Let me begin by saying I love Dystopian fiction. I also love post-apocalyptic tales of any kind and have since I was young child. It's true folks, I can be a bleak person. But one thing about most visions of post-disaster Dystopia that I can't fathom is the nearly universal idea that books will be valued merely for starting campfires.
This doesn't seem to jive with our human need for entertaining our imaginations. And surely, even in a world where one is forced to fight to the death over a bar of soap, there are down moments where he or she wants entertained. When all those DVD players and hi-fi portable stereos fail to work, would books not benefit from their low technology? Would not their value increase in a community to a level they once were before television?
Of course, I must rule out any future where people forget how to read. In that situation, well, naturally a book burns real good. But I don't see that happening unless everyone surviving is illiterate. I will also give a pass to stories where books are a metaphor for thoughts, I'm talking to you Fahrenheit 451. But otherwise, I happen to believe books would benefit from a global meltdown. It's the current trek of Western Society that threatens the value of a book more than any downturn.
So why does this flaw so often appear in such stories?
Simple. It's a writer's worst nightmare. When thinking up a nightmarish society, we always want to include a place where books are used as toilet paper. But if we stop to think about...it just doesn't seem logical. Besides, books are already being recycled to become things like egg cartons and yes, toilet paper.