This is a part history, part argument about where books have been and where books are going. Primarily this book is discussing the idea of the whole object of “book” not simply the idea of a narrative or text or other such idea. This is a book about what books are, what books have been, and what books will be.
Like a lot of us, Leah Price has heard the news, that occurs periodically, about the death of books. And she’s here to argue that books really aren’t going anywhere. One of the major thrusts of the argument is that books have been remarkably persistent in our cultural imagination, and it wasn’t even until the early 1800s that books could be cheaply (relatively) reproduced and mass owned, and not until the 1900s that we see the kinds of ownership and consumption of books like we do today. And beyond that, even public institutions like libraries and universities further complicate the notion that books are going anywhere.
I think about this a lot, because I, too, have heard the arguments. And one thing I think about a lot is wholly singular and personal I find reading to be. That’s not to say there isn’t collective activity around reading — literature studies, the publishing industry, English class, and all the others. But I am a lot like Henry Bemis in “Time Enough at Last,” while I need books to exist, I don’t need anyone else in a collective way to enjoy them.
So ostensibly I tend to agree with Price on her major points, and her expertise and history are sound. I don’t think book really tackles particularly difficult questions, and its scope is pretty broad, so while it’s perfectly interesting, it’s limited by its breadth.