Now, granted that Heart of Darkness isn’t a book of impressive length, I still consider this a pretty impressive feat. Mainly it’s impressive for the powers of concentration required by type that’s maybe a sixteenth of a inch tall (as well as by Conrad’s mystical, mystifying, and gripping tale).
The proud phone reader, though, was quick to assure us that actually, he goes both ways. (“I love print books.”) But he’s still pretty boggled by the fact that he remains in a distinct minority.
My guess is that it comes down to the eternal thrust and parry between science and soul. You can sure list a slew of reasons that e-readers can’t be matched, from changeable fonts to synching with a dozen other gizmos to toting around the OED in your back pocket. But, at least for anyone first captured by the magic of words on a page when that page was made of paper, there’s a look and a feel and a sense and a heft—and yes, a romance—that transcends all the acknowledged utility of electronic impulses.
But let’s face facts: We who once knew a world without computers are dying off a lot quicker than the kids we raised. And what happens when the lights go out on the last folks in the hospice who didn’t learn their ABCs on a screen?
For reading’s survivors, the habits they came out of the playpen with are the ones they’ll be shaped by. No need for the kind of relics consigned to the little old shop in an out-of-the-way neighborhood whose faded sign whispers “Used Books.”
I can see the place now: an ideal setting for some ambitious author’s fable for phone about the long-ago days of paper, ink, and pages you’d feel as you went from one to another. It would start out, “Once upon a time ….”