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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The End

The library’s 2008 All Fairfax Reads season officially ends this week. We hope many Fairfax County and City of Fairfax readers had a chance to pick up Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, a satiric novella with some serious messages.

If, as Bennett suggests, reading can transform a Queen and her reign, perhaps to paraphrase Mark Twain, “the rumors of its death have been greatly exaggerated.”

In a cover story in the Columbia Journalism Review, "The Future of Reading," (May-June 2008), author Ezra Klein decided to walk around for a month with a Kindle, the electronic reader from Amazon, to see if the art of reading was really being transformed. His conclusion — perhaps not. He writes:

“Put another way, content is king. It will seek out the vehicle best suited to its absorption or enjoyment. Sometimes, it will occupy multiple mediums at the same time, in order to appeal to the largest audience (think of how books live happily alongside audio books, and then are turned into movies). But the endless discussion as to whether books are dead tends to conflate “books” with “text,” and thereby obscures far more than it illuminates. Books will not die, after all, unless we want them dead. They have survived the advent of radio, television, the Internet, and Nintendo. Rather, they will be challenged once again, and books’ content will find new ways to express itself more effectively.”

And for perspective, a Scribner’s Magazine writer in 1894 lamented the threat to the book from Thomas Edison’s new audio inventions.

“. . .printing, which since 1436 has reigned despotically over the mind of man, is, in my opinion, threatened with death by the various devices for registering sound which have lately been invented, and which little by little will go on to perfection.”

So – any thoughts? What is the fate of reading in the decades to come?

Don’t Miss . . .
George Mason University, the Fairfax County Public Library and others are sponsoring Fall for the Book, September 21-26. Visit their Web site to see the entire list of authors participating in this year's festival.


laggiegirl said...

As a confirmed bibliophile, I read about the death of the book with great skepticism. I love the comforting, tactile feel of books, and view the contents of my bookshelves as old, beloved friends. But when I asked my elementary-age children if they would give up their shelves for the convenience of a Kindle, they don't bother to think twice. Kindle may not be perfect as yet, but the technology is what the next generation desires. So, the book may not be dead. But will the medium change - I think so.

Anonymous said...

I tend to agree. What worries me more is whether writing is dying. I was at the National Book Festival on Saturday on the Mall and it was quite crowded, but the bulk of the attendees were white, middleaged women. There were parents and kids for the children's author and a smattering of younger folk for writers like Richard Price, who was a writer on The Wire, but obviously wants to be remembered for his novels. Let's up writing and ideas survive.