The Switch to the 21st Century in Books and History

There is no doubt in my mind that writing manuscripts are an art. Not only is it beautiful to look at, but it takes so much time, effort, and skill to create books as Medieval monks did. Working in the book arts lab this semester has given me time to reflect on the access that we must books today and how little effort it takes to create the book compared to the work put in during the Medieval period. The weeks the creators would put in not to write but to create the books they did were amazing.

One of the more interesting discussions that we have had in class was the value of digital books and the implications of moving on from printed books. There is a level of sentimentality that comes with owning the physical copy of a book. I like turning the pages, seeing progress while reading, and keeping a bookshelf in my room of books that I like or that I think have an excellent cover; I will always try and buy a physical book over getting the digital copy. What I believe is most appealing about digital books for most people is the access and storage. Companies such as Amazon and Kobo put out e-readers in the form of a small tablet easy to store and with the ability to hold hundreds of books in one device. Most of the class came to the same conclusions as I did, with many people preferring physical copies of books over digital. What we all agreed on was the fact that electronic books have helped to create more access to information and fiction to a wide variety of people. Older generations tend to steer towards electronic copies of books due to the ability to change the font size or have their entire collection of books all in one place. With the introduction to buying online, it’s also faster to have the books downloaded to tablets than to buy the book at a store or wait to be shipped to their house.

Suarez reading about electronic books describes the electronic book as a revolution in reading. In some ways, I think that it could be thought of that way, but I also believe that for it to be a revolution in reading, the entire system of reading would have to change completely and the way we absorb the information. An e-book is the same as a regular book just placed on a tablet, and the tablet even tried to mimic a book with the animations of turning a page, the font looks the same, and there are all the same aspects of a printed book. For there to have been a revolution of reading, the method that we have been using for the past few decades would have changed entirely.

It is also interesting to see the shift to digital media in books and public spaces like museums. Many museums are switching to digital explanations or audio tours instead of handing out a booklet or having people use the guides written on the wall. I work at the Diefenbunker in Carp, where older systems are in place to guide people through the museum. I work as a tour guide, and we have several volunteers who worked at the bunker when it first opened who are a wealth of information. What I am noticing more and more is that people coming into the museum much prefer the audio or self-guided tours more frequently. We have audio tours available for them to self-guide through the bunker while listening to the voice in their ear telling them about the building and the history behind it. The revolution of technology in a historical setting helps create inclusivity and allows for room to interpret different events personally. Again, I prefer having a person guide me through or explain a possibility to me as I like to hear their insight and the personal details they can bring to the experience over a recording.

Overall, technology has become a staple in almost everyone’s life at some point or another, and it would be tough to move backwards from it. When examining how books have been affected by technology, the easiest thing to look at would be e-books or audiobooks that many people prefer over the physical copies of books. There are still people in the world that like to have the physical book in their hands, but it is widespread for someone to switch to the digital versions altogether. History is beginning to shift to the digital world through museums, archives, and historical projects intended to continue teaching the public while keeping up with trends to keep people interested. It will be interesting to see how far history can be brought into the future with technology.