Digital books in the latest City Journal

French author Guy Sorman has an interesting article about the rise of electronic texts. Are they the future? Will I still be able to read John D. MacDonald paperbacks in ten years, or will they all be needed for some new kind of fuel made out of pulp? I know this is a subject near and dear to Rufus’ heart; here’s Sorman’s humorous intro:

While we strolled through Central Park—the four of us—my wife and I talked about books and what we considered the summits of American literature. I mentioned Billy Budd. I’m a fan of Moby Dick, but I place Billy Budd above all. I would not say that Billy Budd is more of a masterpiece than Moby Dick, but it has the advantage of being much shorter. My wife had never read it, in French or in English. I was shocked. “You must read it now,” I said. “Let us walk to Barnes and Noble,” she answered. No need, I said, we’ll read it now, sitting on a bench. I could smell victory.

I switched on my Kindle.

Well, it fits the general impression of married foke I have from observing y’all.

Let me say up front that I absolutely loathe the name “Kindle”, and by extension the thingamabob itself. “Kindle” must have been coined with the idea that it’s the start of a bonfire that will soon consume printed matter everywhere, and this is just too ugly an image to rest peaceably in my mind. Diocletian, Torquemada, and of course the Nazis are all predecessors. When books are burned, people usually go along with them. I’m not claiming Amazon is the 3rd Reich, of course; but there’s an ugliness in the name they’ve chosen.

I now make it a point to read as much paper as I do electronic media, the scales having tipped in the wrong direction around 2004. And I think I’m better off for playing the Luddite.


  1. Rufus McCain says

    Yeah, that guy and his wife do remind me of me and Mrs. McCain. I’ll grant you that. Except I was bothered by his use of “digitalize” which strikes me as massively barbaric compared with “digitize”. I never made the connection with kindling a farenheit 459 like fire. I thought it had more to do with kindling the fire of thought or booting up the little machine etc. but now that you mention it the the book burning connection must have at least played into it — and it does seem a bit smarmy.

  2. Rufus McCain says

    That would be fahrenheit 451 of course.

  3. Rufus McCain says

    When will Birds Nest be available for Kindle?

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