Ever since the news broke about the coming of Kindle 2, I'd meant to write a blog about electronic devices, reader software and their implications for what will happen what will happen to books.
I'd thought it might be therapeutic because I've always had a prejudice against e-books but I also imagined I would work through this and come up with a decent conclusion that e-books can actually be very good before chucking in a misty-eyed enconium for the strange beauty of mottled and foxed pages, cracked and gummy spines, inscriptions from previous owners, wood-block illustrations, the amber-orange of old Penguin Classics and the smell, feel (hell, maybe even the taste) of pulp and covers.
Then, in a little diminuendo finish I would deliver a killer blow with an 'aw shucks' admission that people like me (connoisseurs, you know) will be edged out by a new generation of digital natives (dread phrase) and we would be forced to stand aside and accept defeat. 'Apres nous, le deluge' and all that. Salt with references to Gutenberg, Caxton and Fahrenheit 451 and type out 'The End'. Simple.
Unfortunately, in a fine article written for the New Yorker and republished last weekend in The Guardian, the novelist Nicholson Baker seems to have done the job for me. Baker lays out all the hard and soft reasons for admitting the genius behind the Kindle while subtly pushing his readers to concede the primacy of books. His article is quite the best thing I've read on the subject. If you have any interest at all in books and where they might go next, you should certainly read it -- even if only on a Kindle.