John Freeman Stuck in 1999

Print is Dead: “In talking about the drawbacks to having the Book Review now appear mostly online, instead of in the actual newspaper, John Freeman from the NBCC states that ‘you can’t bring an online book page into the bath.’ This seems to me even more silly than Atwood’s claim simply because most book reviews aren’t immersive experiences. Instead, they’re created expressly for the purpose of consumption in one sitting. In fact, most reviews are tailor-made for digital delivery since short pieces are easily consumed on handheld screens or laptops. But Freeman seems to think that the fact that most of the Book Review appears online means that it somehow suffers from a ‘lack of portability,’ when it’s actually exactly the other way around. Digital content can be accessed in a myriad of ways, on dozens of devices and gadgets anywhere in the world (not to mention that it can be available forever in archives). Paper is a perishable object bound to a single location that can be easily misplaced, ripped or stained. Whereas content on a website is always there, forever unsullied and pristine, waiting for someone — anyone, anywhere — to touch a few keys and access its knowledge. However, according to Freeman, this is all a drawback. I guess he doesn’t want utility, connectivity, and interactivity; he just wants it to be water proof.”


  1. I gather that it is salutary and decorus to kick John Freeman, but I have to call bullshit on the anti-paper screed. As a storage medium, paper remains unsurpassed (You want forever? Let’s go back to ancient Greece, or even Egypt.) Its technological simplicity, requring only two good eyes to access (or even less, if you use Braille), makes it the single most user-friendly medium availalbe. High-tech is all well and good, but let us not forget that it stands on a sturdy foundation of paper, as civilization itself has always done.

    Not that that has much to do with book reviews. Back to your regularly scheduled litblogging …

  2. Fair enough, Mr. FB. I like paper too. Personally, I think there’s room for both paper and online to find a balance so that the future of book reviewing coverage can indeed be saved.

  3. Hang on – even if he likes taking the actual books into the bath, who the hell takes a newspaper into a bath? Does he enjoy reading book reviews against the dark grey of wet newsprint?

  4. Hi Roxy–

    As FB’s wife, I can attest that he will read anything in the bath, damage be damned, and is also an avid blog reader. Ambitechsdrous, if you will.

    The family luddite is right here.

  5. I hereby move that all further competition be closed off and that “Ambitechsdrous” officially be named Word of the Year.

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