Just as the Internet has wiped Encyclopedia Britannica off our bookshelves, I am among those who speculate whether or not e-readers, like the iPad and Kindle, will soon render all tangible text obsolete. I wonder if those in future generations will ever turn down the soft paper corner of a page.
For my Orthodox Jewish family, exchanging hard copy for a high-tech device is not an option, for each Friday at sundown we enter into a 25-hour island in time, free from the wireless world. The way we celebrate Shabbat, even touching something electronic qualifies as a sin. Because of this, and because reading is such a key part of our Shabbat celebration, we hesitate to buy the latest reading inventions.
From the moment I kindle two flames at sundown, it is perfectly natural for my three teenagers to ignore modern necessities, like their cell phone appendages. All friends and associates are aware of our observance or observe themselves.
During this time, battery-operated toys, crayons and scissors are forbidden, so my kids donned costumes when they were younger, and put on shows. Many improvised games have arisen from the limitations of the day. It is also common to see a child just engaging in the lost art of being bored.
There is a saying in Judaism that one should be flexible like a reed, but that doesn’t mean that my family will be buying e-readers anytime soon. After dinner, all five of us crawl under the fluffy down comforter of my king-size bed, each holding a book, vying for a spot close enough to the sole lit lamp in the room. These are the times I marvel at how only something as bizarre as keeping Shabbat could create this scene, which holding a screen could never replicate.
As yard sales filled with paperbacks I wonder what would happen if 100 years from now, there is some kind of worldwide power grid failure. Will the Sabbath observing People of the Book, not ever having been a People of the Pixel, be the only ones with living libraries?