The printed word is not dead yet

We keep being told that the printed word is dying with fewer people buying newspapers, magazine and books. The future for communication is electronic rather than printed, so we are told. But is that necessarily the case?

I was interested to read this week about the Future Library project in Norway. Organised by Oslo city library and the Scottish artist Katie Paterson, the aim of the initiative is to invite one author each year to write a story which will be deposited unread  in the library, not to be published until the year 2114.

I wonder what readers in 100 years time will make of these works. It’s worth remembering that authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens remain popular today, even though they were writing for a 19th century audience. Good writing, like good music will always stand the test of time.

When I take an inter city train journey, I’m always disappointed at how few of my fellow passengers pass the time by reading. Most are either listening to music or playing games on a variety of electronic devices. Those of us who choose to read something in print are very much in the minority.

But, just as vinyl is making a comeback for music lovers, I still cling to the hope that print will regain popularity. For me, there is nothing quite to match the excitement of opening a newly printed book.

The Future Library is an exciting project which shows faith in the enduring appeal of the printed word. It would be good to see libraries in other parts of the world doing something similar.

To date three writers have submitted stories for the Future Library; the novelists Margaret Atwood and David Mitchell together with Icelandic poet Sjon. I find it encouraging to know that people will be reading books in the 22nd century, hopefully not just in Norway.


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