Time frame: junior high, now known as middle school, when teachers begin assigning homework that requires research, organizational skills and a basic command of language and grammar. Before the Internet and laptop computers students had to go to the library and use card indexes to locate reference material. Obviously access was limited to library hours and parent's work schedules.
I knew the library better than my own backyard, which at the time constituted approximately two cleared acres and four timbered acres. The problem was the library was six miles away and there was no bus service. I was not allowed to ride my bike into town and there wasn't a hitching post for my horse. Prior to junior high, going to the library was a huge treat. I loved to read and always checked out the maximum allowed number of books. My parents did not limit my reading to children's or preteen sections. I had full run of the place.
Yet in junior high I discovered some of my classmates couldn't be bothered with books. My young brain couldn't get wrapped around the notion of people thumbing their nose at books. Who doesn't like to read, to immerse themselves in a story letting the characters take them on an adventure? Granted homework is boring and it takes time away from things we'd rather do, but still, unlimited access to the reference library is right up there with Christmas.
Had I known the word at the time I might have denounced my classmates as heretics. Denouncing books is like denouncing God. Non-readers are the atheists of progressive societies. Imagine if you will a world without readers of science fiction. Perhaps Dr. Robert H. Goddard would still be the father of solid fuel rockets but would there have been a race to the moon? Picture America without NASA. Now let's see you pull out your laptop to Google all those wonderful modern conveniences we take for granted every minute of our day, and night.
We who write never know what might entice a reader to go "hmm." Believe me, had tampons and feminine pads not been invented by the time I read passages from the journals of women who came west on wagon trains, I'd be in a test lab working on them. Necessity maybe the Mother of Invention but someone had to say "hmm" first. Hmm, as in women really need something better than strips of rags.
Thanks to somebody who said "hmm, let's record books for those who are blind" we now download our favorite authors onto our iPods and Kindles. We have more counter space in our kitchens due to using laptops or iPads to call up demonstrated step-by-step recipes.
The number of readers may ebb and flow but books will never go out of fashion as long as our society isn't willing to accept being good enough as the status quo. I see in the near future going to my computer, calling up a book and selecting who will read it to me. Digital voice impressions: Sam Waterston reads John Grisham. Jimmy Stewart reads Mark Twain. Pick your book and then pick your reader.
Hopefully the idea of digital voice impressions just made somebody go "hmm" cause my twin really wants to hear Ice-T read Piers Anthony. I'm holding out for Tom Petty reading Nevil Shute.