I remember this local store in my hometown that my parents used to visit nearly every week in some capacity or other. I couldn’t tell you what the store sold specifically. In my memory, perceptually distorted now (way) more than twenty years later, the shop seemed like perhaps an antique store, or a place similarly cluttered. I was never interested in what they sold in the front. When we visited, I went to the back, where there were four walls that were bookshelves, floor to ceiling, of used books. There was a hush that fell when you walked into the back of that store, as though the words, thoughts and ideas contained within those thousands of pages absorbed the stress of the outside world. I loved going there. My love of bookstores began at an early age, and have stayed with me since.
Today, I still love visiting used bookstores. I have other motivators now, as well…namely, that I would much prefer to give my business to a local establishment. This is the same reason that I make every effort to buy my comic books from local shops, as well, even though I find reading them digitally to be quite addictive.
This weekend, I watched our daughter run and squeal excitedly through the children’s section of our local library. I am thrilled that she is thrilled around books. She brings them to us, asks to sit on Daddy’s lap and have a book read to her. I want her to fall more and more in love with books every day.
The reason that I’m excited by new media is that it makes possible the discovery of great art, important ideas and critical information to those who quite possibly would not have had this access in the beginning. Yet, this leaves me torn at times. I was exploring our same library’s ebook offerings this weekend, and found them sorely disappointing. When I decide to buy a new book, the first place I go is to my Nook. I would rather download and click than turn pages. I think that it is wonderful to have access to great books in this way. And, all the while, I’m cognizant that we may be losing something important in the transition. In the interest of balance, I try to do things like visit used book stores regularly.
Still, this passing concern re-surfaced over the weekend when I read this article about the controversy over the first sale doctrine. This court case is fascinating as it depicts how our legal system struggles to keep pace with technological innovations. We’re potentially at risk of legal action with the most innocent and natural usages of our technology, it would seem, and even those who prefer to purchase our media legally aren’t safe.
Of course, this brings us around to the issue of big businesses controlling artistic expression in the name of profit, as well, but that is a topic for at least one of its own posts.
One of two things needs to happen: either our legal system needs to keep pace, or our innovation must slow. I don’t want innovation to slow, for exactly the benefits that I mentioned earlier. And, I don’t think that it will. I know that I want our daughter to enjoy the same freedom of passing books and music that she loves between friends and family as I did in my childhood. I want that to be even easier for her than it was for me, and I don’t want legal tripwires to prevent that from being a part of her life, or to limit it in her life.
I think that it might, though, if we don’t learn to speed this process up a bit.