By Alan Graner
When my daughter was born I did two things. First, I stored that day’s newspaper. I knew she’d get a kick out of what happened the day she was born, what movies were playing, even the ads.
Second, I taped that day’s news.
On her 16th birthday I gave my daughter the newspaper. She was thrilled. The tape? I trashed it. It was a Betamax and no longer readable..
What’s the moral of this story?
Paper doesn’t change. Technology does. The data I once stored on floppy disks and Zip disks are worthless because I can no longer access them. Who knows, in a few years maybe CDs and DVDs and PDFs will be obsolete and the data stored on them will become unreadable.
Oh sure, there will always be conversion processes, but how much data would you really want converted? How much would you be willing to lose?
Yeah, paper is perishable. When the ancient library in Alexandria, Egypt, burned, countless irreplaceable Greek and Roman manuscripts were lost forever. Water destroys paper, as does humidity, bacteria and old age. The original written Hebrew Bible no longer exists. But the Dead Sea Scrolls do.
Today we’re in the age of digitized books that are conveniently delivered to Kindles and iPads. A library that once required walls of bookshelves can be stored on a single handheld reader.
What happens when this technology changes (and you know it will). All the works will be converted to new media once again.
Which books will be transferred to the new media? Masterpieces of course. But what of guilty pleasures like romance and mystery novels? Soft porn and Wild West dime novels? Will they be considered too frivolous to justify conversion?
And who will determine what is preserved?
In the past we’ve had self-appointed censors burning books, but only a few copies were destroyed. The books still existed in countless libraries.
But what if a dictator decides some books are “too dangerous” to be converted? Will they disappear? Will pirate conversion shops arise to preserve banned books?
This is not an anti-technology diatribe. I’m writing this on a computer and publishing it electronically in the cloud. A few years ago few could access it. Today millions can.
Someday soon the paperless society will no doubt emerge, and we will gain increased productivity and efficiency and the ability to access information and entertainment instantly.
The question is: what will we lose?
What are your thoughts?
Alan Graner is Chief Creative Officer at Daly-Swartz Public Relations, an Orange County, CA marketing communications firm. If you want a PR campaign that combines new technology with old-fashioned