Sunday, November 30, 2008

Do Books Have a Future?

If you've followed Mad Padre for a while, you know that I'm a bibliophile. In face, I'm sitting here in my little room at Canadian Forces Base Borden, my home for another 12 sleeps (not that I'm counting!), and I'm looking at this stack of books that I've accumulated in the last three months:

Hmmm, and that picture doesn't include the volume of Karl Barth's Church Dogmatics I brought out with me. I'm hoping I can ship this pile home in the unaccompanied baggage allowed me by the military, but I'm not exactly sure where they'll go when I get home.

Maybe I need to embrace the kind of future that James Gleick discusses in yesterday's New York Times, a future in which the published book may be entering a golden age of "the long dreamed-of universal library, its contents available (more or less) to every computer screen anywhere".

For my part, I'm taking some tentative steps in that direction, learning to access and manage books digitally via Google Reader, at the same time as I learn to use Itunes. But the problem, as Gleick notes, is that people like books. While it's true that I probably spend more time per day reading on a computer screen than I do reading the printed word on paper, I want to have a book in my hand, and I want it to last. Some of my most cherished books, including a Folio Society reprint of Kipling's poems that my dear friend Patsy gave me when I left my parish, are aesthetic as well as literary treasures, and that's the hope that Gleick offers the printed book. However, as he notes, the internet and the digitizing initiative of Google now means that there are millions of titles, copyrighted but out of print, that have been rescued from limbo and are now available to we book lovers.

Here's the article by Gleick.

Oh, and if you have any spare room on your bookshelf, give me a shout.



MedStudentWife said...

MP : *lol* - would take them, but Fidel and I are very much like you...

and now that our two households are more and more integrating.... *sigh* not enough book space as is - especially as we (me more so these days) is busily buying antique/old "how to manuals" etc".

Reading your blog, I believe possibly you and I have a couple of acquaintances in common :)

styler said...

Google books saves me time from trying to track down rare books in university libraries. But, all in all, if I could afford it I'd have rather purchased most of the tomes I've downloaded and placed them on my home shelves. (Or more factually, have them stashed away in boxes until the kids move out and I can put shelves up in their rooms).

It's one thing to read to consume the ideas of an author, another to read to develop ideas of one's own. I don't think electronic media is conducive for the latter.

Snickering Corpses said...

I find myself even in my programming job often printing out something simply because it's easier to read on paper while I work on screen than to switch between screens. As for books, while I value the access to titles not easily acquired that electronic books offer, I don't see myself ever giving up my bookshelves willingly. I do see myself continuing to acquire more :>

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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