A Doug's Life: Just Read, Baby

They say you can't judge a book by its cover. That's OK.

I'd rather judge it by the words inside anyway.

This came to mind the other day, when I was privileged to be guest speaker at a meeting of the Friends of the Sun City Library. It was my first time inside the beautiful building, which is only a couple years old and gets plenty of use.

My message to those in attendance was about the value of the written word, whether bound in published book form, assembled in a three-ring notebook, printed in a newspaper or magazine, or floating about somewhere online. Maybe I was preaching to the choir, but I never grow tired of talking about the value of diversified communication.

That has become a hot topic these days, whether you're talking about communication via the Internet on a laptop, on an iPhone, in a text message or in the pages of a good old-fashioned hard-bound book. Each day, people debate which form of written communication is more valuable and whether any of them should be diminished or eliminated.

If you ask me, the bottom line is this: Each format serves a useful purpose, should be valued for what it is, and should be used efficiently as a supplement to the others.

Think about it. You're reading this Menifee 24/7 column on a website, right? You won't find this article printed on paper you can pick up at a news rack. It isn't sitting somewhere on the shelf of the Sun City Library. But you can access it at that library and anywhere else that has an Internet connection. Does that make it more or less valuable than a printed article?

I say neither -- just different. Menifee 24/7 and all the information published here serves a valuable purpose in informing and entertaining members of the community. It distributes news that is covered nowhere else by traditional print media, primarily because of the limited resources of some newspapers in today's economy. Even so, print publications that cover Riverside County communities continue to serve a useful purpose.

Having worked as a professional journalist for 30 years, I never thought I would see the day I would rather read the news on my iPhone than by unfolding a newspaper with the same content. Why? Because I can stuff my phone into my pocket and easier than I can a copy of the L.A. Times. Also because my phone updates every few minutes and the print paper only once every 24 hours.

Even so, there are purposes served by the print version of the news that I can't get anywhere else. Have you ever tried pasting a copy of your iPhone screen into a scrapbook for safekeeping?

The walls of my home office are lined with bookshelves holding hundreds of my favorite books. Some are paperback; most are original hardbound copies. I have accumulated these over the course of a lifetime and I refuse to get rid of them, even if I've read them several times. Ask my wife, who gets dizzy just walking in there.

I think the thing that aggravates her most is that I keep adding to the collection. Sure, I have downloaded a few books to my phone for convenience's sake, but I suspect I will never grow tired of the feeling of turning pages in a book and reaching into the shelves for a favorite title I can both see and touch.

The epitome of publishing is when electronic communication and traditional print communication complement one another. You may not realize it, but it happens all the time.

When I first started researching my family history several years ago, I began with family journals and handwritten letters. That led me to Internet search engines and message boards, which contained listings of library collections.

Many of these private genealogies have not been converted into digital form. Some are handwritten or typed and are the only surviving copies, sitting on a library shelf somewhere. But using the vast resources of the Internet, I can find them and go where the words are.

That is why I spent hours poking through the shelves of libraries in North Carolina a few years ago, reading the words written by distant cousins I discovered first through the Internet, then in detail through the actual printed document.

So whether you're into eBooks, dog-eared paperbacks or that precious decades-old reference book, do yourself a favor and just keep reading. Read at home, at the office, at your local library or wherever possible.

And remember to give thanks for people like Jim Dunlevey, who this week completed a 12-year stint as president of the Friends of the Sun City Library, and Linda Denver, the group's new president. Through the hard work of these individuals and others, the Menifee community has a new library building, a wonderful library collection, and many community programs promoting reading.

One of those will take place this Saturday, Jan. 21, when the library hosts its first meet and greet event featuring local authors. Fifteen authors from the Menifee area will be at the library from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., giving residents a chance to meet and chat with them.

Take advantage of such opportunities. Visit the Sun City Library when you get a chance. And most of all ... read, read, read.


Post a Comment