Thursday, July 1, 2010

John Updike Essay - Historiography

I was recently flipping through a collection of John Updike essays called Due Considerations and I stumbled upon an Op-Ed piece he wrote for the New York Times in 2000 called A Case for Books. The was relatively short and focused on four key things he predicted we will miss if the printed word "joins the papyrus scroll and parchment codex in extinction..." These were: The book as furniture, The Book as sensual pleasure, The Book as souvenir and Book as ballast. While some of the things he remarks upon are not necessarily lost with e-books/readers his overall point is thoughtful and valid. He remarks, "Books externalize our brains, and turn our homes into thinking bodies." I think this is a beautiful line that captures some of the unique power inherent in the printed medium. Moreover, I enjoy the tone of the article. It is reflective but avoids any of the "reading on computers is the death of culture" arguments that some others like to use.
I plan to do a little research in the future and see if Updike's opinions of digital publishing changed at prior to his death -especially since many of his works are available in electronic format.

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