What Star Trek got Right and Wrong about Books

What Star Trek got Right and Wrong about Books

When you have to many books

Living in a Silicon Valley cottage it became clear that something was going to have to go.  Unfortunately for me that meant that my wife’s and my rather large collection of books was on the chopping block.  So one weekend we took to sorting what we had accumulated over our many years of reading/collecting, this one we couldn’t part with, that one we wouldn’t re-read so it was out!  We ended-up with many, many boxes.  Some were to be taken to the used book store to be sold, fitting since that was were most had come from.  The rest plus the unsold ones were donated to our local charity where we hoped they would find a new home.  We thought this was likely since my wife, a first grade teacher was parting with many of her children’s books.

Why do so many people have an emotional attachment to books?  We collect and display them even though we know the chances of re-reading them are slim to none.  Yet it is undeniable that many of us get a sense of emotional well being being surrounded by the sight of our books on their bookshelves.  Rarely have I ever even taken any of my old books down to glance through them, yet the thought of getting rid of them filled me with apprehension.  Is it because they say something about us?  More then once I found my friends looking at my books, I can imagine what they were thinking, “Of course he would have that one, that is so him.”  Or perhaps it is because of the emotional investment we have in them, long nights spent reading a good story when we really should be asleep getting ready for the next day.  Or perhaps it is the intellectual investment of puzzling through an authors thoughts to find the meaning, and to judge him or her worthy of our time.

Star Trek and the future of books

Mr. Spock would not be amused.  Realistically given modern technology, even in the 21st Century, books are archaic. They take-up a ton of space, they are heavy and inconvenient to carry, they are expensive and they unnecessarily use resources in ways that are bad for the environment (they take energy of produce and move, the dyes used to make white paper are often toxic etc).

Star Trek’s library computer is a much better way to handle this.  Cheap, efficient and much better at handling information than our stupid books.  In the 1960’s Star Trek was probably the first exposure most people had to the idea of digitizing information.  Indexable, searchable, space and energy efficient, what else would you have on a star ship? Yet it is clear that someone had the same angst as me, hence we have Mr. Cogley. 



“If time wasn’t so important I’d show you something, my library, thousands of books!”

Wouldn’t you think that Star Trek’s technological visionaries would be gong ho about the library computer?  But here we have an anti-technology rant in favor of good old fashioned books.  Of course the people who made Star Trek are artist and writers, who is going to love books more than a writer?  Star Trek has always been about humanism and the plight of Men and Women in the face of an at best indifferent and sometimes violent universe.  With anger lurking around every corner you will need the comfort of books.

And that is why we now have about a dozen boxes of books in our storage unit.


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