I bought two tickets, a senior citizen one for me and a child's for my 10-year old step-niece, Stella, to Pixar's Toy Story 3 the same week that the Barnes & Noble board announced that it was considering putting the giant book retailer up for sale, and it got me to thinking about why young people need books any more in the age of the internet and Pixar.
Everyone I have talked to who saw Toy Story 3 has said it was their favorite Pixar film -- a brilliantly conceived and executed story with themes that communicate on several levels. It had the two of us entranced and in tears for the same and different reasons. There might be a dead-tree book that could be this meaningful and relevant to both of us, but a book would not have been as engaging, and we couldn't have enjoyed at the same time, unless I read to her, which always puts me to sleep in two, maybe three, pages.
Many of the great Disney movies of the past re-told fairy tales and myths -- stories passed on from the Dark Ages that told children the lessons they needed to live upright lives. Disney classics such as Snow White and Cinderella were thrilling re-makes of the ancient stories.
But what makes Pixar modern is that it doesn't re-tell or try to update stories that tell pubescent girls how to behave in order to find a prince charming and be swept away to live in a towered castle on a mountain. Today what few kings and princes that are left are mostly in countries that have lots of oil and don't treat their women like Snow White or Cinderella, so what young girls can relate?
Pixar tells stories of a modern world of plastic toys, and superheroes, heroic old men, and robots that clean up a trash-filled Earth. There are stories that tell modern children (and adults) in an internet age how to live their lives, defeat evil autocracies, and clean up the planet -- lessons we need today, not lessons of the Dark Ages that tell girls that their success rests on finding a rich man to take care of them.
Mass-produced books are a medium born in the Dark Ages and have survived with the stories of those ages. But, like those fairy tales, books are not relevant in the age of Pixar, the iPod, and the iPad. Both the technology (printing) and the stories are outmoded and don't serve the needs of today's children and adults.
Neither do huge book stores that sell books that are out of date the moment they are printed -- printed on dead trees and that are ridiculously expensive compared to what an e-book should be priced at.
When we look back five years from now and ask who killed books and bookstores, we can say, "Steve Jobs: Pixar, the iPod, and the iPad."