A Letter to My Grandchildren

Dear Theoretical Future Grandchildren,

Let’s get one thing straight, right off the bat. You had better not be calling me Pop Pop or Pappi or anything like that when you show up. I kinda despise kids that do that. “Grandpa” will do nicely, thank you very much.

But that isn’t what I wanted to write to you about. What I really wanted to say was this:

The future is bound to be a pretty cool place overall. In just the past ten years I’ve seen innovations in technology that seem almost miraculous. I don’t even want to guess what kind of cool stuff is going to come out in the twenty to thirty years its going to take for you guys to show up.

But something about this boom in technology makes me a little sad. See, we have these relatively new things now called eReaders. I’m relatively sure you’re not calling them that in the future, but basically they’re screens you can carry around read books on. They will probably also shoot lasers and teleport you to the moon by the time you read this, but for now they mostly just read books.

I like these eReader things. They’re convenient, and they’ve opened doors for starting out authors like me to find an audience with minimal starting expense. But I feel it is almost certain they’re going to supplant physical books almost entirely by the time you get here.

I’m sure you know what physical books are. You’ve probably seen them in movies and chances are you’ll still be able to buy them in thrift stores and consignment shops and the like.

But I was standing in a book store the other day thinking about you, wondering if you would have the chance to experience the same thing I experienced in my lifetime. Because, maybe I’m just being sentimental or superstitious, but when I stand in the middle of rows and rows of bookshelves, when I look around and see all those millions of pages laid back to back, when I think of all the effort those authors put into their works, I get a little chill that shoots up the top of my spine and explodes in my head like an Independence Day firecracker. It seems almost as if I can feel the raw power of the words around me, multiplied by their proximity to each other until I can almost hear them whispering, trying to tell my their stories directly through the aether that surrounds us all.

And I wonder, will you have the chance to experience that? Maybe you will. Maybe the thought of having all the great works of literature (and most of the bad ones) literally at your fingertips will give you a thrill of excitement that could rival my own experience.

But I think it far more likely that you will have grown so accustomed to the wonders of technology that it will all mean very little to you. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just human nature. Our sense of wonder turns to boredom far too quickly.

And that’s why I’m writing this letter. Because I want you to be able to close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like to be able to stand in a place where a myriad words huddled together like frightened refugees, waiting to be read, waiting to be brought alive in the mind of some boy or girl, man or woman.

Your future may be a wonderful place, but always remember that when something wonderful is found, something equally wonderful is often lost.

With love,

Your Theoretical Future Grandfather

10 responses to “A Letter to My Grandchildren

  1. Completely understand how you feel about books. They are beautiful things. I love them too. However we have to look at the way we produce them. At the moment publishers guess how many they think they’ll sell of a particular title, print them, sell them to book shops and then buy back the ones that don’t sell after a month or so and pulp them. I love books, but I love trees too.

  2. It sort of awes me to think of where we all with technology and words. When I read about history, I’m always reminded that for most of the periods I’m reading about, the people I’m exploring only had access to books if they were wealthy and educated, and even then only in limited numbers because many were recopied by hand. As someone who has never known what it is like to NOT be able to go to the library or walk in the bookstore, that astounds me. Will future generations of eReaders look at the fact that we HAD to go to the library or bookstores up until recently in the same way?

  3. Awesome paragraph about the stories whispering at us. I feel the same way. And though a story is a story, I feel like there’s more connection and affection when you’re holding the pages in your hands.
    Also, I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I think it’d be incredible if I could insert holographic images into my books one day.

  4. My children are teens, and I see so many things missing in their lives that were so important to mine. From playing in the streets until dark with no parents in sight to riding our bicycles five miles to the country store to buy a 2 cent candy to setting smoke bombs off in the school bathrooms and TP-ing the principal’s car. All of that fun has been replaced by paranoia, computer games, and zero tolerance policies. I’m so glad my kids will at least remember bookstores.

    Along with antique quilts and grandmother’s china, I have trunks full of books saved for my grandchildren. I’m so sad that they will never know what it is to stand in a room full of paper whispers.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post.

  5. Nice job. And I agree with Ellie; that one paragraph is major.

  6. What a lovely post! There is something so special about the physicality of a book.
    Just holding on to the corner of the page and anxiously waiting to see whats written
    on the next…magic!

  7. Some twenty or more years ago, there were conversations about the demise of good writing. Some writers and teachers believed that the advent of word processing and computer programs fostered work of lesser quality. First drafts had the appearance of finished papers. No one would ever rewrite.

    Perhaps it’s true that the quality of what is published has diminished. I am often appalled at poor grammar or thoughtless headings in the morning paper. Where was the editor? Did the writer forget spell check? I confess I am accustomed to the ease of working at my computer–the quick purge of mistakes, cutting and pasting without scissors or glue, change of font or format. Yet, there are times when I take out yellow pad and sharpened pencil. Nothing else will do. I need the slowness of tool to match the slowness of mind.

    Like others, I look at eReaders and wonder what the future holds for books, libraries, education. I love books, the printed page, the texture of paper, the imprint of words, the smell of binding on a new book, the ability to open to any page and search for a specific passage or line. If my budget allowed, I would read only hardcovers.

    Much as I would hate to witness the demise of the printed page, eReaders expand the opportunities for engaging the written word. My oldest granddaughter struggles with text. She can pronounce the words on a page but the content escapes her. However, when she hears someone else read those same words, a story, idea, or meaning magically appears. eReaders that speak are a gift to those who struggle with text!

    For Christmas, my siblings and I purchased a Nook for our eighty year old mother. While raising the four of us, she never had time to read a book, except to me, the eldest. About three years ago, Mom started reading and is making up for lost time. We can’t buy or borrow books fast enough to match the voracity with which she reads. Reading is her passion, and she reads everything a book’s cover can contain! However, arthritis makes holding books hard for her. The print of mass markets challenges her eyes. Her Nook means she never runs out of reading material and can hold onto the largest tome.

    Yes, I will be very sad if we lose books as we know them, but I will be sadder still if the stories within them are no longer available because of a reader’s age, disability, or a story’s packaging. Both of my grandmothers lost their sight and relied on recorded books to keep up with their reading. I spend a lot of time in my car and rely on books on CD to keep me company. It is the words of others that I value, their thoughts, their insights, their opinions. eReaders are just another tool to keep on hearing what others say.

  8. Great write and I love how you created this story. I don’t have one of the techological products that allow humans to read books. I love holding a book in my hand and turning the pages.

  9. You had me at “Theoretical Future Grandchildren.”

    I love books and have written about how I have resisted buying an eReader. That said, there are now books only being released on eReaders, so now what’s a real book-loving, page turning girl to do?

    Fabulous to meet you.

  10. It’s sad that printed books would be a lost art. Kinda like letter writing. I’m sure that once they sort out the issues with ebooks, there would a lot of people switching from hard copy to ebooks.

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