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May 23, 2009

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Virginia Woolf on the Future of the Book

From a BBC radio debate with her husband (and publisher) Leonard, titled “Are Too Many Books Written and Published?”:

Books ought to be so cheap that we can throw them away if we do not like them, or give them away if we do. Moreover, it is absurd to print every book as if it were fated to last a hundred years. The life of the average book is perhaps three months. Why not face this fact? Why not print the first edition on some perishable material which would crumble to a little heap of perfectly clean dust in about six months time? If a second edition were needed, this could be printed on good paper and well bound. Thus by far the greater number of books would die a natural death in three months or so. No space would be wasted and no dirt would be collected.

Via the New Yorker’s Book Bench.

Posted May 23, 2009 at 10:54 | Comments (2) | Permasnark
File under: Books, Writing & Such, Object Culture, Radio


Uh, isn't she more or less talking about paperback books?

Yeah, kinda. They didn't have cheap paperbacks in England then, but they did in France, which she mentions as a model. Basically, she's saying that we English ought to be able to accelerate this process even further. It's half a gag -- just before this exchange she laments how hard it is to dust so many books, so the idea of a self-destructing book is particularly appealing. Great theater, these old BBC shows.

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