Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Senses, Updike, and the Printed Word

When John Updike died on Tuesday at the age of 76, many paid tribute. One news clip was of particular interest to me – Updike expounding on his love of the printed word and books. He wasn’t talking about digitized books on the Internet or e-books, but the smell, feel, sight, and satisfaction of reading an honest-to-God bound book.

Updike gave a speech in 2006 at the Book Expo of America lamenting where books are headed with Google’s aim to digitalize books for a “universal library”. I don’t necessarily agree with Updike but he brings valid points to the table on the vast changes in the publishing industry. How will this affect writers? Books themselves? Will traditional “bound” books become obsolete?

Reader’s habits – from how books are bought to how books are enjoyed – are part of this seismic change. Rather than creating the ability to access books on a universal scale, are we instead creating the “haves” in those who can first of all, read, and second, possess computer technology to do so, versus the “have nots” who have neither the luxury of literacy or technology?

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