William H. Gass, one of the most eloquent defenders of the printed word against the digital, has done a Benedict Arnold, writes David Steitfeld in the New York Times Bits blog.
Gass, the author of the 1999 essay “A Defense of the Book,” is the author of a new essay, “Abstractions Arrive: Having Been There All the Time,” in collaboration with photographer Michael Eastman that can only be read on the iPad.
In his 1999 essay, Gass writes that words on a screen “are only shadows,” compared with the (relative) permanence of the printed word.
In an interview with Streitfeld, when asked how he feels about publishing an e-book, Gass says, “It’s great for me…I don’t write for the reader.” When Streitfeld points out that he needs to own a $500 device to read it, Gass quips, “that’s your problem, not mine!”
The convenience and business sense of e-books can convert even the most stalwart non-believers, it seems.
Still, in his 1999 essay, Gass may have made a very important point that still holds true and is becoming an increasingly important issue for readers and all others who would want to preserve and archive their digital texts: In the digital era, publication isn’t preservation.