Which is the “Most Massively Useful” the E-Book or the Towel? *

In Inspiration, Random, Writing on April 22, 2013 at 10:11 pm

I have shelves and shelves and boxes on boxes and piles of books. Saying I have a lot of books just doesn’t cover it. I have collected books over the years because they hold a story or information that I may one day need or want to read. I don’t own any books that I haven’t read except for a few that I have on my desk and nightstand that I am in the process of reading. Oh, there is also one in the car. I also have a Kindle and on my Kindle there are more books. Over one hundred novels and non-fiction books are stored on this one small device with a purple leather cover.

I adore both forms of the written word but here is what I have found. When I want information most of the time I hit a few keys on my keyboard or I browse the internet from my phone. Unless it is something very specific that is hidden in one of my many tomes, I usually can find the information that I need out on the World Wide Web.  As a person that is for the most part self-taught and 50 years old, I remember visiting the library whenever I had a question or wanted to research a subject. I would search through the stacks for the information I needed and sometimes I would find the book, check it out and carry it home. There were other times when the book was not available and I had to request it from another library and within a few days they would send it over. This process would prove frustrating to me when I was impatient for the answers that I was seeking. Now I push a few buttons and there is my answer.

The point I am trying to make is that I agree with Neil Gaiman. Amazon and Google are not the enemy. Future generations will learn faster and more effectively than ever before. The rate that we absorb information is astounding and ebooks and digital content provide us with the answers we seek almost instantaneously. Do I still want to lay in the bath with a “real” book? Yes. Will I still buy “real” books? Yes. But at the same time I find it fascinating to watch this new era of information gathering grow.

What do you think? Are ebooks and digital content improving our quest for knowledge or giving us too much for our tired brains to handle?

* The towel reference for those of you who don’t know is from The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy By Douglas Adams. Here is the expert ont he towel that I found on WikiQuote

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few things to say on the subject of towels.
    A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have.
     Partly it has great practical value — you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble‐sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand‐to‐hand‐combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you — daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.
  • More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: nonhitchhiker) discovers that a hitchhiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, washcloth, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet-weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitchhiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitchhiker might have accidentally “lost.”. What the strag will think is that any man that can hitch the length and breadth of the Galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through and still know where his towel is, is clearly a man to be reckoned with.
  • Hence a phrase that has passed into hitchhiking slang, as in “Hey, you sass that hoopy Ford Prefect? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is.” (Sass: know, be aware of, meet, have sex with; hoopy: really together guy; frood: really amazingly together guy.)


Also here is a reminder: Towel Day is May 25th. Participants carry their towel with them all day to honor the late great Douglas Adams.

BTW I have this book on my book shelf.

  1. […] Which is the “Most Massively Useful” the E-Book or the Towel? * ( […]

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