clearskies, bluewater

Insights, reflections and creative imaginings for our awakening world

Relics, artifacts and books


A new phenomenon has arrived on street corners here and there in the United States and England. You may have seen small, sometimes cleverly decorated boxes, much like an old-fashioned postbox, with a sign offering “Free Books, take one or leave one.” When I first discovered these in England last summer, I was sincerely charmed. What a gracious, lovely idea, to freely share books among the populace. By now, however, I have realized a darker (more sinister?) side to this free book giveaway.

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Are book giveaways as innocent as they seem?

Perhaps it is obvious to some of you already, dear Readers, that one probable reason for all these free book giveaways is, there are simply millions of books floating around in the hemisphere, and not enough people reading them. Books are starting to enter the classification of relics, artifacts from a time fast disappearing, when people loved and enjoyed them, carried them around, re-read them, passed them on to family and friends.

The age of technology has its merits and its drawbacks. In an extraordinarily short span of human time, computers have entrenched themselves in our collective psyche like a virus infecting a body, deeply and somehow irreversibly. The powers-that-make-technology in our world are working hard to make sure that everyone alive is signed up on the plan. That means every man, woman and child, no matter how young or old, is to be inextricably hooked into the beast of technology forever more. They are pushing to make sure babies are weaned from the breast to the computer screen, that no hand goes without a computerized phone-internet-camera-toaster-oven-what-have-you device, and the list just goes on ad infinitum and ad nauseam.

The death of bound books is nearly inevitable in our lifetimes, I lament. Not only is it a sad commentary on the state of our society, but just a sad thought altogether. When all the written words are available only on virtual screens or in your eyeglasses or whatever, how will that affect us as a people; our thinking, our motor skills, our ideas about life? The implications are truly enormous if one ponders them. What will become of libraries, our esteemed repository of the worlds’ wisdom, literature and knowledge? What will become of us?

The digital age we find ourselves in today has vast implications for our world. One of the most maddening is the inevitable loss of sensory perception and basic motor skills. Young children who most need to develop these skills as their bodies are growing and changing the most are at risk of not learning them, and that affects their brain development and basically their whole physiognomy. Using a keyboard or touch screen does not do the same job for developing bodies and minds as making sure a child can pick up a pencil or scissors and use them effectively. I shudder to think of how tomorrow’s children will manage in the physical world of which they are still a part. What will humans do when they have lost the ability to use their hands, their fingers, their bodies?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

Will children in the future still know how to read bound books?

The world is changing so fast right now, society itself is spinning ever faster on its axis. I am watching it happen, even as I am turning into a relic of the past, along with bound books and dead philosophers. I admit that I do not wish to live in a world without books, sensory stimulus, physicality. I was born into physicality and I will remain within it for the rest of this lifetime. Probably I sound hideously old-fashioned, like those parents who frowned disapprovingly upon early rock and roll music and its proponents. And yet. This new technology age is profoundly disturbing. It seems we have been sold a bill of goods, yet what have we really purchased– if not the death of our souls?


Author: SingingBones

When we sing over the bones, we are calling the wild nature, the instinctive soul back, singing it alive again. To live with our wildness intact, is the greatest gift a woman can give herself. "It is the holy poetry and singing we are after." C.P. Estes

7 thoughts on “Relics, artifacts and books

  1. Hi. I am also thoughtful about this change upon us. I have a personal library of about 2000 books so I am obviously interested in ‘real’ books, but I also have a growing library of e-books. Downsizing also means finding someone to take and use old books. I recently went to every archives in Canada to dispose of my collection of old school books and the universal response was that they already have one copy of the readers they were interested in. No one will take old encyclopaedia sets anymore. If you watch Star Trek, you know that Cptn. Picard will (!) love and collect old books. Jane


    • Hi Jane. I love Captain Picard, one of my true heroes. I guess I am getting left behind in the dust of the 21st century but I just love so many things that seem to be going by the wayside of life now. Anyway, thanks for reading, and thanks for being up there in Canada, making lovely things and providing stability and inspiration to many people. You are a blessing in this world! Leigh


  2. Agreed — it’s sad to think print publishing is quite probably a thing of the past. Great stuff.


  3. I think the jury’s still out on this one. Yes, publishing is changing, has changed, will change. Magazines, newspapers, books–they’ll change, maybe newspapers or magazines will gradually migrate to digital platforms. I do know no one wants old textbooks, old encyclopedias–the information in them gets outdated.

    But. How many people do you know are passionate about newspapers, or magazines? Now how many people do you know are passionate about books?

    I think books will be less common in schools, less common for informational texts. But I think there will be a place for art books, creative books, illustrated children’s books, novels, etc….for quite some time to come. There is something very personal about a printed book, and while books can be waterlogged or burned, they are no more and perhaps less ephemeral than digital media which can be corrupted in many ways and would become irretrievable if the power grids died.

    Change is unstoppable, but need not be detrimental. I am not ready to ring the book’s death knell just yet.


    • God I pray you are right about this, Ann!! the tactile experience of having a bound book in hand is one of the great pleasures of my (and many others’) life.

      and the possibilities of high-quality magazines for their artistic value cannot be over-estimated. guess only time will tell…. thanks for your comments as always!!


  4. Yes, it is so sad to me, too. On a train from Exeter to London after visiting our dear granddaughter last year, I walked up and down the car to stretch my legs…I am not exaggerating….EVERYONE in the car (except me with a book) was on a smart phone….unbelievable..truly an addictive technology. We don’t have one for that very reason


    • Thanks, David B. and when I was on trains in Tuscany last year, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see so many reading books on the train!! so in some places, at least, they are still valued and used. Perhaps the crusade to save bound books will heat up in a similar way that permaculture and slow food is doing now, if we are very lucky…?


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