This from the wonderful preface, "A Life with Books," which fronts Julian Barnes' recent book of essays: Through the Window :
Updike, towards the end of his life, became pessimistic about the future of the
For who, in that unthinkable future
When I am dead, will read?The printed page
Was just a half-millennium’s brief
I am more
optimistic, both about reading and about books.There will always be non-readers, bad readers, lazy readers – there
is a majority skill but a minority art.Yet nothing can replace the exact, complicated, subtle communion between
absent author and entranced, present reader.Nor do I think the e-reader will ever completely supplant the physical
book – even if it does so numerically.Every book feels and looks different in your hands; every Kindle
download feels and looks exactly the same... Books will have to earn their
keep---and so will bookshops.Books will
have to become more desirable:not
luxury goods, but well-designed, attractive, making us want to pick them up,
buy them, give them as presents, keep them, think about re-reading them, and
remember in later years that this was the edition in which we first encountered
what lay inside.I have no Luddite
prejudice against new technology; it’s just that books look as if they contain
knowledge, while e-readers look as if they contain information.My father’s school (book) prizes are nowadays
on my shelves, ninety years after he first won them.I’d rather read Goldsmith’s poems in this
form than online."
is a majority skill but a minority art." Boy, does that sum up a lot in just nine words. And as a fan of physical books, I think that "books look as if they contain
knowledge, while e-readers look as if they contain information" says a whole lot as well.
Julian Barnes is a wonderful writer--elegant yet to the point, and intensely humane. I'm just finishing his last novel, The Sense of an Ending, which won the Man Booker Prize in 2011, and I'm wondering why I've never read any of his work until a week ago. But I intend to rapidly make up for lost time.