The Lasting Value of Books
We think the mobile Internet revolution is here to stay, but we’re skeptical that electronic readers will replace what are technically referred to as “codex” books, whose development began in the third century BCE. The history of culture is the history of books; books are in our cultural DNA, books that have a look, a feel, even a smell.
Books, after all, are something beyond just the words they contain. Ebooks are handy, and they will take a place somewhere in the evolution of the written word, but they won’t displace our core concept of books. So yes, maybe the contents of the British Library and the New York Public Library can be stored on a digital device, but that device would not be those great institutions.
We believe that serious readers will always long for real books that can be held and collected and loved and passed on to future generations. Consider our late neighbor here on Cape Cod, the literary critic Edmund Wilson, whose huge house in Wellfleet was filled with books — finally even needing an addition to accommodate his expanding library and wide-ranging interests. Can we imagine him satisfied with a Kindle instead? Would that have been even remotely the same thing, the same degree of immersion in the physical presence of books, that unique experience which so many of us enjoy? We think not, and we are thus certain that the world’s vast and expanding legacy of written works will not soon be exchanged for a technologically dependent phosphorescent display of a narrowly defined set of temporarily available digital rights.
In our humble opinion.