Almost a month ago, I purchased the new and improved Apple iPad. I decided to go all the way and buy one with 64GB of memory, a Retina display that includes Apple Care (if you know me, you know all of my gadgets must be double-wrapped with Otter boxes), and a matching Apple case. I made the typical purchase that a person in our industry would make. Now that I own four Apple products – all of which practically do the same thing, and are sitting between my office desk and home – I wonder if I’m becoming a brand-loyal consumer, a.k.a. brand-insatiable whore nibbling on the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. If I am becoming this person, when will I be expulsed from the false sanctuary of the Garden of Eden?
The main reasons why I got my iPad were to show my work when needed and to download and save some books that I could easily access when traveling. Having such convenience so close and reachable should make me feel like a kid on Christmas morning, but for some reason, the concept of having so many books in an electronic cage doesn’t make me happy. Neither does it give me the Apple Superiority Complex (“You own a PC??? Does it operate with charcoal or electricity?)
This iPad bothers me a bit.
When you are an artist of the graphic world, you learn to respect everything that came before the cyber world. Even more, you profoundly appreciate the people who took the time to make the few surviving manuscripts that are sometimes one-of-a-kind. They made the paper, the ink, the binding and casing. They had a total sense of pride, joy, and accomplishment – the feeling of putting something so magnificent together that eventually would have a place in history. This faded when Gutenberg facilitated things for us with the printing press. And later, manuscripts virtually became extinct through different art movements, including the Bauhaus, that graphically beautified designs and led to art the way we are exposed to it today.
When I was a boy growing up in Puerto Rico I found sanctuary among books. At a very early age I realized that I completely sucked at sports. When my best friends were hitting a ball with a stick in the dusty clay field, I sought refuge at the school library. There I was welcomed with open arms. There was a thin, soft-spoken gentle lady who took me in. She was our librarian, Ms. Acevedo, and she picked my curious brain up, and with motherly patience, placed the answers to my many questions on my lap. There I stumbled upon the preliminary steps to my future career. I found my passion for graphic arts, for history, and for foreign cultures. There was a place where I could go and feel nurture by knowledge, information, ink and paper. Walls of welcoming printed material bound in volumes, from the floor to the ceiling, waiting for me every day for 9 years. I remember the first moment that I walked into the library, I felt like a tourist leaving his hometown, going to Manhattan for the first time. His head tilted all the way back, trying to reach the end of a skyscraper, admiring every wall, every window, and each architectural detail.
Then I noticed the different smells between a new book and an old book, a well-used book and one that was collecting dust on the shelf. I discovered the importance of ink and illustration in a book for first graders, and the frustration and betrayal of the image-free books for young adults.
I also found friends that I had things in common with, which were on the same quest for knowledge. I found others that liked to draw and write. And others that looked at the dated globe like I look at the universe – places far, far away that I’d never be able to completely understand, much less visit.
During the rainy season, the library was our shelter. At the end of every educational year, I volunteered to count and classify books, account for every missing volume, or identify books that were too weak to be displayed and would have to be decommissioned.
I’m aware that these pads make the archiving process better; that we have access to knowledge faster. But we can also be misinformed faster. We loose a big experience for maybe a smaller less intimate one. I think that the new generation of children will take the skills behind a masterpiece of literature and its designs for granted. No pad will give you the original experience of Romeo and Juliet, Don Quixote, the Confucian Classics, or the One Thousand and One Nights stories.
That nurturing place is disappearing. The tactile experience of getting the tip of your finger wet in order to pass a page is almost a part of the past. But what some of us are afraid to miss the most is the experience of walking into the sanctuary of books, the smell of years of knowledge trapped in each page waiting for the day when someone will set it free.
Maybe these fears are the reasons my mint fresh iPad is still wrapped up in the same package that it came in.
- Junior Jimenez