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Amid fears about the death of books, finding new ways to bring them to life

The New Yorker – “A physical book is good for much more than reading. In our house, we have several large art books propping up a movie projector. A thin paperback is wedged under a couch leg in a spot where our old floors are especially uneven. One summer we pressed wildflowers between the pages of a gigantic book about the Louvre, and later used it to flatten out a freshly purchased Radiohead poster. I am not the first person to choose a large, sturdy book as an impromptu cutting board: the cover of the Exeter Book, a tenth-century repository of Anglo-Saxon literature, bears knife marks from what looks like chopping. Stains on its ancient vellum suggest that, like the big atlas of Vermont in our living room, it was also possibly used as a drink coaster. Twenty years ago, I had a very large bump on my wrist. The doctor examined it and told me it was a harmless fluid deposit—nothing to worry about. His remedy, delivered cheerfully in a French accent, has stuck with me: “Slam it with a book.”

As Leah Price suggests in her brisk new study, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading” (Basic), physical books—which, ten or so years ago, many fretted might soon be obsolete—show no signs of going away. Nobody would try to pop a cyst with a Kindle or prop open a window with a phone…”

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