This from the wonderful preface, "A Life with Books," which fronts Julian Barnes' recent book of essays: Through the Window :
"John Updike, towards the end of his life, became pessimistic about the future of the printed book:
For who, in that unthinkable future
When I am dead, will read? The printed page
Was just a half-millennium’s brief wonder...
I am more optimistic, both about reading and about books. There will always be non-readers, bad readers, lazy readers – there always were. Reading 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."
"Reading 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.