The power of a story transcends its medium.
At least, that is a statement we should all abide by.
A story is a world.
Its medium is the door you use to enter that world.
Does it matter whether that door is wood or steel?
I am, of course, referring to the ongoing battle of the book VS the E-book. A story VS a story.
Sit there for a moment and close your eyes.
You're sitting on a train, the grey of tower blocks blurring into green pastures, and you look down. The words you hold in your hand transform into a new world of whatever your aspiration demands; a school of wizards constructed by JK Rowling, a snowy land beyond the cupboard of C.S. Lewis' mind, even Neil Gaiman's vast imagination unfolded deep below the London you know. The words are so delicately chosen, so precise in their place, that your mind creates an entirely new universe. You are no longer on a Midlands train to Leeds departing from the everyday constraints of Liverpool Street, you are on a steam engine in the Scottish Highlands, you are an aristocrat in Victorian England, you are unlocking the clues to a murder with a detective from 221b Baker Street.
But what's this? Suddenly the words have taken a twist. You are now fighting for your life, or fighting for your values. The villain is grasping for your throat, the man you love is suddenly engaged to another, and Mrs Havisham has set herself alight!
The passengers stare at you, with neither disgust nor surprise, as your face expresses the shocks of the events unfolding beneath your fingers. They too, have experienced that feeling, as have their parents, and their parents' parents. Timeless tales told through generations; a shared experience around the world. Somewhere across the globe, many a parent owes it to these tales to woo their children to sleep.
The stories of Micheal Morporgo transport children into such devastating truths, conveying such important messages, but in such a sensitive way that no improvised speech could possibly convey. A single horse in No Man's Land; a German on one side and an Englishman on the other. They work together to save the horse from the tangle of wire mesh. For one moment, in the tragedy of World War 2, humanity prevails.
The stories of George Orwell transport adults into such devastating truths, conveying important messages, but in such a powerful way that no improvised speech could possibly convey. A single farmhouse in the English countryside; animals on one side and a list on the other. It reads 'all animals are equal...but some are more equal than others.' In one sentence, written in a farmhouse, by pigs, Stalin's Russia is summarised. Evil prevails.
Your train is now half way there, and so is the plot.
The main character is caught in a predicament that makes you genuinely anxious. How is it that a person can feel so passionate about printed words? What is this real world that people talk about when you have a story like this?
The words mingle together to create paths. The paths wind together to form cities of paragraphs. The paragraphs join together to create an entire country of chapters. The chapters form to create continents of stories. The stories form to create a world ignorant of grim reality.
Open your eyes. I just created a story. A story about stories, yes, but a story none the less. I took you on a journey with the power of words. From London to Leeds, chapter to chapter.
As long as you have the story with you, you can always escape the stresses of reality and jump into a universe all your own. Sometimes, you escape your stresses by embracing the stresses of a fictional character. The relation you feel with these imaginative entities feels so real that 'fiction' seems only a label given out of envy.
Accordingly, 18% of planet Earth cannot read. Think about that for a moment. More than a tenth of all people do not have the choice of escaping their horrors. They cannot feel the ground beneath their feet being swept away and replaced with the flow of an intricate plot. They cannot be whisked into the wonders of a world without the limits of everyday conviction. They cannot share their suffering with Oliver Twist.
Surely it is wrong of us not to engage with literature when so many of the world's human beings are deprived of it? We should take it upon ourselves to share literature and teach others of its power. Take the opportunity by the scruff of the neck.
It seems a first world argument as to who that scruff belongs too, however. Paper or technology? Old or new? We owe so much to the ink, to the pixels; to the words, that as you look up from the fantastical ending of your story and see you have reached Leeds, you wonder to yourself; surely the argument should not be the medium, but 'Should I immerse myself in Steinbeck or Fitzgerald?'
And if your argument is one of defense for the book industry, consider that 'Books are no more threatened by Kindle than stairs by elevators.'
The literate genius Stephen Fry said that.
Still not convinced?
"A picture is worth a thousand words." We are told.
Tell me, does that picture only have the value of five hundred words when it is presented digitally? Absolutely not. If anything, the contagious power of social networking probably makes its value increase to five hundred more. So why should a book, a device of imagery no less, be any different? Why should we refuse to acknowledge a word constructed by pixels when it represents the same image as a word constructed by ink?
Whichever way you choose, go ahead and lose yourself in a fictional expedition. Dare to walk through a doorway; steel, wood or otherwise.
About Author / Additional Info:
An enthusiastic writer currently studying A Levels, I have a strong passion for politics and its academic branches, but also am an immensely keen writer of a broad variety of subjects.