What Is Reading For?

Bringhurst’s small pamphlets (always lovingly designed and printed) are among my favorite things. This one is, unsurprisingly, a full-throated defense of the book. It veers slightly into the uncanny valley in suggesting that oral traditions are comparable to written ones (the phrase “oral book” is apparently used without sarcasm), and succumbs to ignorance in its assertion that words on the screen can never be as meaningful as those in ink. But its assertiveness is a good reminder of how deep the love for books can go, and despite the author’s luddite leanings, how much that love can persist well past when the ink wells run dry.

Reading notes


Bringhurst’s What Is Reading for? spends just over thirty pages addressing the question in its title, but it’s this single sentence answer that most struck me:

Why? For the same reason we walk, talk, and make love. Because that’s how the species transmits itself from yesterday to tomorrow.

Bringhurst, What Is Reading for?, page 32

Echoes of Eisenstein’s “typographical fixity.” As Bringhurst would no doubt suggest, we may lose some of that with the transition from paper to pixels. But only if we choose to.