26 February 2009

Phantom Limb

I have some interest in both architecture and design and livability/sustainability issues, so I occasionally read Allison Arieff's blog on the NYTimes website. Her latest post was more of a meditation on books, looking at William Stout and his eponymous architecture and design bookstore in San Francisco, occasioned by a recent lecture he gave. Visiting Stout's incredible bookstore just went on my bucket list.

But given the number of books I use and own, constantly surrounded by them in my home and university offices, I am in fact pretty unsentimental about them. I buy some books for the pure love of them, for their typographic tactility, but mostly they are just a source of information and entertainment. So bibliophile sentimentality, as information moves ever more rapidly from ink to bytes, is not something I keenly feel. But I admit that Arieff's closing remarks moved even me just a bit.

    Stout’s presentation [on his life with books] was so inspiring yet so bittersweet because his vocation seems entirely of an era that is passing us by. For centuries we’ve looked to libraries as historic evidence of cultured civilizations: will electronic texts fill that bill for future generations? While I’ll admit that I’m intrigued by the Kindle, it will never replace the rows and stacks of books that crowd my house. And when I first settle into my comfy chair ready to read with that new device, I’ll probably feel as if I had a phantom limb — I’ll mourn the absence of my fingers slowly turning the pages.
(Sorry for putting you through yet another "death of books" post. Maybe I'm more sentimental about it than I think . . .)

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