Bookenfreude: Why Do Some People Hate Books?


A little over a week ago, Sydney's Galaxy Bookshop posted the above photo on Facebook which, as of today, has been shared by over 1600 people. The caption, "Books: Get HBO programming ten years ahead of everyone else," is pretty funny. But the comments on the photo aren't. Within a day, the conversation became an argument about the respective virtues of paper books and ereaders. ("Kindle, Nook, iPad Accept change or get left behind," reads a comment from a man named Scott Matthews from Utica.)

As an inveterate reader of publishing industry news and Internet comments, I can attest to the strange truism that anti-book comments accompany the vast majority of blog posts or article about books, bookstores, publishing, and libraries. The techno-fascists who make them are eager for the dawning robot revolution, one in which the twin demagogues of Capitalism and Innovation sweep away the lazy lotus eaters whose faces were buried too far within musty, likely unhygenic pages of paper books to take note of the rising tide against them.

I call the impulse to jeer book fans bookenfreude. Oppressed by the print regime for far too long, fans of the digital mandate that books and their electric counterparts engage in a battle to the death -- one the Kindle-heads are sure their devices will win. One can just imagine their mid-15th century antecedents jeering monks who illuminated Bibles as Gutenberg's machine spun in distant Germany. Eat it, monks.

The most egregious instance of bookenfreude I've ever seen was in response to Tom Holbrook's super-depressing blog post about the ongoing troubles of his Portsmouth bookstore, RiverRun. Hours after Holbrook made his frank, pained admission (" My customers aren't happy, the publishers aren't happy, and neither am I."), bookenfreude set in.

"I would sell the business if you can," wrote the second commenter. "Do you really think you can hold back the technological revolution that will soon make books into antique items?"

What's wrong with people?

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