Jonathan Franzen Thinks E-books Are Evil


Today in “Traditionalists Hating Technology,” local literary darling Jonathan Franzen, author of the popular novels Freedom and The Corrections, has come out in opposition of e-books. Speaking at the Hay Festival in Cartagena, Colombia, Franzen told reporters that he believes the impermanence of the e-book format will eventually result in fewer great works of literature.

Expressing his love for the printed paperback, Franzen cited its ability to last for decades without need for replacement or re-formatting. By contrast, e-readers are frequently updated with newer, better versions, susceptible to changing technological formats and market whims.

From the Guardian:

“I do fear that it’s going to be very hard to make the world work if there’s no permanence like that. That kind of radical contingency is not compatible with a system of justice or responsible self-government.”

In other words, e-books and their ilk are ruining society, and we’re all going to die a terrible, distracted death at the hands of technology.

Franzen is far from the only popular author to express discomfort with the e-reader format. Farenheit 451 author Ray Bradbury and beloved children’s book writer Maurice Sendak have also publicly said they do not like e-books. Despite this trepidation, both Franzen and Bradbury have had their books published in e-reader format, due to pressure from their publishers.

Franzen’s fighting words come just weeks after major developments in the e-book market. Apple recently announced its iBook software and an aim to disrupt the educational textbook market with cheaper, digital versions of school books. Amazon continues to attract people to e-books with its $79 Kindle, while bookstores flounder and close.

In the end, Franzen also expressed relief at the fact that he would not have to live to see the end of printed media.

“One of the consolations of dying is that [you think], ‘Well, that won’t have to be my problem’,” he said. “Seriously, the world is changing so quickly that if you had any more than 80 years of change I don’t see how you could stand it psychologically.”