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Books versus Bytes

by Archives February 5, 2008

OTTAWA (CUP) — “There’s a little thing I like to call books,” smiled Carleton journalism professor, David Tait, as I scrambled around St. Pat’s trying to correct a spelling error before submitting an assignment.
I misspelled the name of a lake in the Northwest Territories, but the saintly Mr. Tait caught the error and sent me off on a wild goose chase to fix it before my official deadline.
But where was the first place I searched for the proper spelling?
Google, of course.
The all-knowing search engine has taken the 21st-century by storm and most of us can hardly remember life without it.
So when I rushed back to Mr. Tait’s office, thrust my assignment forward and said that all of these places were spelled correctly according to Google Maps, all he could do was chuckle and hand me an atlas.
My point is not that I’m a miserable speller or a poor listener or a bad journalist.
My point is that I (and I choose to assume I’m not the only one) rely far too heavily on the Internet for just about everything.
Just this morning, I awoke to find neither my cable or Internet functioning properly, and I could hardly figure out what to do with myself.
How was I going to contact Rogers without 411.ca?
I needed to call my editor for another assignment, but her telephone number was nestled safely in the security of my Gmail account.
I now had to walk to school to use the computers on campus, but could hardly fathom venturing outside without first knowing the temperature, probability of precipitation and wind chill.
My entire day was thrown to the wolves when that ghastly little icon in the corner of my toolbar denied me online access.
Now, I pride myself on being well read. I boast a flourishing bookshelf and I read every night before bed. But I’m starting to realize the stock I’ve taken in the Internet reaches far beyond research and records. My whole life is online, and in the event of a belated Y2K meltdown, I would be, candidly, screwed.
Like I said, I am not the only one whose life is completely dependent on the Internet. According to Statistics Canada, more than 15 million adult Canadians use the Internet from home and almost two-thirds admit to using it at least once a day.
On a more scholarly note, we have handed over our retinas to the relentless glow of a computer screen, slouching at the thought of actually figuring out the Dewey Decimal system.
The physical search for a book in a library is growing obsolete as the quick-search process of Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves, Wikipedia (regrettably), or what-have-you is expanding outward and upward to accommodate our every query.
While it may be easier to do some clicking from our desks, if we stopped for a moment to realize that, yes, that map of the Northwest Territories is lurking somewhere in the library, we could reap the benefits of both mediums.
A visit to the library may be more time consuming, but the information would be unique from the cloned online sources and (gasp) accurate.
The Internet is certainly a useful tool, but those little things professor Tait likes to call books are still out there for the taking.

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