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19/02/2009 - par Mark Tungate (tungateinparis@hotmail.com)

It's one of the sad rules of life that you love something more when it's (almost) gone. Perhaps that's why I've been having a lot of conversations about books lately. Not just the concept of books, but the actual physical objects: the weight of them, the feel of them, even the way they smell. A second hand bookshop, particularly, has an evocative odour.
The inspiration for all these chats is obvious. In fact, there are two of them. The first is the launch of the new, improved Amazon Kindle – the electronic reader that is supposed to make printed books obsolete. Sony makes a similar device. Personally, I can see their utility. When I travel, I will no longer have to carry a city guide, a paperback and about a kilo of magazines. All of them will be stored on the same handy device. At home, though, I can't imagine shelves bare of books. Now my CDs have gone, I need something to fill the space.

The other cause for alarm is the publishing industry itself. Fewer books are being published. Marketing budgets have been slashed. And emerging authors that are not yet «brands» are finding it harder to get their books accepted. At least Tina Brown, veteran journalist and editor of the online magazine The Daily Beast (www.thedailybeast.com), is on our side. She has started a Book Beast page devoted to all matters literary. Its tone is serious but ever so slightly misty-eyed. The web is embracing books. A bitter irony, now I come to think of it.

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