Future of the Book as More Junk

by Louise Erdrich

When I tell strangers that I work from home, the women are the ones who say, "I couldn't do that because I'd always be cleaning. I'd never get anything done." Which is why I strenuously try not to clean before I go upstairs to my garret, put on my fingerless gloves, and begin to write. Recently, however, I've been sneak cleaning. I have been trying to get rid of electronic junk. In this house there has occurred a buildup of old computers, CD players, cameras, games, tape players, hard drives, computer printers and a copy machine from 1990 -- a work horse that just gave up. All of these items are made of supremely toxic stuff and it isn't easy to find a place that will recycle it all.

One reason I've thought kindly of electronic reading devices, even though we as a bookstore are devoted to the book as a book, was the thought of saving trees. But now when I look at my bags of once cutting edge electronic rubbish, I also imagine all of the Kindles, Nooks, E Readers and other book substitutes that will get dropped, waterlogged, stepped on, smashed, or just become an old thing like any other piece of charmless crap.

I have lots of old books, too. I have my first William Faulkner set of mass market paperbacks bought in a basement bookstore in Harvard Square. I have my first edition of Felix Cohen's Handbook of American Indian Law. I have an old Materia Medica from the attic of our house in Wahpeton, North Dakota, which gives me twenty remedies for female hysteria. I am tempted to keep listing the marvels that populate my bookshelves, but I'm on a mission here. Does anybody want an iLamp, a seven pound Walkman, or a Tandy Stereo Mate?