January 22, 2022

Jonathan Franzen: E-readers are 'Damaging to Society'

From the Christian Science Monitor:

Jonathan Franzen doesn’t want you to read his bestsellers on e-readers. The acclaimed novelist of “Freedom” and “The Corrections” launched a tirade against e-books at a recent literary event, calling them “not for serious readers” and “damaging to society.”

“The technology I like is the American paperback edition of ‘Freedom,’” Franzen said at the Festival. “I can spill water on it and it would still work! So it’s pretty good technology. And what’s more, it will work great 10 years from now. So no wonder the capitalists hate it. It’s a bad business model,” said the novelist who famously cuts off all connection to the Internet when he writes.


Franzen isn’t the first to come out against e-books, but he may be the first to have attacked them so damningly, as incompatible with justice or responsible self-government. He went on, explaining that he felt reassured by paper books’ permanence and distrusted the constant possibility of change in an e-book.

“Maybe nobody will care about printed books 50 years from now, but I do,” Franzen said at the event. “When I read a book, I’m 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 – that’s reassuring.”

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About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.