Not here at the CWA! The Garry Prize is an annual essay competition open only to members, with the topic chosen by the journal editor and announced at the Annual General Conference in May. In 500 words a specific topic must be discussed and previous topics have included ‘Are manners important in today’s society?’ (2010); ‘Should Australia become a Republic?’ (2009); and ‘The spirit of Anzac lives on in Australia today.’ (2007) This year the topic was ‘Will books become obsolete?‘ and you can read the winning entry below:
Let us first define the dictionary meaning of obsolete! Disused; discarded; antiquated; of the nature of a relic. Now let us see what it says about books! They are described as a form in which a literary work is made available for reading, or printed leaves fastened hinge-wise and enclosed in a cover. They can take a form of a treatise, a long poem, a novel, a biography, a dictionary or the world’s most enduring publication – Christianity’s sacred book of texts – the bible, which still has annual sales of around 25 million copies. Books can also be a set of blank leaves for writing on, a membership list or a merchant’s account record, in fact any vital information kept for future reference.
Are any of these book variants likely to become obsolete? I think not! In this brave new world of the 21st century computers have entered our lives and become household items. We write letters on them, buy goods and bank with them. The pursuit of knowledge is at our fingertips on the computer’s world wide web. The family encyclopaedia is now almost a thing of the past and there is a growing market for electronic or e books. These are useful adjuncts for modern living but it is well to consider that the electronic media is only as good as its latest technology. Hard copy back-ups are always recommended if permanency is sought.
To curl up and relax with a good book is surely one of life’s great pleasures. The love of reading begins with childhood nursery rhymes and is reinforced through school days with a study of the classics – those books which we read again and again with ever deepening pleasure. How bereft it would be in the literary giants form different times hadn’t left written copies of their world – Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie and perhaps the greatest of them all – Homer and his “Odyssey”. Its translation became a world best seller in millions.
The earliest known writing texts date from 3,200 BC and were imprinted on the clay tablets in Iran. Their meaning still remains a mystery – from the same era, Egyptian hieroglyphics carved on bone are believed to be administration records.
Recently found Chinese characters on bamboo strips date from the Shang Dynasty (1200 BC) and though almost unreadable are believed to be lists of royalty. Two thousand year old Mayan scripts suggest that religion was their primary concept.
Writing was invented to permanently represent speech and it has served its purpose through the millenniums on what we now call “hard copy” – or books. Books and all their variants have been a vital aid in the civilization of man. They are history’s legacy.
The deciphering of archaic texts has helped us to understand earlier forms of culture – their governments and social interests. They consolidate information which can then be verbalised and the lessons learned, applied to contemporary living and future direction.
Books of every genre are with us to stay. I can not envisage a future without books!
– Mrs Ruth Fox, Mullumbimby Branch, Far North Coast Group