How is a book like a spoon ?

I was recently asked by a TBTP subscriber why I never posted any stories about e-books or e-readers. My flippant response was to share the quote (above) from the late, great author/philosopher/bibliophile Umberto Eco from his book This Is Not the End of the Book.

“The book is like the spoon, scissors, the hammer, the wheel. Once invented, it cannot be improved. You cannot make a spoon that is better than a spoon.”

In retrospect, I think that the original query deserves a more nuanced response. As a bookseller, book collector, erstwhile author, sometime editor, life-long reader, and blogger, I am an unwavering book lover who believes that no digital alternative comes close to the printed paper page. Still, that does not mean that I am a Luddite against electronic publishing.  I read books and periodicals on my iPad and iPhone, and I’ve owned a Kindle for years. No more carrying multiple paperbacks with me when I travel and no more scrounging English language books when I run out of reading material on long trips.

The traditional printed book is not perfect. Books have become expensive to produce, too often limiting ownership and access. It still is a time-consuming, labor intensive process to publish and distribute print books. Once a book is printed, it is not easily updated. But until electronic publishing finds a way to rival the multisensory experience of reading even a modestly produced physical book, it will continue to provide only a second rate reading experience, and the death of the book will be postponed once more.

This entry was posted in Books, ebooks, Tech, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to How is a book like a spoon ?

  1. I like books in each format: paper, digital, audio, and am using the three of them daily.
    I think each format has its advantage, some formats work better than others in some cases – for instance for huge books (mysteries for instance), ebooks are very convenient checking back on a character earlier in the book that you may not have paid much attention to. Easier to find than flipping back through hundreds of pages.
    Also books with lots of wonderful passages you want to share in a review: easier to copy and paste than retyping.

  2. Oh but I forgot what I first meant to tell you: thanks for featuring this book, it reminded me to put it higher on my TBR list, it’s been there for too long. I love books by Eco

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