Last July I mentioned that I was starting an ongoing series on excerpts from Alberto Manguel’s The Library At Night. Well, better late than never, here is the second instalment! And it’s a cheeky riposte to the rise of e-readers, which have (to my mind, rather inexplicably) exploded in popularity since this book was published in 2006.
|Restaurant Car (c.1935) by Leonard Campbell Taylor|
“Even the newer electronic technologies cannot approach the experience of handling an original publication. As any reader knows, a printed page creates its own reading space, its own physical landscape in which the texture of the page, the colour of the ink, the view of the whole ensemble acquire in the reader’s hands specific meanings that lend tone and context to the words. (Columbia University’s librarian Patricia Battin, a fierce advocate for the microfilming of books, disagreed with this notion. “The value,” she wrote, “in intellectual terms, of the proximity of the book to the user has never been satisfactorily established.” There speaks a dolt, someone utterly insensitive, in intellectual or any other terms, to the experience of reading.”*
*[I would point out that, reading Patricia Battin’s Wikipedia page, she is far from a dolt – and has even done a lot for the preservation of physical books, but I still agree with Manguel that what she says here is, to my mind, unsatisfactory.]