“What about the tactile sensation of reading? The physical artifact of a book? The way you can chart your progress through it by the movement of a bookmark?” Well, what about them? They’re essentially nostalgic abstractions that give a false sense of tangibility to something, and are not important to what is great about a great book—its core, its heart, its truth, what have you.
Point taken. But what I was trying (with limited success) to get at there is the big reason why I think novels–print novels–are going to remain more or less the way they are. This is going to sound like a lame tautology, but here goes: novels are perfect novels, and nothing will ever be better at being a novel than the novel. Because while technology will improve and generate new mediums, those won’t be novels. And because novels have demonstrated the capacity–time and time again–to be great, timeless masterpieces, I don’t see the form ever becoming obsolete. It just doesn’t make sense to me to even the consider the possibility that it could become obsolete.
That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be further marginalized, and that’s something I am legitimately worried about. That’s part of why I spend so much time pimping the works of David Foster Wallace (who has some really important, brilliant things to say about us and who we are right now while also being hysterically funny, deeply moving, and incredibly addictive) and Michael Chabon (who is also wildly entertaining, and crafts literature using the raw mythos and language of the pulp genre entertainment that is so central to American culture and American collective consciousness).