In some areas technology can wait

Kevin Wilson

I have a list.

It’s not on any piece of paper, or any task list on my phone or computer. It’s in my mind, titled, “Things I Must Do While Visiting Montana.”

While visiting Montana last month, I tackled the list — including restaurants, landmarks and a small baseball park about 40 minutes from where I grew up.

Helena’s Kindrick Field is one of eight parks the Pioneer League calls home, and it’s on the list. Every visit, I watch players stand in the same batter’s boxes as George Brett and Ryne Sandberg did in their Pioneer League stints, and wonder how a hot dog tastes better at a ballgame.

I always think I may be seeing baseball’s future. But just a home run away lies a past I don’t want to bid farewell.

A quick walk from the left field wall stands a house modified into a used book store. The owner, who shares his last name with the store, remembers every customer who walks in and knows if the book you’re looking for is somewhere in the 15,000 stacked on shelves, in closets and on floors.

He had one of the two books I sought, a 1960s baseball book that originally sold for 75 cents in paperback. His listed price was 50 cents, and his attempted price was, “That book is yours, no charge.” I put a dollar on the table anyway, and bid him a nice day before leaving with my book.

The book itself is pretty good, and the market still agrees — a new one goes for $12 online, and I would have paid that to read the three chapters I’ve finished so far. So $1 is a bargain.

But I’m just not sure I like the idea the past is something to be given away once a little technology rolls around. A large part of the reason books are getting cheaper is the belief book downloads are phasing them out.

I’ve got a closet full of books, and I bet I’d be better off in many respects with an e-reader and empty bookshelves.

But I’m concerned that when I journey into minimalism, I’ll take the extra steps toward isolationism.

I like seeing what book somebody is reading, and asking them how it is, and I like when those questions are asked of me. With an e-reader, the conversation is going to skew more to what they’re reading with than what they’re reading, and the conversation ends when it should just be beginning.

I like having a stack of basketball books 2-feet high, so there’s visible research to my claim that “Breaks of the Game” is the best basketball book written.

Each book is a story to me as well — one of how I got it, how I read it, and what I learned.

I also like being generous with my experiences. There are limits to how I can send you copy-protected e-books, but there’s simple bliss in handing somebody a book and everything it means to you — the same bliss the book store owner felt when he tried to give me that baseball book for free.

I love technology, and I’m sure I’ll someday get to the point where I’m totally won over by fitting everything I’ve ever experienced into the palm of my hand.

For now, it seems better fit on a list. I’ll call it, “Later.”