Hold it in your hands and feel the history

March 11, 2015

Paper: An Elegy,

by Ian Sansom (Fourth Estate, RRP $30):

Where would we be without paper?

Sure, the digital age has changed the way we read our books, magazines and newspapers, but we didn’t get there without killing a few trees first and as an avid reader, there’s nothing like that new book smell: I’ll read a book on my iPad from time to time but I’d much rather have real paper pages to turn.

So what would happen if paper were to disappear? Would we lose everything?

In these technologically advance and consumer-driven times, we are beginning to forget just how important paper once was and in 2010, Amazon announced for the first time that is was sellign more e-books than real books (because I still can’t bring myself to think of an e-book as a real book).

It would appear that the age of paper is coming to an end. In fact, some believe the paper book will be extinct within five years. Then there are the emails we now use for everything from penpals to proposals, e-tickets and e-everything else.

Author Ian Sansom brings together a history of paper in this lovely, old-fashioned, real hardcover book, looking at that lovely, rustling tree byproduct in all its forms and functions.

And the history of paper is really a history of us, with paper there through all the significant parts of our own history.

Paper: An Elegy is a book that could so easily have become a bit dry and tedious to read, but Sansom has managed to make it incredibly fresh.

This fascinating exploration of isn’t set to a specific timeline but instead allows the authors love of his topic to shine through as he goes off on historical tangents throughout the book.

It’s as interesting as it is educational.

Jillian Allison-Aitken

I come from the other land down under, where men are men, and sheep are nervous. I'm a sub-editor and in the past have been a proof-reader, news editor and web editor. I am also an ex-columnist, and book and software reviewer for the local daily newspaper.I still read. A lot. And surf the web. Also a lot.You'll find a little about both of those pastimes here, and on By George.

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