Er, yes, that seems to be the case Jonathan Franzen is making:
“Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing – that’s reassuring. Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, it’s just not permanent enough … Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn’t change. Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don’t have a crystal ball. But I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”
Of course, an eBook is likely to have a longer virtual shelf-life than a physical book that will eventually decay or fall apart. Hanging out in some iCloud somewhere, the eBook will be eternal. And also more accessible to readers. There will be no more “out of print”. You won’t have to look for hours in a second hand bookstore to find that obscure tome you really wanted to read (not that that isn’t one of life’s great pleasures – but it’s not Borders, is it?) The very old can be brand new again.
Wieseltierian piffle is what I’d call this if I were being kind. Then this incomprehensible drivel:
If you go to Europe, politicians don’t matter. The people making the decisions in Europe are bankers. The technicians of finance are making the decisions there. It has very little to do with democracy or the will of the people. And we are hostage to that because we like our iPhones.
The European sovereign debt crisis is because of iPhones? Or because we are too busy on our iPhones to notice, er, every single piece of information about that crisis at every moment if we so wish. I don’t know why successful and brilliant book writers cannot just accept that this is no longer 1962. Franzen is hugely and deservedly successful. But he’s angry that his long-form dead-tree books just aren’t where the current sizzle is. I guess even geniuses are that insecure. Or narcissistic.