Burying the book

NPR is featuring, at its site, an excerpt from a chapter of The Shallows titled “The Very Image of a Book,” which looks at the rise of e-books and the consequences for reading and writing. The excerpt, which is taken from the end of the chapter, describes how pundits have, for about two centuries now, been eagerly proclaiming the imminent death of the book. And, over and over again, they’ve been proven wrong. Today’s book lovers may take comfort from that fact, but they probably shouldn’t.

Here’s a bit of the excerpt:

The book survived the phonograph as it had the newspaper. Listening didn’t replace reading. Edison’s invention came to be used mainly for playing music rather than declaiming poetry and prose. During the twentieth century, book reading would withstand a fresh onslaught of seemingly mortal threats: moviegoing, radio listening, TV viewing. Today, books remain as commonplace as ever, and there’s every reason to believe that printed works will continue to be produced and read, in some sizable quantity, for years to come. While physical books may be on the road to obsolescence, the road will almost certainly be a long and winding one. Yet the continued existence of the codex, though it may provide some cheer to bibliophiles, doesn’t change the fact that books and book reading, at least as we’ve defined those things in the past, are in their cultural twilight.


One thought on “Burying the book

  1. Gary Ares

    Mr. Carr,

    Recently I read a Wired article about your book “The Shallows”. Suffice it to say that it grabbed me by the brain stem and shook me a bit – no, a lot!

    I have struggled with ADD/ADHD for my 58 years on this planet, so reading about distraction is like a tuning fork for me. The past 10 of which I actually understood what was different about me, and have read a fair amount to gain a better understand of myself.

    There is no doubt in my mind, your writing can help others to recognize this serious problem in themselves, their children, or to pass on the knowledge, especially for those who are pre- disposed to being easily distracted.

    However, there will be those who are so wrapped around the axle they will scoff, ignore your pearls of wisdom, and click on another link embedded in a Tweet.

    Your work began to help me immediately as I was reading the article. If fact, I decided to build a blog series on the topic, so I could help myself and others who might be attracted to my personalization of the affects of what I’ll call “Link Lust”.

    I’ve ordered the book, and patiently waiting for it to arrive. In the meantime, I was fortunate to also find your interview with NPR. Again, excellent! We differ a bit, because you noticed being distracted as different, whereas I’d notice comprehension as being different. You are fortunate.

    Please take my blog series as a compliment, and view me as a follower. If you have time, please visit my blog from time to time at (yes, a link); http://www.velorep.com/b2b-blog/bid/33398/Internet-Multi-Taskers-Beware-you-could-be-harming-your-brain

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