Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On the Permanence and Impermanence of Books

Without going on an absolute tear, I do just have to take a little bit of issue with this story in this morning's SF Chronicle. Working for a book publisher, married to a teacher, and child of a librarian and an English teacher, I am about as great a lover of books as you're going to find; I can also understand any number of reasons why a school, despite, or perhaps even because of, financial woes, might legitimately need to get rid of a whole lot of books. And even why they might not be able to donate them and would have to recycle them. It's ironic that, as a culture, we hold books up in this sacrosanct light, and yet when it comes to the most concrete way we express ourselves in the world we live in (ie, our consumer behavior) we buy, or don't buy, in such a way as to drive booksellers both large and small out of business almost weekly. Or, perhaps it's not ironic at all--perhaps we revere these objects specifically because we know we're driving them towards extinction. Like the current vogue for images of typewriters, rotary phones, or woodland creatures--we find charming and valuable what we on some level believe is ceasing to exist. Books, though, I have no doubt, are going to surprise us. The book will outlive us all, not because of newspaper tempests-in-teapots, not because of sentimental nostalgia, but because something so meaningful, joyful, and necessary defies destruction by its very nature.

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