b'final mattersBooks: A EulogyOutside of a dog, a book is mans best friend, said Groucho Marx. Inside of a dog its too dark to read. BY ROBERT SHAFFRONR emember books? Quaint little things,tended by a rewarding sense of accomplishment and satis-werentthey?Theyhadcoversandfaction. Now they just lift their phones and start thumb-pages, made of an archaic materialtypingin the bathroom. Wheres the wonder and joy of the natives called paper, or parch- the quest for discovery and enlightenment? Its become a ment,orpapyrus.Theyhadsub- meme, apparently. On the plus side, paper cut incidents are stance. They had heft. They smelledway down in recent years.good.(Dontdenyit.YouknowIvealsoobservedmoreandmorefrequentlythat youve picked up an old book, cracked it open, andwhen I ask my high-school-aged son what the class read given it a good deep sniff. A heady fragrance, isnt it?) in school that day, the inevitable answer comes back, a These enchanting artifacts were often found happilyvideo. When I was in school (and I cannot begin to tell gathered in their natural habitat of libraries, or in retailyou how much that phrase irritates my children) it was establishments known as bookstores, and they were prettyan extremely rare day that the teacher would roll a rickety much ubiquitous in schools. But that was then. Now, ourmetal cart with a TV set perched on top into the room. It children no longer get books at schoolthey get links. was everything we could do not to burst out cheering. It meant Back when I was a studentjust before water was inventedthe fluorescent lights would be turned off. It meant we could nap surrep- the beginning of the year was always peppered with rituals around your newtitiously in the dark. It meant you could produce anonymous fart noises with textbooks. I have fond memories of creating book covers by cutting up brown- impunity. Today, the in-class video has become a ho-hum, everyday occurrence paper supermarket bags (yet another relic of the wayback machine) tailored toplaying out on a Chromebookor worse, a phonecompletely devoid of the the size of each book, folding and taping for a perfect fit. The more motivatedmagic and mystery it once held.and inventive of us went one step further and decorated them with stickers andOf course, the current paucity of books in our learning environments has de-magazine pictures and Magic Markers (those smelled good, too). And there waslivered one positive outcome: the diminishment of the Dewey Decimal System always the delight of seeing the name of a prior years student written on the(no offense to Mr. Dewey)a structure so confounding that it put the Periodic inside cover establishing ownership, or even a list of names, each one crossedTable of Elements to shamealchemy for librarians. And we were expected to out. Clearly, it never occurred to anyone that theyd have to give the thing backlearn, understand, and use it! Google, where were you when I needed you?at the end of the year. Books, it seems, have gone the way of the dodo, the milkman, and cursive When we were kids and we had a burning question about some obscurewriting. Which leaves us with the ultimate question: What on earth are they car-detail or historical factoid, our parents inevitable response was, Look it up!rying around in all those backpacks? Whereupon wed scramble breathlessly to our rooms and pull down a thick,Robert Shaffron is a local realtor, husband, dad to teenaged sons, and lapsed play-hardbound edition of the World Book and begin methodically leafing throughwright. He confesses to having read a book or two on his phone. the alphabetized topics until we came upon the information we sought, at-46/ matters magazine / school 2022'