Sunday, December 25, 2011

In defense of the p-book

From the New York Times

Someone from the distant future who stumbled upon these letters in The New York Times’s digital archives would read them with a sense of whimsy. What a quaint and simple folk the citizens of the 21st century were. How could they have been so na├»ve and shortsighted as to have confined their greatest thoughts within such an impermanent medium as a bundle of paper, ink and glue?

Well, let me tell you.

I am giving my wife a book for Christmas that was carefully selected at a small local bookshop, where it was warmly inscribed by her favorite author at a book signing and lovingly wrapped. I chose this as my “delivery system,” as Mr. Brown so astutely called it, because you can’t get an author to sign a digital book, as Mr. Danbom pointed out.

I know that she will treasure this book for the rest of her life. And when she has gone from this world, the signed book will be a record that she was the first owner and help her children remember her with fondness, as Mr. Devine would understand.

I hope that Mr. Mattocks’s prediction of the printed book’s demise does not come to fruition any time soon. But if Mr. Mattocks turns out to be prophetic, future generations will miss the joy of coffee-table books, which never translated well to e-readers. Children will miss having their teachers read books to them as they hold up the illustrations on each page, as well as pop-up books, which just don’t seem to “pop” within the digital realm.

And the sheer pleasure of antiquarian book collecting will be a distant memory.

We quaint and simple folk of the 21st century live in a glorious age, where we have the freedom to choose how and where to see movies, view art, listen to music, and buy and read books.

Ms. Abrams’s grandson Caleb encapsulated so succinctly into two wonderful words the state of literature in our time: books work.

East Hanover, N.J., Dec. 22, 2011

  • I read e-books and p-books, and publish e-books and p-books. Choice is good.


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