More about electronic books – it’s all very well being able to obtain, due to the good offices of Google Books or the Gutenberg Project, a copy of something which I’d never be able to get my hands on in a lifetime, even had I the cost of it. That’s fine, and I salute the providers (but more on that, with brickbats, later). All the same, I do shudder a wee bit to think that that may be ALL there is in some future – I mean, no paper, no binding, nothing tangible at all.
This means no touching of the page, caressing the physical paper, noting the indentation into it of the metal type (and that has already come to pass with photographic reproduction), smelling its characteristic odour, fondling the binding, be it cloth or leather (steady on the animal lovers), and ultimately to admire it as it takes up room on a shelf. None of that. There is a sensual aspect to books that the future is going to miss out on.
I well remember the exhibition of books put on by the British Museum at the time of the Festival of Britain. The family went down to London, and I dragged them around the exhibits, exclaiming in subdued excitement (shhh! It’s a library) at the sight of a Caxton, a Dove Press, a Golden Cockerel Press, the Kelmscott Chaucer. All right, I couldn’t handle them, either. But you know what I’m getting at I hope. There is an aesthetic function to books that mere pictures won’t satisfy.
Having said that, the mere communicative aspect is well enough served – and served very well, I should say – by the ability to get one’s message out there in a twink for the whole world to see. Which reminds me: if anyone reading this feels inclined to comment on these random whimsies, let me know how far away you are from Canada’s west coast. I’m again in awe of the availability of the rest of the world.