This is Not the End of the Book

Andrea Comas/ReutersAndrea Comas/Reuters

Italian writer, thinker and critic Umberto Eco has no fear the written word, including the book, is going to disappear: “The Internet has returned us to the alphabet … From now on, everyone has to read. In order to read, you need a medium. This medium cannot simply be a computer screen.”

Philip Marchand

Fear not, bookworms and library rats. Two fellow bibliophiles, novelist (The Name of the Rose) and critic Umberto Eco, and playwright and screenwriter Jean-Claude Carriere, have collaborated on a volume whose title says it all: This is Not the End of the Book: A Conversation Curated by Jean-Philippe de Tonnac.

Eco lays out his argument very early in this “conversation.” (Don’t ask me what “curated” means.) “There is actually very little to say on the subject,” Eco states. “The Internet has returned us to the alphabet … From now on, everyone has to read. In order to read, you need a medium. This medium cannot simply be a computer screen.” The implication of Eco’s logic is clear. E-books have their place in the world of letters, but not necessarily one of total dominance. “One of two things will happen,” Eco continues in his march of logic. “Either the book will continue to be the medium for reading, or its replacement will resemble what the book has always been, even before the invention of the printing press. Alterations to the book-as-
object have modified neither its function nor its grammar for more than 500 years. The book is like the spoon, scissors, the hammer, the wheel. Once invented, it cannot be improved.”

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