It’s still a flat-out fascinating world

Watching a YouTube video of a baby punching a magazine vainly hoping to advance the pages made me smile. But, it saddened me, too.

Getting a fresh perspective on things.

Watching a YouTube video of a baby punching a magazine vainly hoping to advance the pages made me smile. But, it saddened me, too. Even at such a young age I felt that if the child had been used to bedtime (book) stories, he (or she) would have differentiated between print and electronics.

Despite the stampede to e-books, iPads and the fascinating devices we’re addicted to, the satisfaction and value of sharing a book with a child at the end of a busy day remains a valuable tool…and memory.

The brilliance of the late Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and other e-gurus can’t be underestimated. But, would you agree that – in the end – high-powered business is at the root of these innovations?  Print retains the identity of the owner, the writer, the friend, the parent who recommended it or passed it on. Books and physical works of art live and breathe.

During a recent visit to New York with Hilary, my youngest daughter, we talked about her high-powered techno business world. This lead us to a discussion about my visit (with my less-techno son) to the Hereford Cathedral Chained Library on the Welsh-English borders where 1,500 books, including an 8th Century copy of the Four Gospels, are chained to solid wood shelves. Here was the reminder that, once upon a time, books were a rare and enormously valuable commodity.

A major library constituted 150 books, generally of bound hand-transcribed irreplaceable volumes on law and religion. Librarians of the day invented the unique system of chains, rods, and clasps to protect, yet share, books. Citizens who could actually read slipped the leather-bound volumes from cases, sat and made notes, or more likely memorized text, before returning the treasured tomes to the shelves. Derek and I were amazed at the breadth of subjects, research and knowledge securely anchored in the climate controlled room. Contrast that with your Kobo.

Near the library entrance is the Hereford Mappa Mundi, one of the most historically significant maps in existence. Drawn on a single calfskin, the 13th Century circular map shows Jerusalem at the centre of the known world. Originally designed for navigational purposes, it is now a fascinating interpretation of the times, and is undoubtedly a brilliant work of art crafted…when the world was flat…

Do you think that, in a strange way, we’ve flattened our world again?  Just a thought.

~ Ursula Maxwell-Lewis is the former managing editor of the Cloverdale Reporter News. She still travels with a laptop – and a book. Contact her at and on


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