The Tribune Corporation is declaring bankruptcy. A Glendale, Calif., paper is outsourcing its news-gathering to India. My granddaughter writes her book review on her iPhone while watching TV. Is this the end of written communication as we once knew it?
The writers I knew—literate, insightful, thought-provoking—are being replaced by bloggers... Readers are downloading e-books instead of buying paper... Borders had only one of the 10 New York Times recommended children’s books I was searching for when I shopped last week... My former employer was the largest independent yellow pages publisher in the U.S., but its stock has dropped from $62 to 33 cents as people shuck the damn books out in the garbage... And Sarah Palin has a $7 million book deal coming to tell us all how to “progress freedom in the U.S.”
Then I ran across a jaw-dropping cultural benchmark in a New Yorker ad. Victory for writers has been snatched from the jaws of defeat by Books by the Foot (http://booksbythefoot.com/). The firm offers modern cloth-bound hardcovers for only $6.99 per linear foot. “Tonier” modern cloth with black spines, however, will run $13.99 per foot. The purveyors of this literary wealth—by the foot, not the words—remind us that Heinrich Heine stated, “A house without books is like a room without windows.” The motto of this “bookyard” then—this Home Depot of illiteracy—must be a God-like “Let us have light!”
How many layouts in Architectural Digest show rooms without books—truly a mark of the plebian mind of a hedge fund manager. The badge of real literacy is to display yards of books when your guests come to swill champagne. Then, when the casual visitor asks if you've read them, you can say, “My interior decorator may have, but I don’t need to. I pay his/her salary.” This is perhaps the same decorator who goes to Barnes & Noble looking for a red book...to match her purse.
On the upside, I found a superb historical analysis of 17th century Virginia, written in 1917, free at Google books! Now I can publish my article on Bacon’s Rebellion. Circle the wagon, Folks. It’ll be hard times when the printed word disappears.