and medieval behaviours.

I ask myself does this technological revolution mean a forgetting of the past as obsolete? As books become less available as hard copies (with all the thousands of years of maintenance and reprint to preserve memory) will they all make it to the server and be constantly updated into new formats as our digital technology changes? Is it possible that we might lose (dare I say even deliberately by certain texts being wiped from our collective memory) some of our best literature during the development of the digital age? Can we be so sure that all these works will still be accessible in say three hundred years time when the algorithms and programs of today will be ancient by comparison?

For example the small book of essays by TS Eliot entitled "For Lancelot Andrewes" has only one used copy for sale on Amazon UK now; I bought the other. To buy it new is $100. There appears to be no online version of this book. Already it is very under threat of extinction as being readily afforded by the public unless they will go to great lengths to access it or buy it at great cost. I hope that this example goes some way as evidence as a demonstration of the growing scarcity of hard copies of less commercial literature and the trend to rising prices for both second hand and new hard copies; the traditional book.

Personally, being one who has had much reading experience of hard copy books, I find it very uncomfortable and less rewarding reading digitally than I do traditional reading. I wonder whether the younger people who have grown up with the digital texts as the norm will not have to wrestle with this choice and be natural digital readers? I enjoy reading online, but when it comes to serious long reading sessions I still find the hard copy to be my first choice and remain an avid purchaser of hard copy literature.

Long live the book, from the trees (who also prompted us to language, so Robert Graves suggests in his "White Goddess" book among other things which examines the Celtic "Ogham" Tree Alphabet as an original poetic language).

edit on 22-2-2015 by lonesomerimbaud because: correction of errors.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 07:36 AM
a reply to: lonesomerimbaud

Star and Flag!

My wife and I have each been collecting books throughout our lives, we work in alternative medicine, so we have a number of tomes on medicine physiology etc...We recently purchased an old farm and have dedicated on room to be outfitted as a proper library, complete with a rolling ladder (if we can find one from an auction).

When we first met my wife marveled at all of my books, stacked all about my apartment, I told her at the time that it was my belief that electronic media would be the harbinger of the next Dark Age as I mused that in another 20 years everyone would purchase their books as back lit x's and o's and all it would take is one good Carrington style event to wash away the vast majority of the populations access to not just literature, but science, theology...everything.

Of course all these years later, most people I see are walking around airports with their Nooks, house guests reading their Kindles on my couch on a Sunday morning...alas, and fortunately the Carrington event has not occurred, but I fear for this world, the further this drags out, as the youth no longer seek out the trades like carpentry, farming etc...everyone wants to be social media super star, a game maker, or an IT guy/gal. What DOES happen when all of our knowledge is digitized and each successive generation becomes less and less associated with books, as well as lifes basic necessities illuminated within those pages...what happens in say 40 years hence and we experience a wipe of all digital data...there wont be Google there to tell the throngs of shelter-less people how to fashion a stove out of a box and some tin foil.

Great OP, so many avenues to take this thought, I look forward to others insights.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 08:05 AM
There are just some books you have to have in hard copy, whether we're talking about contemporary or literature. Of course some contemporary stuff will be literature in the future, too.

I am thinking about a Kindle or NOOK just because I am running out of space for my books at home, but the agreement my husband and I have is that I should still be allowed to buy those books I will read or use over and over.

That won't actually trim my library. If anything, it will expand it just because it will make traveling easier. I always pack along one or three books. An eBook will let me do that easier. So it means owning some of my books twice over - digital and print.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 08:10 AM
a reply to: lonesomerimbaud

A new dark age? I don't think so.

We're not in danger of losing any of our best, or worst, literature. If anything they will become more easily accessible in the digital age. The TS Eliot that cost you $25 will be available at the click of a button for just $0.25 in the digital age.

The problem as I see it is not in availability but in public interest. Books will be available, it's just that no bugger will want to read them.

Therein lies the real tragedy.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 08:18 AM
a reply to: LiveForever8

The digital is part of the problem. You never really own the book in the digital format. It's not actually in your fingers. If something happens to your digital format - EMP, Carrington event, you lose your ability to access for some reason, all your books are gone.

