The Immortal Book
The Immortal Book
  • Park Yun-ji (ST Reporter)
  • 승인 2014.02.10 19:58
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  The struggle of humans to leave messages for later generations has resulted in the most astonishing invention ever: the book. From the first papyrus to codex to the present-day electronic information, the book started almost alongside the human genesis and has changed its outer format along with the changes in the human beings’ appearances. Humankind has always wanted to convey something to others. Unlike animals, the existence of their species has not been enough for
humans. They’ve always wanted to prove their existence by leaving something behind as a proof of it that will remain long after they’ve gone. The emergence of books is the result of this human desire, which is almost an instinct.

  Books are beautiful. The Medieval monks decorated their manuscripts as if they were jewel boxes. Our country’s old books are artworks in themselves. The letters are presented neatly and clearly. The paper used is high-quality hanji handmade from mulberry trees. With the advent of the technology for massive printing, books gained refinement but lost their unique individuality. Books, however, are still the most important products of the human mind, which have been conveniently stored on flexible, thin paper and have used the highly organized tool of elaborate language. Books are things of physical and psychological beauty. It is for this reason that humans love books.

  Of course, there are still questions about the perfectness of books as a way of storing information. To keep books safe and free from damage, a high degree of skill and steady caring are needed. Only those books that have been made with good materials, however, endure the test of time. Besides, books are delicate, vulnerable to water and fire. They became a sensation as they are portable and durable, but they still have limitations. It’s possible to preserve a book for more than 100 years, but it’s extremely difficult to do so.

  Ironically, the most primitive way of preserving human thoughts is the most effective way: carving them on stone. Stone tablets last for over a thousand years. The gravestone of King Kwanggaeto was built more than 1,500 years ago and people can still read the letters carved on it. The eBook is the opposite of carving human thoughts on stone because it’s light, handy, and a product of the newest technology while the other is heavy, massive, and a product of the oldest skill. eBooks, however, have a limitation, among others: they can break down. All the data can disappear without any trace for some unknown reason. Physical books and stones may wear out, but they are not subject to internal errors. Only machines make errors.

  People say that we’re now seeing the twilight of printed media. But there’s a rising concern about the decrease in the number of people who read or in the amount of reading that people do. Do people really no longer read books? I don’t think so. Books have been everywhere for ages, in the form of stone tablets, bundles of parchment paper, or electronic images on thin, high-tech devices. No matter what they look like, what’s important is that they still exist.

  The existence of books is still the same, however, the position of books are definitely going down. When the printing was the only way to preserve information, book and documentary were the most effective way to carry out cultural exchange and interchange beyond age. Oral tradition has risk to make distortion in details. (But orally passed story can make various version of story still remaining the fundamental trait.) Therefore, complex and exquisite idea and information is inherited by books. For the books can be copied without deformation. Then the emergence of digital device and audiovisual document brought sensation to traditional way of passing the knowledge. The era of image came. The concentration ability to print type continually decreased and yet, future of book isn’t the thing we need to worry about.

  Books are immortal. They’re constantly revived in various shapes and forms. Today’s physical book made from paper is not the perfect book form, but nor is the eBook. Whatever their form, there will always be books. History won’t exist without them. It seemed the position of books got weaken and weaken, but the truth is the excessive inflow of text. There are too many channels where people can get the knowledge. What we need is not the source of knowledge but time to understand
knowledge. Fallen position of books is mainly due to the lacking time to digest the text, while the text are heavily pouring out. Book is slow and constant media, whereas people are busy and urgent living their life.

  As long as humankind exists, so will books. They will evolve as technology develops. We may have hologram books in the future, or books in the form of brainwaves. If humans keep progressing, so will books. We don’t have to worry about their disappearance. What we have to worry about is
not the loss of books but the loss of the human spirit: man’s thinking ability and insights about the future; in other words, man’s humanity 


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