Basheera Khan’s post for the Telegraph, “No more bookshops? Good riddance” is as clear an articulation of the technofuturist position on the future of reading as I could imagine. Here’s the key section:
I’m happy to see the back of bookshops, and not just because the paper publishing industry is inherently wasteful of natural resources.
When you buy a book, you’re not just paying for a few hundred bounded pages. You’re paying for the bookshelves you will need to store your books. The time it takes to dust said shelves. The effort and cost of lugging books and shelves if you happen to move house. The psychological debt that builds every time you survey all the books you bought over the years, on a whim, because they were cheap, but which remain unread — because with all the will in the world, there’s just no way to read every book you may want to.
I’ve been slowly divesting myself of the staggering piles of books I accrued when I still bought into the notion that to read a book you had to own it. I look forward with immense relief to the day when all my books are ebooks – light as a feather.
Actually, it’s not quite pure technofuturism. There’s a sop for bookservatives, too:
To people who bemoan the loss of bookshops as a loss to society, I say this: there’s already a place where you can go to find books you simply have to read in physical form. It’s a place where you can browse to your heart’s content, meet friends, take your kids, and do everything you did at your bookshop. It’s called the library. When did you last visit yours?
This is actually a weird binary, almost as weird as the one between bookservatives and technofuturists. Almost every full-throated embrace of technical/social change needs a still point, something that remains unchanged and which can still serve the function of whatever’s being swept aside.
In Khan’s post, it’s the library. It might be self-contradictory — shifting the locus of physical books to the library seems to solve the “hard to move house” and “annoying to dust” problems, but not necessarily the “inherently wasteful of natural resources” or the “I can’t read all of the books!” ones — but that doesn’t matter. She needs libraries. They’re a safety valve. And by praising libraries (and damning bookstore aficionados for not using them) she out-bookserves the bookservatives.
In the same way, folks who want to get rid of all of the physical books in a library would say, “if you still want a physical book, there’s always the bookstore.”
P.S.: If this “technofuturist”/”bookservative” language gets obnoxious or reductive, please tell me. Again, I want to advance “bookfuturist” as an alternative to both of these positions, so if I seem stuck on the words, that’s why.