~ Posted by David W.
To many it came as a shock. Just as conventional wisdom chorused that in our increasingly plugged-in society print books were destined to get left behind, a series of studies and articles from such sources as Nielsen, Publishing Technology, Hewlett Packard, The Pew Research Center, and The Washington Post overwhelmingly agreed that not only was print as popular as ever, but that younger digital natives are some of its most devoted fans. But the very latest data suggests this is starting to change, as hip young readers are forsaking paper for the retro-cool of parchment, papyrus, clay and stone. “I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.” observed cultural commentator DuPrise Blevins of the Myrick Millennial Institute, “Once it became clear that books were still hot, kids just naturally try to top each other. So we had the incunabula craze, and illuminated monk-punk. Then papyrus scrolls were popping up everywhere, in malls and at the clubs. This year, it’s clay. Everything is clay.”
At Ambrose Bierce College in San Jose, California, millennials now crowd a waiting list to get into classes on cuneiform, an ancient Mesopotamian writing system of wedge-shaped marks on clay tablets dating back to the 4th Millennium BCE. “I just love the smell of clay. How it feels in the hands,” remarked Bradley Corasco, 24, who sports tattoos in Sumerian. “The closer we can get to the oral tradition, the better. I know the big hot thing now is supposed to be the Phoenician alphabet, but for me, well – if it isn’t cuneiform, it just doesn’t speak to me.” Corasco’s recently completed master’s thesis weighs in at 184 lbs, on 46 tablets. “It’s about shepherding.”
The youngest readers are increasingly drawn to the slightly more newfangled hieroglyphic systems of Egypt, which can be accessed in handy papyrus scrolls, though the marked preference is for stone. “What we’re finding is that younger children find papyrus confusing and hard to track. There are too many colors, and it is easy to be distracted by what lies further down the scroll,” observes childhood literacy expert Duns C. Penwiper of Edinburgh’s Hamish Institute. “With large stone blocks, kids know right where they are at all times, and can better orient themselves to the proto-text.” The craze for stone media has raised safety concerns for some, highlighted by an incident just last week when a teen driver in Los Gatos plowed into a Starbucks after dropping a 30 lb. obsidian edition of the ancient Mayan Popul Vuh on her foot. Citing the distracting nature of deciphering pictographic inscriptions that have been out of common use for hundreds or even thousands of years, many localities are looking at laws to regulate proto-texting while driving, walking and especially swimming.