If you buy the hard copies, they're yours.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 08:35 AM
a reply to: ketsuko

That's true enough.

I personally cannot read anything in digital format and I do buy all of my books in hard copy format. Yes, digital is far inferior to the real thing but I can't see us losing any of our literature heritage. Losing our interest in reading? Yes, I can see that happening.

I suppose it's upon us to make sure we have at least one copy of our favourite works to hand at any time just in case. I have spent £80 on a book because I was worried it would disappear into obscurity before it had the chance to be digitalised.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 08:59 AM
a reply to: LiveForever8

Yeah, I don't have anything against the idea of digital books. I just don't think people should go all the way in to them.

I do think it's a lot more likely that people simply stop reading and learning our heritage. I think it's criminal that education has stopped teaching "the Old White Men" for example. They didn't do it because those books aren't worth learning or reading as examples of fine literature, but they did because they didn't present a politically correct or inclusive enough literary canon. What kind of world do we live in where you shelve some of the great works for some of the crap they are teaching because the authors have the "right" or "wrong" ethnicity?

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 09:02 AM
I imagine that there are, or will be, vast data storage facilities that are protected from various threats, so an EMP event won't destroy our libraries. There is a great effort to digitize books, newspapers, magazines, etc. Even now we have access to more books than ever before as well as stores of actual print versions being preserved.

There are many dangers yet to over come, like local libraries closing and tossing many volumes before they are digitized. People's attitude toward "book learning" like LiveForever8 has pointed out is a factor. Family bibles, personal diaries, notebooks and rare private book collections are endangered as well. But over all, I'd say we won't have an Alexandria Library type disaster unless it is purposely done due to some political or religious conflict that tries really hard to destroy most accumulated knowledge.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 09:14 AM
a reply to: MichiganSwampBuck

I would say that those criteria you mentioned are present in today's political and religious atmosphere. Knowledge is power, and digital media warehoused deep underground in an EMP proof bunker, doesn't necessarily make itself as readily available to the average individual as their own hard copies.

On a nostalgic note...I buy books for their beauty, smell, texture...I page lovingly through some of my favorite texts. There is a magic to the printed word, a magic I dont feel is as easily conveyed by digital media. I feel as we continue down our road of technological addiction we distance ourselves further and further from what is essential, in its simplest life.

Who controls the EMP proof vaults of digitally stored media? Do they share with you after a calamitous event, or do they keep and control the information for their own aggrandizement of power and control?

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 09:28 AM
This is a great topic.. thanks for posting it.. S&F!

I enjoy owning books for the aesthetic value. Once I get a book I want then I can put it on my shelf and it sort of gives me a quiet place to go when real life gets the best of me.

That being said the convenience of digital media has taken my enjoyment of reading to a whole different level. On my current tablet I have about 20 technical books , 3-5 fictional novels, 10-15 different magazines. I can log into the library system of my City and check out thousands of books if i wanted. I can add to this essentially on the fly , I can access them from my phone, any of my computers, at work. Pretty much any place I want. I personally have no difficulties in reading on a tablet or an e-reader but I know that may not be applicable for everyone.

While I have not downloaded all of them from the providers I use I have downloaded and backed up the key technical reads I need right now. If their was to be some event that brought Google or the other services I use off line then then that is a trade off I am willing to make for the selection and availability I currently have.

As for a your line about in lack of availability to get For Lancelot Andrews... A search of Amazon just showed the following:

1. QTY 8 Paperback starting at $29.50
2. QTY 4 Hardcover used starting at $19.54
3. QTY 4 Collectible starting at $50.

I'll check Google Play, the library system and other online digital sources to see if their are copies.

Again, thanks for making this post OP!

edit on 22-2-2015 by opethPA because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 09:29 AM
I still like real books. I've started almost compulsively collecting 'the classics' any time I see them in a bookstore or at my library's 'for free' cart. Like someone else mentioned, I worry about what would happen if for whatever reason we lost access to our digital libraries.

