The library and the bookstore have always been the heart of a Kenyon education. But how much longer will ink on paper define the act of reading? Digital technologies let students download electronic books without ever leaving their Adirondack chairs.
Today people wonder not just what you are reading, but how you are reading.
As new media continue to advance, the Bulletin ponders the future of the printed book—a solid technology that has fed our imaginations, delivered information, lined our walls, and shaped our lives for centuries. Is it doomed to obsolescence, to be replaced by screens and electrons? Or will it adapt and survive alongside its upstart digital cousins?
With these questions in mind, we turned to a few alumni and faculty members whose professional concerns and personal passions have made books a central part of their lives. Here's how they weighed in.
I feel like a traitor. One of my students, catching sight of my new toy during a recent bus ride across Ireland, recently cried out in dismay, "You have a Kindle!" As someone who loves books, and tries to get my students to share that love, I understood how she felt. But before I could explain, the student sitting across from her looked up and said, "You've got a Kindle? Cool! Can I try it?"
My ten-month-old goddaughter Matilda just came for a visit. Following her last afternoon nap in Gambier, her mother brought her into my bedroom, where I had been reading since morning. Because we'd been having Matilda's bedtime story in my room each night, her book was hiding in my quilts, along with the various volumes occupying me that day. I settled her into my lap for several renditions of Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman's Bear Snores On, its hard covers joining with my arms to embrace her eager, full-bodied participation in my reading aloud.
As more and more literature goes digital, at least one haven for paper remains: the home library. To New York-based interior designer Timothy Whealon '88, a room without books is unfinished.
The Kenyon Review is not immune to either the rising cost of print or the limits on distribution of its print journal.
When I arrived at Kenyon in 1995, my home library seemed too immature to take with me, so I showed up in Gambier with exactly one book, Allen Ginsberg's small and short Howl and Other Poems. Of course, I soon learned that I'd brought a knife to a gunfight.