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November 16, 2012


A remarkable piece of writing, indeed! I can't see myself getting this passionate about the tactile aspect of reading but there is much truth to it - a quiet activity of the mind that is at the same time also physical.

After giving a Kindle to my husband on his birthday (he prefers to read in the e-mode), I got myself one too a few months later. I like reading the Kindle well enough but it seems I read it almost exclusively during my travels. At home, every night I go to sleep with a "real" book held in my fists. I maintain a similar ritual with the morning newspaper, another form of reading that is disappearing fast, probably faster than books. My subscription of the Houston Chronicle came up for renewal recently. I was taken aback by the very high increase in the price from last year. For a week, I struggled with the notion of dropping the subscription (also, they had endorsed Romney). My husband was all for it. He checks the news on his laptop and i-Phone. He tried to convince me that I could do the same. I thought about it but the very notion of sitting at the breakfast table staring at a computer screen dampened my spirits although I read the news on the 'net throughout the day. Just like my night-time ritual of going to sleep with a page turning book, the morning didn't seem appetizing without toast, tea and a rustling newspaper. I renewed the subscription after haggling and bringing down the price somewhat.

I think that the newspaper has been rendered useless with the TV and internet. I already know the headlines before the paper arrives and have spent more days than not just stacking the day's paper in the 'discard' pile. When the time to renew came, I decided on the via media- I retain just the Sunday paper and for the rest, I just skim over the headlines for free on the newspaper's website.

Sujatha, you are right about the morning headlines in the newspaper. I already know the news from my late night browsing. My new subscription is for Wednesday - Sunday. I figured that missing Monday and Tuesday, the days that the paper is at its most anemic, is a way for me to wean myself out of the morning paper habit. I still don't see myself being able to enjoy my breakfast without a "paper" reading material in my hands. I have decided that on those two newspaper-less days I will read one of the two paper magazines I still subscribe to and which keep piling up on me week after week.

You're not reading, you're killing trees! Superb link, Prasad. I think I may start re-reading novels, by candlelight...

I also find that day-to-day I use paper books, a laptop and Audible/Librivox all more than kindle - they all "bring" something that the kindle doesn't. A computer seems unbeatable for reading non-fiction since you can look stuff up, annotate, copy sections etc really easily, while both paper and audio books have obvious and complementary conveniences for fiction. Kindle is sort of an "in-between" device, which only really bests everything else when traveling, when admittedly it's a must have. Maybe tablets are more convenient for interactive day-to-day reading, don't know.

That said, I think I stopped getting a newspaper when I went to college, and never looked back. It's not even a paper/electronic thing; I just don't have any news source I care enough about that I'd want to read a large fraction of their daily output. On my phone, I find apps like Flipbook or google reader/currents much more useful.

I thought the article was hilarious..there was a fair point hidden somewhere there, but the argumentation (and the extremeness of the headline) was ridiculous.

Thanks, Prasad. I was too polite when I agreed with you on the "remarkable." Ridiculous is more like it to describe the purple prose. The contortions in the arguments to prove the mind-body connections of paper reading were utterly far-fetched.

I have been having many second thoughts about the renewal of the Chronicle subscription. Let me see.

I'm relieved to learn that Prasad meant "ridiculous." Before I skimmed the article, I wondered if the author seriously intended the pun about the spine of the vertebral book. It isn't clear to me whether he did or didn't, although he appears mildly intrigued with similar (I almost wrote "analogous") similes, hands and digits, for instance. Yes, the materiality of the book: the lesson it should instill is not a mere corrective to the virtual fallacy, but a complete overturning of it. Digital technologies are a huge physical burden. Devices must be plugged in, logged into, upgraded, secured, backed up... Just as he toys with puns, Piper coyly confuses Augustine's personal statement of the meaning of the Book with that of the book. A better example, if a necessarily less historically enduring one, of the importance of the materiality of the book is Walter Benjamin's fun little essay, "Unpacking My Library." And we didn't require digital technology to teach us about the importance of the concrete aspect of books. There's a pretty hefty literature (yes, pun intended) treating the evolution from orality to literacy. I think of Brian Stock's difficult The Implications of Literacy, but also Peter Saenger's Space Between Words (published, I admit, post-Web), just two titles that come to mind for one very simple reason: I've spent the past week packing my own books, LPs, and CDs in preparation for a move that took place yesterday. The obviousness of the physical aspects of literacy was abundant yesterday, for Berkeley had rain off and on all day during the move, and I remember packing away Stock and Saenger on Friday.

Hi Dean, hope the move went off flawlessly. Happy unpacking :-)

Thanks, Ruchira. I reshelved Stock and Saenger yesterday evening. About fifty more boxes to go!

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