So everyone’s all a-twitter about e-books. And why not? As a species, we’re like magpies, squawkily flocking from one over-hyped shiny new thing to the next. Gunpowder? Railroads? Lightbulb? Telegraph? Telephone? Airplanes? E-mail? Shiny! Marry the age of consumerism with the age of gadgets and the pace e-quickens. Every six months now, someone tosses a new shiny thing out there into the public square, and we’re all over it like pigeons on popcorn. Ooh, ooh ipod, ilike, iphone, iwant, ipad, ineed, gimme that shiny new thing.
I’m not a saboteur, much. I Twitter, I FB, I LMAO at times. In fact, I was watching a video just the other day touting all the great things that an e-reader can do. Can’t find the link, sorry. But its promises were great: a little red dot would follow my reading progress, and when I hit the word “bird,” say, up would pop a little picture of the bird in the margin. Wow! Or if I might want to know what a word meant, I could just click a doo-hickey and up would pop the definition. Or a voice would tell me how to pronounce a word! I have to confess that for a moment I was nearly taken in.
But what if I wanted to just stare at the little bird picture for awhile before I even started to read the page? What if I wanted to flip through the pages to look at all the little pictures before I even started to read the book? And why should everything be so E-Z?
Ah, the pleasures to be found in looking up words in a, you know, “physical” dictionary. Sure, I can click on the little button, but if I look up, say, “relevant” in my Random House Webster’s College, I get to not only look at the picture on the page anytime I like (which is a drawing of “relief”), but I get to visit the neighbors: “relentless,” “reliable” and “relic.” All of which seem relevant to this here blog post.
(On the very same page of my dictionary, I also find the word “relaxin,” which I learn is a “polypeptide hormone” but which I also hope describes my afternoon plans.) (more…)