Pictures in your Wallet

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When I was going through highschool, it was a badge of honor to have a picture of your girlfriend in your wallet. (Dude, you’ve got a chick who actually talks to you? Well done!) 

When my daughter was born, it was the duty of a father to carry pictures of your kid with you everywhere you went – generally, in your wallet. (Dude, your kid is no where near as ugly as you. Well done!)

A friend of mine recently had a baby, and when I asked to see pictures he hauled out his phone.

My, how the world has changed.

In the world’s natural evolution, it seems that carrying things around has become archaic. Glossy pictures of your kids have been replaced by images on your phone. Hand-written letters from friends have been replaced by emails. Tattered, well loved, paperback books have been replaced by e-readers.

Of the above the thing that I find the most depressing is the loss of actual posted letters. When I was going through Depot (RCMP training academy) an old friend of mine sent me a letter in the mail, as a gag, complete with a picture of herself, and a healthy dose of perfume. It brought me a laugh and gave me a bit of peace in a fairly stressful stretch of time.

All of the paper things that used to mean so much to us have gone by the way-side. And one of the reasons I think they are a loss is because they no longer represent a tactile, human connect to the source from whence they came – the letters, especially.

The convenience of electronics has usurped the connection of paper, but I have to ask myself if this is a bad thing.

While I dearly love the feel, sentiment and connection behind a hand-written letter, they are not exactly convenient. My hand-writing looks like a drunken caterpillar danced across the page, stamps are expensive, and going to the post office is a pain in the ass. Emails on the other hand, are easy; I can type about 75 words a minute, so I can get a lot of thoughts down – a lot of love to my friends – in the space of about 5 minutes, and then have the message before them instantly. It makes it a lot easier to communicate with people, and ease of use means frequency of use. Frequency of use means a little more love and well-wishes to make your day a little better. This is a good thing.

I am a book purist; I don’t own a dedicated e-reader, and I won’t get one. I spend a large quantity of my life staring at words on a computer screen, and when I come home and sit down to read I prefer the soft light of a good lamp, and the feel of a book in my hand. That does not mean that I hate e-readers, in fact quite the opposite.

Being with a small publishing house, the print runs for the books are small and the books cost money to have them printed, so they have to be sold for a minimum amount of money so my publisher doesn’t have to feed her family dog food. But the e-books are inexpensive to publish, and equally inexpensive to sell – that means they get into the hands of more readers. This is a good thing.

There will always be space, and necessity, for the hardcopy, paper things in life, but I don’t think we should bemoan the progress of the electronic form.

Does the message in an email become invalid because it’s electronic instead of paper? I don’t think so.

Is a story less vivid because it’s read on a kindle instead of between two hard covers? No, don’t be silly. A story that scares the shit out of you or makes you laugh your ass off is still made up of the same words, no matter what medium you use to experience it.

Does a picture look duller because it’s on a phone instead of out of your wallet? Actually, it probably looks better.

The world is in a pretty deep state of flux, and no one really knows – especially with the publishing industry – what this is going to mean. But that doesn’t mean your letters shouldn’t be sent, or your story shouldn’t be written. It’s gonna be loved by someone, so you need to put it (them) out there.

Now, get busy. Some kid just got an e-reader for his birthday and needs a good story to teach him something.

As always, thanks for reading.