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Franzen Prefers the Quality of the Printed Word

Lauded author Jonathan Franzen held the first press conference of his career this week at the Hay Festival, a literature and arts festival held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, where he will serve as a headline speaker. The writer spoke on several weighty topics such as politics and religion, and expressed his thoughts on the inferiority of eBooks, when compared to traditional printed books. “The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” Franzen is reported as saying in The Telegraph.

“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 50 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.

“Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, I’m handling a specific object in a specific time and place. The fact that when I take the book off the shelf it still says the same thing – that’s reassuring,” the writer explains.

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