Book on Future of Books Filled with ‘Dread,’ ‘Disgust’ for E-Books

From n+1 (Bones of the Book):

I recently bought a book about the future of books. It’s called The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books, and features twenty-six authors (including two n+1 editors) describing what they think might become of literature. Given the collection’s prophetic subtitle, and that I was reading it on my new, still-extraterrestrial-seeming iPad, I was surprised to find that very few of the authors mention e-books. Those who do tend to regard them with dread and disgust, like a farmhand studying a handful of fallen locusts. One author compared e-books to astronaut food; another to Mortal Kombat. Another suggested that perhaps we could create e-readers that would exactly resemble books, with cardboard covers and hundreds of papery pages and so on, but whose cover graphics and print could morph from Salinger to Tolstoy in a click.

And, after a passage describing the need for the original book technology:

But now consider the e-book, displayed on a slim electronic tablet, which can relay exponentially more information at even less weight, with even greater functionality. The proponent of paper books will one day sound “like a Victorian–era man arguing the benefits of candelight over Edison’s newfangled electric lanterns,” Larsen writes. Indeed, an e-book needs multiple pages and a cardboard cover like a lightbulb needs wax.

Read more at n+1.

One thought on “Book on Future of Books Filled with ‘Dread,’ ‘Disgust’ for E-Books

  1. Kelly

    Here’s my favorite comparison. Back when Gutenberg had his new-fangled printing press, I’m sure people were bemoaning the loss of manuscripts. In some ways, they were right; manuscripts were an art form, filled with beautiful calligraphy, exquisite form, and were a treasure (which they cost, to be frank.)

    The printing press did one thing manuscripts could not. They could make books accessible to more people, in more languages, than ever before. They meant that each generation became more and more literate, and had access to knowledge. Knowledge sped up; you didn’t need to wait for a monk to tell you what was in the book; you could get it yourself.

    Now, we’re on the brink of a new printing press: eReading. You may miss the printed page, like the monks missed the manuscripts, but the next generation will appreciate the instantaneous access. Unlike a physical book, you can ask a question, google it, find the book, and download in seconds. We’ve gone from needing a teacher, to browsing for the textbook, to instantly finding the textbook ourselves.

    Books are not about the form: they are stories and ideas communicated from one person to another. Anything that speeds up that communication will dominate this space.



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