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Of books and matters of mind
Nonagenarian Alice Martinez, 98, cuts the rug with her daughter on the entertainment stage during the St. Anthony Harvest Festival over the weekend. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO/The Bulletin
Arriving at his dorm recently after coming home for the weekend, my son found himself in a bind. He forgot his text books at home. At first, he asked if we could mail them to him at the university.  But he soon found a convenient and inexpensive solution to his dilemma.

It’s a solution that I would not have had as an option when I was in college – eBooks and the Internet.

It occurred to me that if that were the case, he may not need the bulky and hernia-inducing heavy tomes after all. And that led me to wonder if it was really necessary for him to buy the books. After all, they are not a dime a dozen. One textbook alone caused a $150 dent in our pocketbook.

Technology, and the Internet especially, has become such an obtrusive, invasive, commonplace, and such a powerful necessity today in every aspect of day-to-day life that doomsayers have, and are, already saying that there will be no place for space hogs such as books, and even libraries, in the near or far future. Well, tell that to the three-year-old bookworm who was among the early birds at the St. Anthony Harvest Festival’s used-books sale booth. The young girl could not even wait for her mother to find them a bench to sit on so she could start reading. She started turning the colorful pages right on the spot as her mother who was carrying the half-dozen children’s books that her daughter selected, patiently waited.

The Bookworm was a big attraction at the festival. It occupied the equivalent of two booth spaces. But as large as the space was, there was a steady stream of book lovers and readers who studiously perused through the wide array of paperbacks and hardbound tomes that ranged from westerns and gardening to religion and self-help books.

Speaking about the festival, while book enthusiasts like Loretta McKeever and daughter Gina were poring over the hundreds of reading materials, another attraction on the nearby entertainment stage was causing a lot of excitement among the spectators. A 98-year-old woman was about to perform a dance with her daughter. As a lively tune was played, nonagenarian Alice Martinez matched her daughter’s steps toe-to-toe, turning and swaying with the music. Her performance was not a simple do-si-do but a medium-paced number that belied her age. It was clear she was thoroughly enjoying herself. Even after the music was over and she picked up her walking cane that she propped up on the wall in the back of the stage, she continued to sway with the music for the next performers. Alice was obviously showing that age is just a matter of mind; if you don’t mind it does not matter.

It is, however, harder to ignore the impacts that the power of the Internet and the so-called information superhighway (even that phrase sounds so yesterday in today’s nanosecond technology capabilities). A Wall Street Journal story I read recently said that you need to have at least 2,000 books before you can proclaim that you have a personal library. But given the eBooks and e-Readers available to tech-savvy people today, you could be holding your personal library in the palm of your hand.

Hard as that may seem to believe, and as powerful as those magical gadgets are, I think today’s students – be they in elementary, high school, college or post-graduate school – will still rely a good deal on the tried and true softbound or hardbound copy called a book with pages made of durable paper that you can dog-ear, albeit in certain situations. How do I know? My son had to take a special trip the next weekend to pick up his text books.