Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Book

The opening sentence to this great article (linked to by Kottke.org) reads: "It may be, as offline readership continues to decline, that the mere fact of a bound, printed book with a paper dust jacket is something to celebrate."

The article then veers of onto its real topic - book designs not chosen - but that sentence struck me because I don't agree with it at all. While newspapers may be in trouble, the printed paper book is here to stay (as is the magazine, but that's another story).

I know this is probably belaboring the obvious, so just a couple more points:

- Electronic devices need power, don't work well in the sun, and any moisture is toxic to their very being - and this will probably always be the case. I don't like the experience of reading something long on them. I often read in my driveway while the kids play on the block, and well over half the time they either run over my book, or knock my beverage into it. Books get funky if they get wet, too, but at least you can still finish the thing. And you've only lost the price of the book, not several hundreds of dollars of electronic device.

- Those who provide the media for any electronic device - be it broadcast TV, Tivo, DVDs, music, or books - are of the mindset that you are always just borrowing their content and only they truly own it. So any device, like Kindle, that has a pipe to the provider will allow them to control what's on that device, as with the famous ironic "recall" of Orwell's 1984 from people's Kindles. Once you walk out of a store with a book, CD, or DVD, that puppy's yours, and there's not a lot they can do about it.

We all know that those who read tend to have children that read, and that is the case with my family.

Ergo, books have a solid future.

Since we're on the topics of books, I plowed through something recently that was thoroughly enjoyable and something I intend to buy a used copy of to send with my daughters when they go to college:

Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature's 50 Greatest Hits by Jack Murnighan.

The summaries, trivia and "what to skip" jive with my memories of the books I've read, and it totally assuaged my (admittedly very teeny tiny) bit of guilt at deciding I will never try to read James Joyce's Ulysses again. How cool is it that someone took the time to put something like this together?

My only gripe is the overemphasis on gay studies ephemera. I know that the Lit departments of many colleges had more or less ousted white, straight guys (and their "dead white male" canons), but even with that knowledge, it was slightly sorrowful to encounter blatant evidence of it.

To Murnighan's credit, though, he's brave enough to dispense with the "dead white male" silliness right out of the gate, so the book's actually a nice cross-section of good classic lit.

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