Buying books at the beginning of each semester is one of those experiences that crushes your soul and drains the blood from your face. While the three bookstores in Oxford compete for students’ business, the overall realization that the personal expense is going to be astronomically high wherever you go usually overshadows any potential deals or price differences between the stores.
It’s hard to justify spending hundreds of dollars on books that I know I’m going to be half-heartedly flipping through and silently giving the finger to when reading assignments begin piling up midway through the first week of classes. At the same time, buying all of the books and arranging them on my desk makes me feel productive, and like I’ve accomplished something with my education, when really it’s just a clever ruse. Somehow I’ve been able to trick myself into thinking that since I own the book, I automatically know everything in it. Needless to say, I’m digging myself a pretty nice grave with this one.
However, the sense of ownership that comes with purchasing books is interesting to consider. Because I have a physical copy of a text, it allows me to have a relationship with the words themselves-as strange as that sounds. I can curl up with it in bed, shove it in my backpack, underline the parts I like, write notes, throw it across the room, sit on it, use it as a coaster, make sandwiches on it … the possibilities are endless.
When you think about it, the same is true for any print media. The fact that thousands of copies are produced so that each person can have their own newspaper, book or magazine to read at their leisure generates a special interaction between the words on a page and the context and environment in which they are read and understood.
While it is a widely accepted fact that newspapers are facing a decline in readership, bookstore chains like Barnes & Noble are still successful in today’s economy. People still crave the interaction between the crisp sheets of paper and the precisely typed words that march across the page, but something has changed in the way that we use the written word.
Technological advances that have allowed for 24-hour news coverage render a daily newspaper somewhat useless. Online news sites have the capability of being constantly updated and revised, and since our lives seem to revolve around computers, access to the news has become open to anyone with an Internet connection. The Internet does have its faults: namely the problem of finding credible sources and the question of what sites you can trust.
The credibility that is associated with a book or textbook is one of the most appealing characteristics of print media. As readers, we assume that if an author is published and his works are widely distributed, the author is knowledgeable and trustworthy. We all know what happens when assumptions are made; my favorite example is the confusion generated when Dan Brown published The DaVinci Code and included the disclaimer in the beginning of the book professing its contents to be fictional, yet many people took the book to be a complete exposé of the church.
From an environmental perspective, the fact that newspaper readership is down is a step in the right direction. Although we are still heavily dependent on books, the costs associated with them are adding up-not only in terms of affects on college students, but on forests and the way we use our resources in general. While reading off of a screen is not as personable and does not create the same intimate relationship with the text as holding the book in your lap, I don’t think I’m going be the only one not complaining if I don’t have to spend $600 every semester for textbooks.
The less waste we can produce as a society is more beneficial to reducing our impact on our surrounding world. Relying on the Internet for communication not only lessens the amount of trees we need to make paper, but it also allows people to be more globally connected. By creating a global network and sense of consciousness, we can begin to view the impact of our actions and choices on a broader scale. Our role as global citizens is a responsibility that we need to accept in order to make progress in the future.