Books Unbound, Life Unraveled


John Updike has written a fantastic op-ed piece for the New York Times about the sanctity of books what he would miss if they cease to exist.\"...already much of the written communication that used to be handled by letters, newspapers and magazines has shifted to computer screens and to the vast digital library available over the Internet. If the worst comes true, and the paper book joins the papyrus scroll and parchment codex in extinction, we will miss, I predict, a number of things about it.\"
\"The book as furniture. Shelved rows of books warm and brighten the starkest room, and scattered single volumes reveal mental processes in progress, books in the act of consumption, abandoned but readily resumable, tomorrow or next year. By bedside and easy chair, books promise a cozy, swift and silent release from this world into another, with no current involved but the free and scarcely detectable crackle of brain cells. For ease of access and speed of storage, books are tough to beat.\"

\"The book as sensual pleasure. Smaller than a breadbox, bigger than a TV remote, the average book fits into the human hand with a seductive nestling, a kiss of texture, whether of cover cloth, glazed jacket or flexible paperback. The weight can rest on the little finger of the right hand for hours without noticeable strain, while the thumb of that hand holds the pages open and fingers of the other hand turn them. The rectangular block of type, a product of five and a half centuries of printers\' lore, yields to decipherment so gently that one is scarcely aware of the difference between immersing oneself in an imaginary world and scanning the furniture of one\'s own room.\"

\"In these last, troubled decades of the book\'s existence, the need to \"present\" impressively in bookstores has led to inflated volumes, with a page and type bigger than organically ideal, and with a painful strain on the above-mentioned little finger. The paper shortages of World War II rattled, it may be, the aesthetic confidence of book manufacturers; it is the books of the 1920\'s and 30\'s that are most inviting, with their handy size, generous margins and sharp letterpress type. Still, even an indifferently designed book feels like a better companion in bed than a humming, wire-trailing laptop.\"

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