Jonathan Franzen, who is being hailed as one of Americas greatest living novelists, has warned that our desire for the instant gratification of e-books is damaging for society.
The author of Freedom and The Corrections said consumers had been conned into thinking that they need the latest technology.
The technology I like is the American paperback edition of Freedom. I can spill water on it and it would still work! So its pretty good technology. And whats more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. Its a bad business model, the Telegraph quoted Franzen as saying.
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 doesnt change.
Will there still be readers 50 years from now who feel that way? Who have that hunger for something permanent and unalterable? I dont have a crystal ball.
But I do fear that its going to be very hard to make the world work if theres no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government, he lamented.
Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, Franzen argued that e-books, such as Amazons Kindle, can never have the magic of the printed page.
The Great Gatsby was last updated in 1924. You dont need it to be refreshed, do you? he said.
Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book, Im 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 - thats reassuring.
Someone worked really hard to make the language just right, just the way they wanted it. They were so sure of it that they printed it in ink, on paper. A screen always feels like we could delete that, change that, move it around. So for a literature-crazed person like me, its just not permanent enough, he asserted.