Will bookshelves one day be consigned to museums? Written out of our furnishing requirements as interesting curios from past times, and gazed at wonderingly by precocious five year olds, the way that children now peer at old telephones and record players? There is a section in the National Museum of Scotland devoted to lifestyle icons of recent history. I’m sure I have used some of these venerable machines. Perhaps, given my age, I should just climb in and join the exhibits….

Kindles are great. But will we all be using them, all the time, in ten years? Will there be any need for shelving for books, when my kindle offers several free dictionaries as part of the start-up incentive built in with every new purchase of an e-reader?

Will house-builders have an even better excuse for building homes in miniature? (“Ye don’t need shelf space no more, love, so we can just put the standard king-size up against the wall here, like that”)

My guess is that we will always need books, and there may come a time when we are immensely grateful for the old back numbers that we now overlook, with their modest orange and white covers, and their restrained delvings into human suffering. As has been suggested in many post-apocalyptic narratives, we may need to tear out the pages to use for personal grooming or for fire-lighting; or, when the power runs out, we may actually start reading them again.

Our current technical infrastructure relies on power, generated mostly from non-renewable resources. Plastic, metal, wood, paper and water….all finite. ‘Real’ books have the potential to last for hundreds of years, and can pass through countless pairs of hands. Electronic media, in contrast, are ephemeral, here one day and deleted the next.

Edgar Degas Portrait of Duranty
Edgar Degas Portrait of Duranty

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