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Make Mine Hardcover, Please

Never a fan of science fiction in my voracious book-inhaling youth, I have nonetheless developed a love of sci-fi movies and TV series. I loved The Jetsons as a kid, and more recently, have been an enthusiastic viewer of the entire family of Star Trek spin-offs (TNG, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise),
July 15, 2005
Never a fan of science fiction in my voracious book-inhaling youth, I have nonetheless developed a love of sci-fi movies and TV series. I loved The Jetsons as a kid, and more recently, have been an enthusiastic viewer of the entire family of Star Trek spin-offs (TNG, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise), Farscape, and Stargate. Besides the adventures, among the fascinations of these programs is the enormous amount of complicated stuff the characters know as a matter of course, the processes that are automated, and all those nifty little gadgets. It wouldn't surprise me if the creators of electronic books got at least some of their creative flow from watching the Enterprise and Voyager crews reading books on tablets and online.So a recent story about a high school in Vail, Ariz., that has decided to dispense with hardcover books caught my eye. According to The Associated Press, Vail Unified School District high school will become the state's first bookless, wireless, and all-laptop-equipped public school. The school's 350 students will get their data from electronic and online articles as opposed to paper and ink books.

I imagine this is as much about cutting costs (text books are a big expense and change every year) as it is about keeping more on the cutting edge (updating text is a lot easier online) and exposing kids to a wider variety of reading materials. And I suppose the generation that doesn't know typewriters, vinyl albums, or the unconnected life is about to give birth to a new wave for whom paper reading materials just won't compute. Proponents of the move to ditch books claim students at the handful of other laptop-only schools are more engaged.

I don't know about that, but there is something to be said for curling up with a hardcover book, which by the way is still the most portable mode of reading material. After all, battery life only lasts so long, you can't plug in everywhere, and you can't always find access to unobstructed wireless connectivity. You can't always haul a laptop around with you, and not everyone can afford a laptop (yet, I realize) or has Internet access at home. But most books can go anywhere, be opened up at any time, and as long as you have light, can be read whenever.

And much in the same way some fans believe certain films have to be experienced in a theatre, the weight, feel and smell of the book jacket, cover, and pages, be they crisp and new or worn and dog-eared, are all part of the experience. It's not for nothing the always thoughtful and wise Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of the Enterprise-D cherished his antiquated collection of books.