Many words have been wasted – and just as many justifiably employed – on the future of the book. How long will it last? Is paper already a thing of the past? I’m not writing on it now – and you, most likely, are not reading off it. So why do you insist on buying novels which are printed on the old stuff? Why not download Boris Yashmilye’s latest creation onto some sort of handheld electronic reading device instead?
One of the many fears that flies, like some drowsy wasp, around the strangely scented flower of technology, is the implications it will have for Active Reading. Say what you like about a book, but it’s a hardy beast. Many a book have I dropped into a bath, or tossed from a tree, or had trampled on by a wildebeest: and, on the whole, they’ve seen it through with all or most of their words intact. Though it would be a distinct lie to say that my books enjoy hanging out in saunas, they suffer in silence, and survive without fatal loss of limb (with one or two shrivelled exceptions).
Could the same be said for any of these new-fangled reading devices? Can one cuddle a kindle to one’s chest in a rainstorm without fear of it coughing up faults (and you coughing up serious cash for a replacement)? Do these devices function in a dusty desert, or in sub zero temperatures? Would you even have the confidence to take one with you into all the grubby places to which any serious reader ought to gravitate? Is the very future of Active Reading – and, by association, the future of reading itself – at risk from the advent of electronic books?