As far as a 'dark age in literature'... I'm sure that there are still some gems being put out... it just requires sifting through the mainstream garbage that people are clambering for even though the writing itself is often executed horribly (think fifty shades).

The only good things about digital books are being able to instantly look up a definition and the sheer quantity you can carry around at a given time.

That said, I'll take the smell of old books any day over the digital glare of an e-reader.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 09:46 AM
a reply to: lonesomerimbaud

Maybe Obama will have a cash for paperbacks program to get all those unapproved texts off the market.

I am pleased to hear that there are many readers here on ATS!

Just make sure that you don't put compromised volumes (mold, mildew) into your library. Ozone machines and anti-fungal powder can help but, if not, toss em.
edit on 22-2-2015 by greencmp because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 09:58 AM
One of the things I always wanted was a library so when I bought my Victorian I had one put in. It is my favorite room in the house and it allows me to continue to collect books which I am constantly reading and rereading.

I think there will always be a market for printed books.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 10:31 AM
a reply to: AugustusMasonicus

Which begs the question, withnso many public libraries, why do people feel the need to buy their own copy?
Lending freely between rewders is also popular these days. They do it by post, you send a book either random or by request and they send you one back either random or request. Works well internet forums.
Only thing you have to pay for is the post and packaging.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 10:48 AM
I'm more concerned that people today don't read the classics. I don't care if they read them traditionally or digitally. They just need to read them!

My children didn't even know who Maya Angelou was. All the books on schools reading lists today are brand new designed to get a specific message accross. That means most parents don't have a clue what their children are reading.
edit on 22-2-2015 by Iamthatbish because: predict a text totally winning

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 10:51 AM
This is another one of the reason why we're going Classical Curriculum schooling for our son. He'll get the classics. They read the Iliad as part of their junior high.
edit on 22-2-2015 by ketsuko because: (no reason given)

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 10:53 AM

originally posted by: funkadeliaaaa
Which begs the question, withnso many public libraries, why do people feel the need to buy their own copy?

I enjoy collecting books and have many first editions (some signed).

I also have a huge collection of history and reference books which are helpful when I pick up a new book on the same subject.

Frankly, I never lend out my books as I don't seem to get them back. Three that I loaned out that really irk me are; King's The Stand, Howard Stern's Private Parts and Richard Marchinko's Rogue Warrior were all signed and are sitting in someone's else's house now. The people I loaned them to said 'they can't find them'.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 10:59 AM
a reply to: funkadeliaaaa

I don't tend to read a book just once. If I like it, I like to revisit it like an old friend, over and over. I also have a problem with remembering to return books to libraries. It's just plain easier if I buy books outright.

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 11:07 AM
a reply to: Iamthatbish

Ive personally never liked the hypenof classics. Way to lauded IMO. Sure some good book are out there, but I dint like sheperding of peoples minds into particular books, no matter how great theyre supposed to be for whatever reason. There just feels something distinctly uneducated about it... Idk..

I noticed how harry potter was all the rage when I was in orimary school, the embarassment of the suppposedly well educated older of my family talking about this next big thing like it was best thing since sliced bread just struck me as being a utterly shamelessand indicative of something being seriously wring in their psyche... How old was i whej harry potter burst onto the scene? I dont know seven... I didnt read books. Didnt ad harry potter either. First name harry, second name potter... I mean no.... Just no... The literature scene in my generation was officially murdered by that freaking book series...

Actually heres what happened: the dying literature scene was buried by that series and a new commercialised one was set up in its place. Is harry potter a modern classic?? No, it was the death of the dying non commercial renaissance from whence they came. THAT at least in this country is the reason for the current dark age in literature. IMO

posted on Feb, 22 2015 @ 11:14 AM

originally posted by: funkadeliaaaa

Which begs the question, withnso many public libraries, why do people feel the need to buy their own copy?

Another reason is I would rather sit in here (sorry for the sideways view):

And read than go to the library.

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