There is a long, complex, and highly academic essay here with this title: What are books good for? In the middle of it, the following appears, and I thought it worth posting on the blog to see what you think of it.
The selection (bold face additions are mine):
… there are classic arguments in favor of the book. Consider four.
The epistemological argument: Books are the material evidence of what we know. They are knowledge, and through them we discover what we know and who we are.
The cautionary or monitory argument: In their function as record-keepers, books transform history into the present and the present into history. Books cause us to remember and to prevent future generations from forgetting or misunderstanding us and the long collective story of particulars.
The technological argument: No predigital means of transmission has been as effective as the codex. Books don’t need batteries. They’re cheap in the scheme of things, and remarkably permanent. They travel well. The so-called invention of distance education, in the mid-20th century, was preceded at least 1,500 years earlier by books sent long distances from one early Christian community to another.
The autobiographical argument: Little else can demonstrate as clearly as a shelf of books (or possibly a refrigerator) who we are or imagine ourselves to be. This last argument has been given less respect than it might. Great and fancy libraries astound us, but it’s the personal library where a scholar’s serious work begins. Lose the personal library, and we become less than we are.
I wondered about this after Brad decimated his large library, and recalling how I felt when I gave away 5000 books from my library.
What do you folks think about this?