Johannes Franzen: "Print Books Are Damaging to Society"


"Maybe nobody will care about hand-copied books 50 years from now, but I do. When I read a book that's been painstakingly transcribed by hand, I'm handling an object that took a scribe six months to a year to copy," Johannes Franzen told booksellers at the 1564 Frankfurt Book Fair.

"I think, for serious readers, a sense of permanence has always been part of the reading experience. Life is temporary: You might lose your brother at sea to scurvy, your first wife in childbirth, your mistress to tuberculosis, your second wife in childbirth, and so on. But a hand-copied book is forever.

"When you pick up a book that has been copied by hand, you can be fairly certain that the text is exactly as the author intended," he continued. "This whole movable type revolution that Gutenberg started feels like text can be deleted, changed, and moved around too easily. I guess that's why they call it 'movable type'?"

Johannes Franzen said he took comfort from knowing he will not be here in a hundred years to find out if hand-copied books become obsolete. "One of the consolations of dying is that you think, 'Well, that's not my problem any longer, mate. Let the kids worry about it now.' The world is changing so quickly that it won't be long before some twit declares the printing press dead."

Image Credit: David Shankbone, remixed by Andrew Shaffer