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Jonathan Franzen thinks e-books are hurting society

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Jonathan Franzen

Literary golden boy Jonathan Franzen has gone public with his hatred for e-readers and, it would seem, technology as a whole, speaking at an arts festival over the weekend. Discussing his own recent novel, Franzen told the crowd, "The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! And what's more, it will work great ten years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It's a bad business model." 

He then had much, much more to say on the subject:

"I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the experience. Everything else in your life is fluid, but here is this text that doesn't change. Will there still be readers fifty years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I don't have a crystal ball. 

But I do fear that it's going to be very hard to make the world work if there's no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.

Someone worked really hard to make that 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."

Well, sure. There are major differences in the experience of reading a hard copy book versus a digital edition. And, one is definitely more "permanent" than the other. But an issue of convenience and personal preference getting turned into a diatribe about the downfall of Western Civilization is a little much, as is Franzen's assumption that anyone who reads on a tablet is inherently not a "serious" reader. 

But, maybe that's just me. I'm sure once Amazon gets wind of this they'll see the error of their ways and start shutting down those Kindle factories any minute.