Sunday, February 01, 2009

Books as Ballast

Some more very good reasons (because we need these touchstones from time to time) - this time from John Updike why physical books will not become obsolete. He looks at the book as furniture, as sensual pleasure, as souvenir ... and as ballast (one category I hadn't thought of) :
As movers and the moved both know, books are heavy freight, the weight of refrigerators and sofas broken up into cardboard boxes. They make us think twice about changing addresses. How many ageing couples have decided to stay put because they can't imagine what to do with the books? How many divorces have been forestalled by love of the same jointly acquired library? Books hold our beams down; they act as counterweight to our fickle and flighty natures. In comparison, any electronic text-delivery device lacks substance. Further, speaking of obsolescence, it would be outdated in a year and within 15 as inoperable as my formerly cutting-edge Wang word-processor from the mid-Eighties. Electronic equals (e-quals, if you will) immaterial, Ariel to our earthy Caliban. Without books, we might melt into the airwaves, and be just another set of blips.
The essay appears in his collction Due Considerations: Essays and Criticism.

Talking about Updike, the BBC is repeating a Hard Talk interview with him today recorded in 2004. I caught half of it earlier (thanks to messages from friends) and hope to catch a repeat later.


Anonymous said...

Books will become antiques, objets d'art, symbols of a bygone era, like horse carts and lanterns.

No they will never be obsolete, after all we still have horse carts and lanterns.

Cars are a lot less "material" than horse carts, large colonial houses are a lot more "material" than serviced condominiums... and yet, life goes on. You can't stop progress.

Life goes on with or without you. If you choose to stay in the past, it will just overtake you and move on.

Life goes on. Things change. I'm not sure if anyone wants their life's work to be used as a door-stopper though :)

Yvonne Foong said...

I've learned braille! In less than two months! I'm building up speed now, with books borrowed from the MAB library. Reading Makine's Mukine's Music of a Life.

If I can read in braille as fast as my eyes, I'd rather read braille than rely on zoomed-in etexts.

I remember the MPH's Writers Circle meeting two years back. They talked about ebooks. If they talk about it again I'd volunteer to speak! I am confident ebooks will NEVER replace papers!

Touching papers bounded together into a book adds value to the task.

Anonymous said...

Oh crap.. there's a reason. Still though, there's a device that reads a screen and translates it into raised dots on a tablet.