Saturday, November 10, 2012

What Does the Future Hold for Printed Books?

That's the question recently posed in the New Criterion.

From the piece...

For books, whose disappearance the digitization of La lyre exileĆ© seemed to presage, have played an immense part in my life. It would be vain to suggest that I valued them only for their content, as a rationalist might say that one ought; I valued them as physical objects and have accumulated thousands of them. I am not a bibliophile in the true sense, that is to say someone who finds excitement in a misprint on page 278 which proves that the book, which he might or might not ever read, is a true first edition. Nor am I a bibliomaniac in the true sense, the kind of person who will eventually be found lying dead under a pile of books that he has incontinently or indiscriminately collected because of some psychological compulsion to accumulate. No, I am something in between the two (as a physician put it when I was a student, as he tried to explain to a patient that he had myeloma, which was neither cancer nor leukaemia, “but something in between the two.”) I prefer a good edition, physically as well as literarily speaking, to a bad one; I buy more books than I read, though always with the intention of reading them; I am not an aficionado of rarity for rarity’s sake, though I have some rare things, upon which the eye of the avaricious bookseller called in by my relict will immediately alight as he offers her yardage, $5 a yard of books.

For the moment, however, I derive a certain comfort from looking over, and being surrounded by, my laden shelves.

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