Jonathan Franzen’s homily on the trouble with ebooks and the superiority of print has zapped its way around the world from the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia (the Telegraph’s showbusiness editor has the full story):
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.
I can, up to a point, see where he’s coming from. Alongside the paperbacks doublestacked on my shelves that I’m oddly reluctant to throw out but would happily consign to the memory card of a Kindle (most of Ian McEwan’s novels, for example) there are books that I value for all sorts of more or less sentimental reasons, from editions that my grandparents bought in the 1930s – a crumbling Ulysses, a copy of Ash-Wednesday with a postcard my grandmother sent my grandfather before they were married tucked inside, a first edition of Auden’s ‘Spain’ (hardly a book, but still) – to a rare first UK edition of Franzen’s Freedom, thousands of copies of which had to be pulped (delete that, change that, move it around) because it was based on the wrong draft of the novel and full of mistakes.