Sunday Analogy Blogging

Via Andrew, Jonathan Franzen on the kindle: “Yes, in theory, words are words. But literature isn’t data. The difference between Shakespeare on a BlackBerry and Shakespeare in the Arden Edition is like the difference between vows taken in a shoe store and vows taken in cathedral.”

I feel like Franzen’s reading this analogy backwards. if the love is real and deeply felt and the vows sincerely undertaken, then what sort of person would hold it against the newlyweds that their ceremony was performed in shabby surroundings? A shallow person, I think. Similarly, it seems to me that one would have to have a poor appreciation of Shakespeare to seriously believe that the power of his work can’t come through on a computer screen. I read Notes from Underground for the first time in a crumbling 30 year-old flimsy paperback edition — it’s still a great novel, and I’m sure it’d be great on a computer screen as well.

Does that mean the market for handsome editions you can display proudly on your shelf — or even just things that feel comfortable to hold in the hand — will just vanish overnight? Of course not. There’s more to the reading (and book-owning) experience than the text itself. But that “more” is precisely what’s more than literature about it, it’s not the literature itself.