As we strive to make The Review more accessible for more readers, including—soon—mobile phone and Kindle users (and possibly even committed luddites through an on-demand print version) it may be well to reflect on my feelings as a bibliophile about our energetic efforts in contributing to the demise of the book. As online bookstores like our own Berkshire Bookstore and its enabler, Amazon.com grow, more and more local booksellers are closing their doors, especially the antiquarians. I can think of fewer more pleasant activities than an hour’s browse in an antiquarian bookshop, especially the establishment of such an urbane conversationalist as Grover Askins, for example, in the Eclipse Mill in North Adams. It will be a dark day when such resources vanish from the planet, and that might well happen. We can only put our hope in such dedicated and well-heeled bookmen as will carry on in this quixotic vocation. Otherwise all we can do is haunt rare book rooms or join societies like the Grolier or the Rowfant Club.
Also, both the New York Times and The Atlantic Monthly, in what they curiously call “The Ideas Issue,” have discussed the role of the Internet in the decline of Americans’ reading skills. The problem ranges from the reading habits (if they can be called that) of teenagers to Nicholas Carr’s lament about his own inability to concentrate on printed text of any length. I should point out that I’ve observed a similar phenomenon among museum professionals and art collectors, many of whom are dyslexic to begin with. I know young people who still read, and I read myself, no worse than when I bought my first Mac in 1985. On the other hand, I do try to spend a few hours away from the computer each day both in salutary ambulation, cooking, or in reading non-electronic information storage devices, that is, books. What’s more, if I am seriously interested in some longer text on the Internet, I print it out. I do not own a Kindle reader, although it strikes me as an attractive alternative to a 16 dollar paperback which can be trusted to turn brown and to acquire a musty aroma long before I read it a second time. For that matter, it’s good thing that this site requires me to spend a few hours of most days away from my computer in concert halls, opera houses, and theaters.
Why not share your own struggles with post-literacy in The Berkshire Artsblog?